An incredible strength of the St. James program is the importance of developing the whole child. While it is typical for schools to focus on core academics, St. James prides itself on attending to each child’s academic, emotional, social, and spiritual growth. One of the ways we do this is through play!
Gary Landreth, widely credited as the father of play therapy, stated that play is the language of children. Children of all ages and stages engage in play, and research has shown for decades that play is integral to children’s cognitive, emotional, and social skills. As children grow and learn, play progresses through four stages:
1. Solitary play- playing alone, and the first step toward independence, typically begins around 6-8 months of age
2. Parallel play– playing in the vicinity of others, recognizing a play environment and attempting to establish a play relationship, typically begins around 18months-3 years
3. Associative play- playing with others but not necessarily cooperating in sharing toys or group rules, typically begins age 3-4 years
4. Cooperative play- Cooperative play is the end goal, because this is where those important social skills are developed. Children learn to engage productively in group settings which allows them to form meaningful relationships and learn to identify and participate in societal rules and norms. Through cooperative play, your students learn to function in a social world. We see them develop empathy, compassion, emotional intelligence and problem solving skills. Around age 5, cooperative play begins to emerge, and we see students engage in activities with a shared goal and common narrative.
St. James Early Childhood programs lay the foundation for this development through carefully curated environments and encouragement of play. Helping walk children from solitary play, through parallel and associative play, and finally on to cooperative play, our goal is to build confidence through play. As children move into the Day School, this same line of development is continued through the use of centers, work stations, and activities across enrichment courses. By attending to the importance of play, our students are supported in building healthy social skills and relationship strategies to be successful both inside and outside of the classroom.