Children play differently when they are very small. As they grow their play changes and evolves to reflect the cognitive changes they are going through. One of the best way to understand your child's thinking to to watch him or her play. Here is a very brief over view of how your young child's play will change other the first years of life.
Functional Play is a play that is repetitive and non-directive. (0-2 years)
Constructive Play is creative and goal directed. (3-6 years)
Imaginary Play is acting out social roles (2-6 years)
Development of Social Play:
Non-interactive observational play. Begins around 4-6 months and continues to be an important part and large amount of a child’s play until 4 years old.
Child will play next to parent or other child but they do not interact or share toys. Emerges around 6 months and remains major type of play until 6 years old.
Play next to each other and use toys alternately but do not interact. Turn taking. Emerges around 18 months
Children work together to meet a goal, or have a common theme. Emerges around 2 years of age.