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Childs Play The First Two Years of Life In the first two years of life play is both a reflection of and an influence on all areas of infant development intellectual social emotional and physical Play is a central allencompassing characteristic of infant development allowing children to learn about the world and themselves Even during the first half-year of life infants really do play even though the interpretation of what is play and what is exploration must first be established The focus of this paper is to discuss three forms of play that occur during the first two years of life The work of Jean Piaget and other psychologists in supporting and developing these ideas is critical The first of these is sensorimotor play which begins with the infants accidental discovery of an activity that is inherently satisfying and consists of the continuos repetition of that activity for the sheer joy of doing so Hughes 1991 The second is play with objects involves the intentional handling of an object that leads to satisfaction from the handling Finally symbolic play is the use of mental representation in which one object represents another Hughes 1991 Exploration or Play The differences between play and exploration can be difficult to assess When infants are exploring their surroundings they are usually cautious and serious While examining an item during exploration an infant would smell taste and perhaps rub the item against hisher cheek in a ritualistic manner In play however an infant would jump from one object to another without care and play activities are completely devoid of the rigidity previously described Finally when children explore their entire attention is drawn on the object begin explored Their heart rates are steady and they are unwilling to be interrupted Yet during play the childrens heart rate is variable and they are interrupted easily Hughes 1991 It should be easier to tell the difference between play and exploration using these behavioral differences
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