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How Does Your Child Play?

Play is such a crucial part of a child's development. It is through play that children learn how to interact with their environment, discover their interests, and acquire speech, language, and social-emotional skills (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2007). As a child grows their play skills will also change and advance. Here are 6 different types of play, can you identify what stage your child is in?

1. Unoccupied Play- When your child is not actually playing but observing. Your baby will move their body with no specific purpose. Their entire world is new and this is the time to explore, the smallest object is full of mystery. When your ready for playtime with your baby in this stage don't worry about organization but rather bring all the toys forward and let them explore!

Recommended toys:

Textured toys

Toys that have music or lights

2. Independent or solitary play- At this stage your child is playing alone and is not aware of what other kids or adults are doing. Imagine a group of children playing in the same room in the same area, each engaging in their own independent activities using toys different from their friends.

Recommended toys:

Interactive books/ puzzles

Train sets

Kitchen sets

Sand toys

3. Onlooker Play-This is the state where your child observes other children in play but does not actually play themselves. Even though this state may be inactive it is still significant. This is your child's first step to learning about play with other kids. Your child will also notice when adults play, so even if you don't get the chance to get out of the house very often you baby will still get a chance to watch play.

Recommended toys:

Take you baby to the park

Play with cousins and friends

Show your baby what you like to do, gardening, playing music, puzzles

4. Parallel Play- Your child's play is evolving, In this stage your child may be playing with the same toys as another child and is playing besides them rather than with them. Parallel play is the final stage before your child connects with another. Picking toys that can be shared and have a lot of pieces are ideal for this stage due to it being filled with a lot of "mine!"

Recommended toys:

Coin pig

Stacking blocks


Sticker books

5. Associative Play- The interactive stage is finally here! Your child is now playing with other kids however they are not organized in their play does not have a common goal. This is different that parallel play as children may still be playing separately from one another, however they start to be interested and more involved with what others around them are playing with. This can be observed by a child playing or trading with the same toys, or talking with a child sitting next to them.

Recommended toys:

Toys with many pieces: blocks, magna-tiles

Coloring activities

6. Cooperative Play- This state is where play between kids finally becomes organized, groups form and teamwork is observed. Children start talking about their toys and work toward a common goal, such as building a train track, making a tower. Kids become interested in following a leader and being assigend roles during play.

Recommended toys:

Train sets

Car ramp sets

cutting fruit activities

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