Watching Tye's development through the eyes of an Early Childhood Educator has been an amazing experience. With each new step, I'm thrilled, especially as I see her developing new play skills. You might remember my excitement when Tye started putting blocks into a bucket, reaching the second level of basic play.
Quite a few levels later, a child reaches imaginary play. First, a child uses actual objects to engage in pretend play. A perfect example is when Tye received a toy phone for her first birthday, opened the gift, and immediately held the phone up to her ear and said "Hello?"
The next two stages of pretend play happen so close together that they often appear to evolve simultaneously. Technically first, a child uses a substitute object in place of an item in play- for example, when Tye held a remote control or block up to her ear and pretended to talk on the phone. Next, a child uses toys to engage with a pretend object, such as feeding a doll with a spoon. The subtle difference between these two is that in the first, the action is performed by the toddler and includes only the child and the toy; in the second, the action is aimed at a different recipient. Tye has been engaging in these two stages for quite a long time, though her playscapes have become more complicated as she has grown. Most recently, Tye gives her baby doll or animal feelings. Just yesterday, she told me, "Baby needs cookie. Baby's belly hurts. Baby's hungry. Eat some cookie, baby!" and later on, "Baby's sad. Baby needs na-nas," as she held her baby up to her breast to nurse her.
Right around her second birthday, Tye entered the next stage of pretend play by including imaginary objects in her play. It started with her pretending to hold a cup of coffee and asking me if I wanted some, too, then handing the imaginary cup to me. We still do this quite often with "coffee" and "cookies." This stage also includes running away from imaginary monsters, another one we do often, especially at the playground. The best part of this stage is that this type of play can take place with no toys and can therefore travel easily! Coffee party in the checkout line, anyone?
The next stage includes stringing together play into a series of events, such as pretending to drive to the zoo and then getting out to walk and see the animals. We are just reaching this stage, and I thoroughly enjoy listening to Tye engage in these more complicated scenarios.
Tye is also beginning to role play, yet another developmental level of play. In our house, it's not uncommon to hear Tye say, "Tye's a turtle!" or "Tye's a kitty!" We've also recently heard mouse, puppy, and an even more abstract concept, princess. During our visit to my parents' home, Tye first pretended she was a princess by wrapping my scarf around her shoulders and walking around slowly, regally, her chin held high.
She has come a long way from those first block-in-bucket days, hasn't she?