Six Stages of Play: Part I

Six Stages of Play: Part I

Many times, when you put a group of kids into a room together with some toys, they will find a way to play together. There may be a few children working on building a house of blocks together, some others may be coloring in some books, and even a few others may be playing quietly with Play-Doh. The first researcher who observed children playing was Mildred Parten Newhall, in 1929. She saw that certain types of play emerge, or six particular stages. As you watch your own child play as they grow up, you should see these six stages:

Unoccupied Play

The most basic stage of play, this is when your baby is simply moving around and exploring their surroundings and even their own hands and feet. If you give a baby a rattle, they’ll toss it around or bang it the floor to hear the sounds and what it feels like against their legs, for example. This is the perfect time for them to think, move, and explore their imagination. This type of play, like the name implies, is typically done alone without interaction of other infants.

Independent or Solitary Play

When your baby turns one year old, or somewhere between eight and 16 months, they may start playing independently at times. This type of play could be flipping through a picture book, playing with dolls, or digging in the dirt outside. The benefit of this stage is that they begin to learn more about themselves and what they like to do, or how they can entertain themselves. Keep in mind that the more extroverted your child is, the less obvious this stage may be, but it’s important to encourage this type of play as it builds, you guessed it, independence.

Onlooker Play

If you have been concerned that your little one isn’t very social, just give it some time. They may be in the onlooker play state. This is when they are simply watching other kids play, but aren’t participating. Even though your child isn’t taking part in the activity, they are observing how other kids interact, which can be an incredible learning experience. Keep in mind that observing isn’t limited to other kids, your child can be observing you as well. Either way, they are learning how people interact with each other, setting the stage for how they will interact with kids.

In our next post, we’ll go over the last three stages: parallel play, associative play, and cooperative play. If you want to find child development toys that can help encourage your child to play and learn, shop our collection of toys at Children Smart Toys. You’ll find books, toys that will help develop math and science skills, toys that focus on strengthening gross and fine motor skills, and more!

We’re passionate about helping children learn and develop, which will help them later on in their educational journey. Through a variety of toys and activities, having this foundation of learning will set them up for further success, whether it’s math, science, reading, or the arts. Shop our collection of child development toys and have fun watching your child learn and grow.