Developing Self

Approaches to Learning

Play and Exploration

Goal 1: Children engage in play to understand the world around them.

By the end of each age group or grade level, most children will have met prior age group or grade level standards in this domain.

Infants Through Older Toddlers


(By 12 Months)

  1. Play independently (solitary play)
  2. Respond to play activities (e.g., peek-a-boo)
  3. Uses senses to explore objects and toys (e.g., chews on toy)
  4. Relate objects to each other (e.g., banging 2 blocks)
  5. Engage in simple turn-taking games

Young Toddlers

(By 18 Months)

  1. Engage in solitary and parallel play (e.g., children building blocks next to each other, but not interacting)
  2. Engage in intended use of toy (e.g., running car along the floor)
  3. Engage in simple pretend play with actual objects (e.g., puts phone to ear, or doll to bed)
  4. Play outside engaging with the natural environment (e.g., feeling leaves, digging in sand)

Older Toddlers

(By 36 Months)

  1. Engage in constructive play (e.g., use blocks to build a tower)
  2. Engage in representational play (e.g., use a gourd as a hammer or a block as a phone)
  3. Experiment with the outdoor environment (e.g., climb on rocks, roll down hills)
  4. Build friendships through play
Younger Preschoolers Through Kindergartners

Younger Preschoolers

(By 48 months)

  1. Engage in associative play (e.g., play without planning and negotiation) with other children for short periods of time
  2. Primarily engage in basic constructive play activities (e.g., building road with rocks) and dramatic play activities by taking on a role
  3. Build knowledge through play (e.g., blocks/math, dramatic play/literacy, water table/problem solving, outdoor play/science)

Older Preschoolers

(By 60 months)

  1. Engage solidly in “solitary”, “parallel”, “associative” and “cooperative play” (e.g., play that involves engagement, negotiation and pre-planning)
  2. Engage in sustained play episodes (e.g., stays in a dramatic play role like “the baby”)
  3. Practice concepts through play (e.g., emergent writing: restaurant menu, geometry: naming the block shapes used in building a garage)
  4. Play basic games with rules


  1. Play basic games with rules
  2. Engage in a variety of play-based contexts, to develop skills in oral language, idea expression, problem-solving, and self-regulation
  3. Incorporate the outdoor natural environment into play scenarios
  4. Engage in productive play scenarios to develop oral language, express ideas, problem-solve, and develop self-regulation
First Graders Through Third Graders

First Graders

  1. Play moderate level games with rules with other children
  2. Engage in intricate dramatic play and role play scenarios, some in real-world settings, that help then make sense of the world (e.g. acts out favorite stories with a group of friends)
  3. Engage in child-initiated outdoor games and activities

Second Graders

  1. Play advanced games with rules
  2. Engage in dramatic play and role play scenarios and dramatic interpretations of text, including: flannel board stories, finger plays, and reader's theater
  3. Organize outdoor games and projects

Third Graders

  1. Engage in, negotiate, develop and organize games with rules
  2. Cooperatively play with others in intricate dramatic play scenarios, making own props, engaging in multiple topics, expressing ideas
  3. Produce and execute reader's theater scripts
  4. Resolve conflicts during organized indoor and outdoor play activities

Vermont Agency of Education
Secretary Daniel M. French
219 North Main Street, Suite 402
Barre, VT 05641

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