During the preschool years, children’s play becomes more interactive. Preschoolers have the verbal, physical and cognitive skills that allow them to plan and talk about play. During the preschool years, children’s play is typically associative and is characterized by the children being near each other, separately engaged in their own activities. Children playing at a water table, for example, may copy what each other are doing.
As preschoolers move from Piaget’s preoperational stage to the concrete operational stage of development, they begin to realize other people’s point of view, which opens to the door to sharing and cooperative play. This is an important part of social and emotional development.
As preschoolers move from associative play to cooperative play, around age 4 or 5, play begins to include lots of communication. As children become school aged, their play becomes cooperative and structured. Organized sports, games with rules and structured arts and crafts projects all become appropriate for this age.