What Is Parallel Play?

If you’ve ever brought your infant to a playdate and seen that they sit near other children but never join in on the fun, you may be a little bit anxious about what could be going on. Does this imply that at such a young age, your child already has antisocial tendencies? Is it possible that the unwillingness to participate in social contact is a precursor to something more severe?

parallel  play

You may relax. Your infant doesn’t seem to be holding back on anything. They are playing in a manner that is parallel to one another. They are behaving in an age-appropriate manner and are hitting all of the correct notes in this regard.

Parallel Play

You’ve probably noticed while watching your infant or toddler at a playgroup or a family gathering where there were other children present that, in contrast to the full-on interaction he has with you or his older siblings, he probably doesn’t actually play with other children his age. This may be because he doesn’t know how to interact with other children his age. Instead, he is fine to sit next to a person who may become a friend, apparently ignoring them as they sort shapes, play with vehicles, or chew on everything they can get their mouths on.

The term “parallel play” refers to this kind of enjoyable activity. And although while it may not seem of an interactive component, it plays a significant part in the development of your child’s social skills.

Individual and Parallel Play

Play in isolation and play with others are two different and natural phases of play that occur throughout childhood development. When a youngster plays fully by themselves, they are engaging in solitary play. Multiple children will play in close proximity to one another but with very little interaction during parallel play.

A youngster who is engaged in solo play may, for example, be keeping himself busy in his play space by constructing a block tower. Tots who engage in these sorts of solitary pursuits have the opportunity to discover new things and develop their abilities without being interrupted.

A youngster could be in a room with other children, all of whom are engaged in their own individual versions of parallel play, such as constructing a block tower. Even while the kid is continuing to engage in his own activity, just being in the company of other children might inspire him to play with his blocks in new ways and pave the way for other types of play that include greater interaction.

Importance of Parallel Play

Even if he is not engaging with the other children, a youngster who is engaged in parallel play is nevertheless gaining knowledge from his peers. Your toddler is sneakily and timidly watching his playmate while he is engaged in his activity.

Even if he doesn’t show it at first, he is paying attention to what his close friend is doing. Sooner or later, he’ll start copying the behaviors he observes his buddies engaging in. And for the time being, this kind of social pressure is really a positive thing; it broadens your baby’s horizons in terms of the kind of games he may play, and it may even ultimately assist him in learning new vocabulary.

Playing parallel games may also serve as a stepping stone to more collaborative types of fun and games. Babies and toddlers may get used to the concept of interacting with other people by taking part in the same activity alongside them. This paves the way for them to engage in cooperative play in the future.

Kids playing Spikeball on the Spikeball Rookie Kit
Photo by Spikeball on Unsplash

Fostering children’s participation in parallel play

Your child’s social development will progress naturally if you encourage them to engage in cooperative play. By providing him with chances to play with other people, you can give him the opportunity to practice and help him continue to grow his abilities in interacting with his peers.

If you send your infant or toddler to daycare, you can bet that he already participates in parallel play on a daily basis. Utilize alternative opportunities for social interaction if he is at home by the following: You could want to try scheduling some playdates for your child with other children of a similar age, organize a meet-up at the local park or playground, or enroll in a class designed just for moms and their young children.

In the Opposite Circumstance, What Should One Do?

Try to avoid the impulse to hover too much over your infant or toddler while he or she plays alongside his or her friends. Allow the children to occupy themselves as they see fit. It is normal for young toddlers to have difficulty sharing their toys, but you should strive to remain calm and let your children figure out how to resolve their differences without your intervention.

You should step in if the situation begins to become particularly hot, but you should fight the desire to reprimand or humiliate your kid if he has trouble sharing. Instead of getting reprimanded for his actions, he will learn more from seeing how you assist him model healthy sharing behavior.

Age of Parallel Play

At around 18 months or two years of age, children can start engaging in parallel play, and it can last for another year or two after that. Your child, however, may engage in this kind of play for a period of time that is a little bit longer or a little bit shorter, depending on their individual characteristics. You’ll start to see your child interacting more with the other kids around the same age as her when she’s getting ready for preschool.

Impact of parallel play on children’s development

Children often participate in parallel play before moving on to forms of play that require them to interact directly with one another. Even while it could appear a touch antisocial, it’s completely normal behavior for newborns and toddlers at this stage of their development.

