Games in early childhood and childhood

Sarit Levy – National Vision Guide, and Hodia Navon – Occupational Therapist, Eliya Association
Also published in issue 50 of "Broadening the Horizon" – Ofek Association for Our Children 
he game is a human necessity and it accompanies the person of any age, place and society, but it is most common during infancy and childhood. During this period the child learns through the game: to know the physical and social environment, to know himself, his powers and his physical, social and emotional abilities. He learns to control his body and the environment. The game develops language abilities, the child expresses his thoughts, emotions, needs, urges and conflicts. Participation in the game is a necessary part of growth and development throughout life.

According to Piaget, in the development process the game can be divided into three main types according to the significant cognitive changes that occur in the child's life:

  1. The snasso-motor game, mainly until the age of 2
  2. The symbolic game, from the age of 18 months
  3. Playing with rules, age 2 and up
  4. The snasso-motor game (from birth to 18 months of age)

Characterized by 3 stages:
A. Interactive game with parent: smiles and facial expressions, ponytail games, tickle game. A child from a very young age reacts to the parent's smile, learns to participate in creating situations that will lead to a smile and mutual attention.
In. Movement game and familiarity with body organs: the child's initial game is with his body, he gets to know what the limits of his body are. At first the game is accidental and later deliberate. For example, when the child is standing 6, he begins to swing himself, discovers pleasure in swinging and repeats it over and over again. Repessivity is very characteristic in the game in children and is necessary for learning.
Jungle. Playing with an object: Toddlers invest a lot of attention and effort in standing up for the nature of objects and how they can be activated. The object is of great importance to the child because it provides emotional security in connection with the world (for example, the transition object), allows the child to express emotions or worries (dolls), interact with adults and other children. Owning objects also allows him to learn about the world around him. The game with the object is characterized by the following steps:
– Making eye contact with the object, focusing and tracking.
– Reaching out to the object, learning about the object, accuracy in reaching out.
– Grip of the object, development of grip, adjustment of grip to object (according to previous knowledge).
– Investigation of the object, bringing an object here, tapping, arching an object with an object, throwing, moving from hand to hand.
– Learning of cause and effect.
In children with visual impairment or blindness, the investigation relies more on the sense of touch and hearing, the insertion of objects into the mouth and tactileness in the hands and feet. The investigation helps them learn about the characteristics of the object: the size of the object, height, depth, texture, material type, temperature, weight, flexibility and more.

Most importantly, expose children to a wide variety of materials: wood, nylon, metal, plastic, wool and rubber. It is advisable to give them ringing/playing games, since the sounds help in focusing and tracking the object.

  1. The symbolic game (from about 18 months old)

The symbolic game allows the child to create his own subjective reality, for example, through "as if" games:
– Simple, functional activity: The child uses the object in a way that corresponds to the object, for example, a child talking on the phone, drinking from a glass.
– The child simulates that the object is something else: for example, a girl pretending that the cube is a comb and she combs the doll.
– The child disguises himself as another character: pretending to be a lion, a car, etc.
– Role playing games: based on everyday situations, e.g. family, kindergarten teacher and children. Sometimes imaginary situations like King, Superman.
It's a good idea to take a look at the kid's game, see what he's interested in. To comply with his initiatives, not to come up with our ideas of how to play with this object, to check what the child is doing with the object and to develop the game from there.
The symbolic game develops more slowly among children with visual impairment due to the difficulty in imitating. They do not see some of the daily actions of the people around them, and therefore invest the energy in decoding and identifying the object and find it difficult to imagine that the object is something else. The game is less fluid when you need to decipher what the object is or locate an object in space. The operation of the game takes time due to difficulty in coordinating hand-eye, difficulty in bringing the hand accurately to the object, and doing small manipulations in the game (such as putting the driver inside the car, sitting the doll on the chair).
Encourage your child to choose: Choosing between two games can be by reaching out or staring at your favorite object/game. The child with blindness can be given two games so that he can explore each game separately, and we will, at the same time, describe and tell about the game during the activity, so that the child can choose what he wants to continue playing.
Kids learn from imitation, look at random parental action and imitate it. Children with visual impairment or blindness can also learn from imitation and we should allow them this important opportunity. Be sure, as parents who play with their children, that when playing joint movements with your child, they see or feel your movement and you explain and tell about what is happening and what you are doing.
How do we encourage imitation? (Interactive game with parent)
Background: Try playing with your child in a stimulating environment, such as a quieter room in the house, pay attention to the color of the game, the contrast of colors between the game and the background and the various game accessories.
Height: Play with your child so they can see or feel your face, be close to it.
Highlight facial organs: glasses, lipstick, gloves on the hands, stickers on the hands, finger puppets, a hat on the head, as well as clear text and facial expressions.
You can also play with the child in a dark room with ultraviolet lighting or intentional lighting, such as a flashlight or other focused lighting towards the object. Stickers can be put on body parts, inside the palm of the hand – open and close. A ball of light under the shirt, a white handkerchief on the head. Hide a game under your leg or behind your back.
Our children need mediation in different ways. When providing a new game, it is advisable to give the child time to explore the object and allow him to also try and make a mistake, not give a straight solution. It is a good idea to "recommend" the action – to refer to a specific verb, to basic concepts in space, to the type of material of the object.
In a child with blindness, the wording of all actions is especially important, since he learns to distinguish between the different voices of the actions. Give a clear order. Don't say "put it here" but "put the ball in the basket on the right side of the table."
How do we encourage the development of symbolic play in children with visual impairment or blindness? Use mediation to improve imitation ability even while the child is playing with himself. You can perform a new action with the children in reality before playing pretend (first experience what a picnic is, then play pretend). In a game that requires gentle motors, it is a good idea to make the movements with the child the first few times (for example, a new screw/assembly game or to sit a small doll on the chair and more).

In order to make it easier for children, we must make adjustments to the games they play in:
In order to decipher the object, make sure that the games have clear contours (vegetables and fruits). It's a good idea to add a tangible item to the game that helps you identify, such as a bell around a cow. It is also advisable to use objects from everyday life in the game (milk carton, cheese box, water bottle). To alleviate the difficulty in hand-eye coordination, children can play large assembly games (Lego from large cubes), we will add scotcham under small games (animals, dolls, cubes) to facilitate accuracy in placing the game. We will play games in a darkroom: for example, we will build a train from cubes at a light table, drive the car home in ultraviolet lighting and more.
Be sure to play around the game and make adjustments, such as contrast, size and load. The object should be of contrasting color to the game environment (carpet, table, floor) and the size that the child sees. It is also advisable that the environment be with relatively few stimuli and no music. When it comes to a child with blindness, it is best to play on a parquet/resonance board, which provide information about a fallen object. To improve learning, it is advisable that the child be without shoes, with shorts, in order to increase the contact area between the body and the game. It is also advisable that the object be between the legs in order to give information about the boundaries of the object.

  1. Rules games (2 years of age or older)

From the age of about two years, you start playing an organized and structured game with rules, sometimes these are external rules like board games, and sometimes the children make up their own rules. Such games are games like table games (dominoes, lottery, puzzle, monopoly), computer games, team game, competitive game such as football, campers. When the game is structured, it is easier for children to play and take part in the game, there are rules, the game is clear, and there is repetitiveness thanks to the fixed rules.
For children with visual impairment or blindness, we will adapt to the same games the sensory aspect, for example, sensory dominoes with cards/protruding shapes, as well as sensory memory or construction of a walking track with sensory accessories with different textures along the route.

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