The early formative years

Two And a Half To Five Years

Play is more focused at this time. Around three years of age the first fantasy play appears- a wonderful stage of “make believe” and “let’s pretend”. This is a milestone in child development. Children of this age have the ability to transform their environment into what they need for their world of play. For them, reality and fantasy are interwoven, they cannot separate the two. The house built under the table becomes a real house for them.
How does this work? Young children absorb their surroundings as sense impressions. Their life forces are still so vibrant that these sense pictures continue to live within the child in such a way that the child re- experiences them fully. Then, he “joins in” with his experience, reenacting in his play bits and pieces or entire events that he has witnessed. Because his images are so alive, he needs only a simple table or toy to “be there”. For young children, this is all very real.
If we adults wanted to copy someone else’s actions as exactly, we would have to observe the person carefully over time and use our thinking to achieve the results we wanted. But a child instinctively takes in a scene as a whole picture and responds with an imitation that is more accurate than any adult could ever achieve. Children at this age need toys they can transform as they play. In the preschool/ kindergarten we have such toys – baskets of shells, pine cones, wood, silk and cotton cloths, puppets. When children play with toys that can become something else as their play changes, they learn to work with and live in their environment. They actually “become” the shopkeeper, the farmer, and various professions of life. We have noticed they rarely want to play being a child of their own age – a baby or an adult perhaps but usually not someone their own age.

(Beyond the Rainbow Bridge)

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