Why? Because young children are still engaged in the process of learning a great deal about the world and are not yet aware that individuals who are their own size are, in fact, persons (who might actually be fun to do stuff with). Your kid is too young to develop friends at this age, but playing beside another child in a companionable activity is an excellent place to start. If he spends a lot of stretch with the same group of infants, he may start gravitating toward a select number of them in order to sit with them on a more regular basis.

Individualized Bouts of Gameplay

In addition, the fact that the children are still able to maintain their own identities while participating in the same activity lays the groundwork for future opportunities for socialization. Even during parallel play, your child will begin to understand that the other children he is interacting with have ideas and emotions similar to his own. And as a result, he’ll learn to react appropriately, such as sobbing when he notices a playmate has injured her head and is also sobbing over it.

When your kid reaches the age of preschool. His play sessions will begin to transition into interactions that entail taking turns, sharing, expressing empathy for others. And coming up with new ideas or games to play. And by the time he is 4 or 5 years old, he will have begun to create his first genuine friendships and will have developed preferences for the people with whom he chooses to play.

Better Socializing

Even though it may not seem like much real socialization is taking on, parallel play is the first step your kid will take towards learning how to engage with his other children. All that is compulsory of you is to provide him with opportunities to engage in play and exploration in the company of other children of the same age; thus, you should schedule some play dates.

parallel play

Stages vs. Strategy of Play

Play of any kind, including parallel play, helps a child’s cognitive and social development. This is true of all types of play. On the other hand, there are binary schools of thought on how significant this kind of play is.

Stages of Play

According to Parten (1932), children go through a period of parallel play. It is as they transition from being lonely players to social players. She was under the impression that the six phases of play, which are unoccupied, spectator, lonely, parallel, associative, and cooperative, were sequential and represented increasing degrees of social interaction.

As a consequence of this, it is essential for children to engage in parallel play. It is since it serves as a significant stepping stone in the process of acquiring social skills. This kind of play will become less common as children become older.

Strategy of Play

In spite of the fact that Parten’s research established six different types of play as phases. Other researchers have discovered that children do not always go through these stages in the order described or at all.

While one kid may go from playing alone to playing with others in parallel. And then to play in groups, another child may move straight from playing alone to playing with others in groups.

Further Developments

It has also been discovered that parallel play does not change greatly with a person’s age. Sugarman-Bell (1978) had the theory that infants acquired their person-oriented and object-oriented interacting capacities. It is independently of one another. Which led to the development of two primary types of play: playing alone and playing with other people.

These two qualities start to complement one another during the course of the first year. Children start to systematize the process of incorporating both people and items into their social environments. It is as they engage in the physically active action of manipulating objects.

Better Skills

Children who are engaged in solo play may have a strong desire to interact with other children. But may lack the abilities necessary to participate instantly in group play. Playing in parallel is a phase or tactic that will get them closer to playing as a group. It is a temporary state that may be entered at your discretion whenever it is required. A youngster will have more opportunities to play with other children as a result of this.

Therefore, parallel play is essential because, contrary to what was previously assumed. It does not serve as a developmental stage but rather serves to launch group play.

Progress in Healthcare

Your child’s healthy growth includes parallel play as simply one more stage in the process. Even if it may seem strange to you, it is quite normal for your toddler to acquire the fundamentals of social contact. It is when playing alongside other children, even if it might appear unusual to you. That your kid is not engaging with his other playmates.

When your kid is going through this stage, it’s a good idea to schedule playdates for them. It is with other children who are about the same age. Playdates are beneficial chances for social and emotional development for your toddler. It is since they enable your toddler to get a head start on learning how to create relationships. Even if the children do not play together.

More Effective Interaction

You won’t believe it, but before you know it, you’ll see your toddler engaging in more direct conversation. It is with the other kids in his immediate environment, whether it’s at a playdate, at preschool. Or on the playground with the children in the neighborhood. You’re going to get a pretty good knack of witnessing how his horizons broaden with each fresh experience. As well as meeting all of his new companions.


In order for a kid to grow up healthy and happy. It is essential for them to have opportunities to engage in many forms of play. Through participation in activities, a youngster will be both challenged and socialized.

Key Takeaway

By scheduling playdates for your kid with other children the same age. You may assist them in developing relationships with other people.

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