5 Important Types of Play for Developing Children
Throughout development, children will participate in a variety of occupations like dressing, feeding, toileting, sleeping, and even watching television. One of the most important occupations that typically takes up the most of children’s time is likely play. Play offers physical and mental stimulation, not to mention it’s a lot of fun! Play is an essential way for children and families to connect with one another.
Play is also commonly used in pediatric therapy. It can be used to increase attention, practice motor skills, and develop imagination and communication. However, play in therapy or in any environment may not always look how adults would expect. There are many types of play and to the unknowing eye, it may not look like play at all.
Play is typically developed in a sequence, however it may not always be linear or noticeable. For instance, babies ages zero to three months engage in unoccupied play. This may look like wiggling, exploring their hands or feet, and looking around their environment. There are usually no toys involved, but play is definitely happening!
Verywellfamily.com shares 11 different types of play. More information can be found here. In this post, 5 types of developmental play will be discussed.
- Solitary play: Solitary play is a fancy way to say playing all by yourself. It is independent play. This type of play is most common in children ages 0-2. Entertaining yourself is an important step in independence and development for children.
- Onlooker play: Children ages 0-3 often engage in onlooker play. This may look like staring or intensely watching others playing. This type of play is where children are able to watch, observe, and take notes of how others play and interact. They are watching how others interact with each other or toys, but not actively participating.
- Parallel play: Parallel play often happens with children age 3. This type of play looks like two or more children playing next to each other, but not interacting. They play next to each other, but one’s play does not influence the others. This does not mean they are not observing and learning from each other.
- Associative play: Associative play is typically ages 3-4 where the interest in their peers begins. During this stage of play, children begin interacting with each other without a set goal or a need for much cooperation. They begin to share items and take turns with toys, but probably not working together yet.
- Cooperative play: Cooperative play is largely active participation. This is typically found in children 4+ years old. Here you will find children purposely playing together. Cooperative play begins adding in group games and turn taking. This can be physical play such as tag or red light green light, or sit down activities such as board games, etc. The goal here is that the people participating take an interest in BOTH the people playing and the game being played.
Keep in mind, these age ranges are approximate and just a suggestion. For example- children may prefer solitary play way past their toddler years. All stages of play offer opportunities for self-growth and practicing social skills.
Each type of play is just as important as the next to develop foundational life skills. If a child is not where you would expect them to be, meet them where they are at. If they are not quite at the point where they are interested in playing with you, get on the floor and play next to them. Show them ways to play with toys they don’t show interest in yet. Give them opportunities to watch others interact. You may be surprised how quickly they take interest and want to join. And if they don’t, do not fret. They may be noticing you, taking notes, and storing that information for a later date.
If you’re concerned about your child’s development, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Kids Place Pediatric Therapy! We provide pediatric speech therapy, occupational therapy, feeding therapy and physical therapy at 4 locations in Arizona.