Unoccupied play – 0-3 months

  • Babies move their arms and legs with no purpose. They are learning to move and it is the beginning of play.
  • Babies are observing their world.

Solitary play – 0-2 years

  • Children often play alone and appear to be uninterested in what others are doing.
  • This is important because it teaches children how to entertain themselves.

Onlooker play – 2 years

  • Children observe others play but do not join the play. They will often use language to find out more about the play.
  • This is a common form of play at 2 years but can take place at any time.

Parallel play – 2-3 years

  • Children play next to each other but with very little involvement with each other. They may have similar toys and copy each other.
  • Social skills are being learnt by observation.

Associate play – 2-3 years

  • Children are more interested in playing with others than with toys.
  • They may talk and engage with one another.
  • They may trade toys.
  • There are no rules.
  • This kind of play develops problem solving/cooperation.

Cooperative/social play – 4-6 years

  • Children are interested in both the people and the activity.
  • Groups are more formalised with a leader.
  • Children may be assigned different roles.
  • The play is organised around specific tasks and to accomplish goals developed by the group.
  • This kind of play brings together skills from all other stages.
  • Necessary for social and group interaction.
  • After 6, most play is divided in male/female groups.

If your child is having difficulty learning to play with others you can:

  • Have playdates with one other child initially.
  • May need an adult to be involved in play.
  • Find moments to teach/model play during parties/structured activities.
  • Play family activities like board games/gross motor games.

Some games to play at home:

  • Imaginary play with household items.
  • Play in sandpit.
  • Play with outside toys.
  • UNO
  • Lego and building toys.
  • Trouble – board game.
  • Cook together with your children and others.
  • Dress up play.
  • Play with recycled household items.