Parents’ Guide to the Stages of Play
Young children develop their social skills through the six stages of play, all of which are important for their development. All of the stages of play involve exploring, being creative, and having fun. Watch to see how children’s play changes by age as they grow and develop social skills.
To learn more about play, visit our Play page.
Read along with the video below!
Did you know: there are 6 stages of play?
Each stage should begin around:
- Unoccupied play: 0-3 months
- Solitary play: 0-2 years
- Onlooker play: 2 years
- Parallel play: 2+ years
- Associative play: 3-4 years
- Cooperative play: 4+ years
All the stages involve exploring, being creative, and having fun!
Unoccupied play (Birth-3 months): Makes a lot of movement with their arms, legs, hands, feet, etc. They are learning about and discovering how their body moves.
Solitary play (Birth-2 years): Content to play alone. They are not interested in playing with others quite yet.
Onlooker play (2 years): Watches other children playing but does not play with them yet.
Parallel play (2+ years): Plays alongside or near others, but does not play with them.
Associative play (3-4 years): Starts to interact with others during play. A child might be doing an activity related to the kids around him, but might not actually be interacting with another child. For example, kids might all be playing on the same piece of playground equipment but all doing different things like climbing, swinging, etc.
Cooperative play (4+ years): Plays with others. Child has interest in both the activity and other children involved in playing they are participating in cooperative play.
Play starts when we’re babies and never stops!