Parallel play is the first step in learning how to interact with others. It is the fourth step in the six stages of play development that children experience.
At the parallel play stage, children will be near each other, but they are not playing with each other. They are near other children while engaging and focused on their activities. They can use similar toys or play in the same area, but there is minimal or no communication and no cooperative play. We may think that this is just two children playing alone, yet it is unlike solitary play. The child becomes aware of other children and interested in what they are doing without participating.
Why is parallel play important?
Parallel play is a first step in forming strong social relationships outside the family. Parallel play is vital for children 2.5 to 3 years old. Parallel play allows your child to have the opportunity to observe other children and utilize the information to interact or copy actions and language. While your child is playing, they can listen and learn from the children and adults nearby. Your child can also observe how other children display emotions such as joy or frustration when playing.
Parallel play helps them learn to work with and get along with others, work independently and learn to interact with peers. Language development can be improved when your child engages in parallel play as they model the words other children use. Additionally, parallel play can boost confidence and social development because children are learning to play near others and the child will form relationships with others during play.
Children can sharpen their motor skills, practice communication and learn to recognize boundaries. Upon seeing other children display motor skills such as throwing a ball, your child may attempt to imitate them. They would try to learn the mechanism behind the actions independently.
Engaging in parallel play can build their confidence when expressing themselves, articulating their wants, and cooperating with others in space. As the child models how to speak and play with others during parallel play, parents and caregivers can also help them as they develop new skills.
Examples of Parallel play
For example, Child X stacks toy blocks to build a tall building. Child Y pushes toy blocks together to form a big pile. Both Child X and Child Y retrieve toy blocks from the same container, and they learn to share the toy blocks without interfering with each other’s play.
In another example, Child A and Child B are sitting on the play rug in the classroom. Child A is playing with Lego while Child B is playing with plastic shapes. Both Child A and Child B can learn to share physical play areas without interfering with each other’s play.
These opportunities allow the children to develop communication skills such as eye contact and gestures while preparing them to interact with their peers.
Parallel play is a natural and important milestone for your child to develop language, emotional understanding, and social skills. Your child may be very attracted to electronic devices, but reducing their screen time during the first few years of life is essential. Encourage play, either by themselves or alongside their peers, or with their peers. Children learn and have fun when engaged in play. But most importantly, playing will enable them to learn at their own pace.
Written by Carabelle.
Conklin, A. (2021, December 14). Parallel play and the six stages of play development. https://study.com/learn/lesson/parallel-play.html
Eyc, K. (2016, April 1). The importance of parallel play on speech development.
Prager, S. (2021, July 8). Why parallel play is important for your toddler’s development. https://www.newfolks.com/inspiration/parallel-play-toddlers/
MomLovesBest. (July 26 2021). Important types of play in your child's development. Retrieved June 22 2022, from https://momlovesbest.com/stages-of-play