Different Stages of Play in Early Childhood

Stages of Play – How to Help Children Develop Social Skills

Children love to play, and if you are thinking that your child is just doing something random to kill his time, well, that is not the case. A child can learn a great deal about imagination and creativity in various stages of life. It has also been proved and well documented that games play an important role in a child’s overall development. Let us acquaint you more with the concept of play as we discuss various stages of play and also talk about how it helps develop a child’s social skills.

Important Stages of Play in Your Child’s Development

Every parent wants their child to grow up to be a responsible and well-adjusted adult, who should have meaningful friendships and relationships in his life. For this, we need to teach them about social skills. But how do you do that? The first thing to remember is that these skills are not genetic, i.e., your child is not born with them, hence your child will need to acquire these skills. And you can help a great deal in helping your child to achieve the same. Here are the important stages of play and the ages associated with it.

1. Unoccupied Play

This stage usually begins from birth until your baby is two years of age.

A baby engaged in unoccupied play

How it Helps

Have you ever seen your little munchkin just lying there and doing nothing? Well, for you he may just be lying around, but in reality, he tries to observe the things around him. It may appear that babies or young children do not do much, but they do. Your baby might be engrossed in connecting the dots in his mind. He may be trying to place things and trying to relate them to each other. At this stage, the only social interaction that your baby may be doing is smiling at parents. However, all the observation and exploration may help in laying the foundations for the next stage.

2. Independent or Solitary Play

Kids who are between one and three years of age indulge in solitary play. Solitary play means that a child may play alone with his toys.

How it Helps

At this stage, your kiddo may be engrossed in playing solo with his toys or other objects. Parents may sometimes wonder that why their baby is not indulging in playing with their siblings or other children. But kids at this stage may not notice or pay heed to others while they are engrossed in a play. By this age, a baby’s cognitive and motor skills start developing. He may also be working towards polishing his social skills. This stage is important in a child’s life because it teaches a child the importance of being happy and content in one’s own company.

3. Onlooker or Spectator Play

This stage usually occurs in a child in his toddler years, but this can also occur at any stage in a child’s life.

A baby observing his sister playing

How it Helps

In this stage, a child usually learns by observing other children or his elder siblings. He may or may not play with them, but he may a keen interest in looking at the things or activities other children do. This usually happens when the child is a little shy and hesitant of other people. He may not be aware of how to get into playing with someone else. At this stage, a child is not aware of what is expected of him or what are the rules of the games, etc. These things may worry him, hence he may not indulge in playing with his peers. However, at this stage, he grasps through observation.

4. Parallel Play

This stage of play is usually seen in children between the age group of 2.5 to 3.5 years of age.

How it Helps

Parallel play is when a child plays in the same room full of other children but not with each other. In this stage, a child may play with the same toys or even do the same things as others but not together. This is the age, where children learn about social behaviour and also about social maturity. This lays the foundation for the later stages of play too.

5. Associative Play

This stage of play is prominently seen in kids between 3 to 4 years of age.

Two children playing close to each other

How it Helps

This is the stage where children start playing close to each other, but their goals may not be the same. Kids like to play around each other, however, they may not be playing with each other. For example, your child may play in the park which has other kids as well, but he may not play with them. All of them may do different kinds of activities. This stage helps a child to work on his problem-solving abilities and language development. It also teaches him about cooperation.

6. Cooperative Play

This stage of play is observed in children from 4 to 6 years of age.

How it Helps

Around this stage, children become interested in playing with other children or a group of children. At this stage, a child gets interested in what and who he is playing with. This stage of play can be aptly called the culmination of all the stages of play because all the skills learned from previous stages are put into action. This helps the child in learning a great deal about social interaction.

The role of 6 stages of play in child development cannot be undermined, therefore, support your kiddo through these stages to help him learn better.

Tips to Support Your Child Through Six Stages of Play

Following are some tips to support your child through six stages of play.

1. Get the Right Toys for Your Child

Learning would be more fruitful if the child plays with age-appropriate toys. Get the toys that are suitable for him. And show him how to use and play with toys.

2. Give Social Exposure

Take your child out to help him interact with children of his age. This may help your child learn more about social skills.

3. Observe Your Child’s Transition

Your child would make the transition from one stage to another, make sure he is doing it right. If you notice that on reaching 4 years of age, your child is not playing with other children, encourage him to play with his peers. If your child does not show any signs of social interaction, seek professional help for the same.

Let your child explore the world around him while he indulges in various stages of play! This will help him develop his social skills and his motor and cognitive skills as well.

Also Read:

Social and Emotional Development in Child
Games That Help Social Development in Kids
Importance of Play in Your Child Development

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