Unoccupied Play 

Birth to 3-month old’s are in a stage of unoccupied play which is focused on learning about how their body moves. Infants at this stage are fascinated by their hands, feet, and large body movements like rolling.  

Solitary Play & Parallel Play 

Up to age 2, children engage mostly in the solitary play where they are more focused on their own engagement and are unlikely to invite others to join in. You may notice your two-year-old beginning to watch other children’s play, demonstrating onlooker behaviors. Here they may not play directly with another child but are learning social cues and how others engage with materials. This onlooker behavior transitions into parallel play where children play next to another child and sometimes with similar materials, but do not directly interact.  

Associative Play 

Three and four-year-olds begin to exhibit associative play where they interact with others for only short periods of time. For example, there may be several children playing with blocks, but they are each building their own structure with brief interactions related to sharing space and materials.  

Cooperative Play 

Children finally move into the stage of cooperative play which involves children sharing ideas, materials, and assigning roles within their play. In the block scenario, this might look like children building a car wash together, determining the size, materials, stations that the cars will move through, and then taking turns as they move their cars through their completed structure 

More information on children’s play can be found in this article.