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The Stages of Play: Everything Parents Need To Know

When our children play, we assume the biggest benefit is fun. However, play helps a child’s mind develop and gives them the chance to explore the world around them safely! What’s even more interesting is that play develops in various stages. Discover the stages of play: everything parents need to know!

Unoccupied Play

The first stage of play occurs within the first three months of life. At this age, babies start to figure out different ways of moving their bodies. This play stage isn’t what we attribute to playtime; however, when infants begin exploring new ways of moving—like wiggling their toes—they better understand their body. Your baby may also discover the joy of playing with a rattle.

Solitary Play

Anywhere before their second birthday, your child will begin playing alone. This is important because children need to learn how to self-cope and self-entertain. When your child reaches this stage, buy them fun toys! Legacy Toys sells everything your child could dream of: prehistoric animal toys, puzzles, huggable plush animals, and more!

Onlooker Play

Around the age of two, children also begin watching how others interact. They’re not quite ready for exciting playdates with the neighbor kids, though, as they still lack the needed communication and sharing skills. During the onlooker stage, your kiddo is watching how other kids interact.

Parallel Play

With parallel play, toddlers are nearly at the stage we think of when we talk about playtime. Most kids hit this stage at around three years old. They will start to play side-by-side rather than with each other. For example, one child may play with farm animals while the other plays with dolls, and these fantasy worlds won’t blend yet, but both children may mimic one another as they play!

Associative Play

When a child—usually at three or four—enters this stage, they start engaging with other children. Their interactions aren’t quite ready to play with others yet, though.

Children may play with the same things during associative play, but they’re not playing together. For example, two children may play dress-up and socialize, but both remain in their own worlds. There’s no defined structure or goal.

Cooperative Play

Children don’t start actually playing with others until they’re around four. At this point, they’re finally interested in playing with other kids. For example, they may play games like hide-and-seek, duck-duck-goose, or another goal-oriented game.

Cooperative play teaches children how to regulate their emotions and cooperate with others. They have now gathered the necessary social skills by watching others or playing alongside them, and now it’s time to polish them!

After parents have researched everything that parents need to know about the stages of play, they can better watch their child develop. By observing others, they realize what is and isn’t appropriate.

Children don’t completely stop using one stage either—they use each one as they grow. Keep playtime a blast by shopping at Legacy Toys! You can find the perfect toy for your child so that they can have fun at every stage!