As a parent, guardian, or early childhood educator, you might have often observed a peculiar phenomenon: young children engrossed in their individual play activities, seemingly oblivious to the presence of their playmates around them.
This engaging behavior is known as ‘parallel play,’ a vital stage in a child’s social and emotional development. It might appear as though children are engrossed in their separate worlds, but there’s more beneath the surface than meets the eye.
Parallel play is a form of play in which children playing adjacent to each other but do not try to influence one another’s behavior. This type of play is typically found in children between 2 and 3 years old.
Parallel play is a type of play where children play independently near each other, but don’t necessarily interact or share toys.
Parallel play is an important part of early childhood development, helping children develop their language skills, creativity, and independence.
While parallel play may seem solitary, it can actually help children develop social skills and prepare them for more complex forms of play in the future.
Understanding Parallel Play
Parallel play is a type of play where children play alongside each other without any actual interaction. This behavior is common among toddlers between the ages of two and five, and it is believed to be an important step in the development of social skills.
Parallel play is different from solitary play, where children play alone without any interaction with others. In parallel play, children are aware of each other’s presence, but they do not try to influence each other’s behavior.
According to Parten’s stages of play, parallel play follows onlooker play and precedes associative play. It typically begins around 24-30 months, and it is an important stage in the development of social skills.
During the parallel play, children may engage in similar activities, such as playing with blocks or drawing pictures. Although they are not interacting with each other in the group play, they are still learning from each other. They may observe each other’s behavior and learn new ways of playing or new skills.
It is important to note that parallel play is not a sign of anti-social behavior or a lack of interest in socializing. It is a natural stage in the development of social skills, and it helps children learn how to play with others.
What is the parallel play stage?
Parallel play, often observed in the toddler years (around ages 2-3), is a stage of child development where children play adjacent to each other, but not with each other. This type of play is a step towards more complex social interactions or group play.
During parallel play, children may engage in similar activities and may mimic each other’s actions, but they do not interact or collaborate directly. It’s a crucial stage where children begin to learn about the concept of ‘play’ and how to navigate social situations, even though they are not yet fully engaging with their peers.
|Stages of Child’s Play||Description||Parallel Play Examples|
|Solitary Play||The stage where a child plays alone. It is the child’s own activity without any connection with other children.||A child playing with baby dolls or a sensory table individually.|
|Parallel Play||During this developmental stage, two children engage in play activities in the same area, playing alongside each other but without any significant interaction.||Two toddlers playing with their own set of toys in the same room.|
|Associative Play||Children start playing more with each other. They share toys and interact but their play does not have a large structure or goal.||Young children dancing individually in a dance party or playing with the playground equipment together but without a unified purpose.|
|Cooperative Play||The fourth stage where the child grows to play in a group with other children collaboratively. They play towards a common goal.||Older children organizing a pretend play scenario or playing a board game together with shared rules and goals.|
Benefits of Parallel Play
Parallel play, where children play alongside each other but not necessarily with each other, is a normal and important step in a child’s development. Here are some benefits of parallel play:
1. Develops Social Skills
Parallel play helps children develop their social skills. Children learn to interact with others, share materials, and take turns. They also learn to respect others’ personal space and develop empathy towards others.
2. Enhances Creativity and Imagination
During parallel play, children are free to explore their creativity and imagination. They can use their toys in different ways and create their own games. This type of play encourages children to think outside the box and develop their problem-solving skills.
3. Builds Self-Confidence
Parallel play provides children with a sense of independence and autonomy. They can play on their own terms and at their own pace, which helps build their self-confidence. Children feel more comfortable expressing themselves and trying new things when they are in control of their play.
4. Develops Spatial Awareness
Parallel play helps children develop their spatial awareness. When tlearn to navigate their environment and understand the relationship between objects and people. This type of play also helps children develop their gross and fine motor skills.
5. Enhances Cognitive Development
Parallel play helps children develop their cognitive skills. They learn to categorize objects, develop language skills, and understand cause and effect. This type of play also helps children develop their memory and attention span.
The Role of Parallel Play in Child Development
Parallel play is an important part of child development. It refers to the play where children play alongside each other, but not necessarily with each other.
Motor Skills Development
Parallel play helps in the development of motor skills, particularly fine motor skills. When children play with toys, they manipulate them in different ways, which helps in the development of hand-eye coordination and dexterity. When children play with puzzles, they learn to manipulate the pieces, which helps in the development of dexterity.
Parallel play also helps in the development of language skills. When children play alongside each other, they are exposed to different words and phrases, which helps in the development of vocabulary. Children also learn to communicate with each other, which helps in the development of social skills.
Social Interaction Development
Parallel play plays an important role in the development of social skills. When children play alongside each other, they learn to share toys and take turns, which helps in the development of social skills. They also learn to cooperate with each other, which helps in the development of teamwork skills.
Parallel play also helps in the development of emotional skills. When children play alongside each other, they learn to express their emotions and understand the emotions of others. They also learn to empathize with each other, which helps in the development of emotional intelligence.
Different Stages of Play
According to Mildred Parten (in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology) , there are six stages of play development as children progress: unoccupied play, solitary play, onlooker play, parallel play, associative play, and cooperative play. These stages are not always linear and children may move back and forth between them.
|Stage of Play||Age Range||Description|
|Unoccupied Play||0-2 years||During this stage, children are relatively stationary and their play appears scattered. They may engage with whatever is near, exploring and observing their environment.|
|Solitary (Independent) Play||2-3 years||Children play alone and independently, even if surrounded by others. Their focus is on their activity, not what others are doing.|
|Onlooker Play||2.5-3.5 years||Children watch others play. They may engage in conversation but not join in the play. This stage helps children learn more about social norms and rules.|
|Parallel Play||2.5-3.5 years||Children play separately but close to each other, often mimicking each other’s actions. It’s a pivotal stage where they begin to notice others and start to experiment with social interaction.|
|Associative Play||3-4 years||In this stage, children start to interact more with each other in their play. They may share toys and converse about their play, but there’s no organized activity or common goal.|
|Cooperative Play||4+ years||Children now start to play together towards a shared goal. This is the most social stage of play, involving cooperation, problem-solving, and negotiation.|
Parallel Play and Social Skills
Parallel play is a type of play where children play alongside each other without actually interacting. It is common among children between the ages of two and five and is an important step in the development of social skills. Parallel play helps children learn about boundaries and cooperation, which are important social skills that they will use throughout their lives.
During parallel play, children learn to share toys and take turns, which are important skills for social interactions. They also learn how to respect each other’s space and not interfere with each other’s play. This helps them develop social behavior that is respectful and considerate of others.
FAQS on Parallel Play Skills
Why is parallel play important for preschool children?
Parallel play is a significant milestone in a child’s social development. It allows children to progress from individual play to playing alongside others. This stage supports children’s behavior understanding as they learn from observing each other.
How can I support parallel play?
Parents play a vital role in fostering parallel play and a child’s development. By arranging play dates or setting up parallel play activities like having two or more children draw at the same table or play with separate sets of blocks in the same room, parents can encourage this developmental stage.
What are parallel play activities?
Parallel play activities could involve two toddlers playing separately in a sandbox, each with their own toys, or children using different pieces of playground equipment in the same area.