Six stages of play

Did you know that there are six stages of play during early childhood that takes place at different ages of a child’s development? 

These six stages involve exploring, discovering, being creative and learning while having fun. The play changes and adapts as children grow and develop social and emotional skills.

Unoccupied play: birth to 12 months

A baby makes cooing sounds, they kick legs and wave hands. Babies are discovering and learning how their bodies move. Play has no actual purpose at this stage.

Solitary play: 12 to 24 months

A child plays in a new situation/environment. Toddler/child plays on their own and pays no attention to others, loses interest and moves onto next activity very quickly.

Onlooker play: this occurs across various age ranges

A child is near a group of children or next to another child, they watch, copy and/or follow actions of others, they don’t participate or are waiting to be invited to participate.

Parallel play: two years and older

A child plays on their own or near / next to other children but not with each other – sometimes playing with the same toys.

Associative play: three years and older

Associative play is where children participate in dramatic play with other children – role playing.

Cooperative play: five to six years

Children play in a group with a shared goal – each taking on a specific role they develop their own rules.

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