In the 1930’s, Mildred Parten observed that young children’s play developed in certain stage reflecting the child’s social development. She also found that once a child developed the ability to participate in a particular stage of social play, he/she would use different variations and combinations of that stage, and earlier stages, throughout play.

  • From 0-5, play becomes progressively more complex as the child’ social skills develop.
  • Unoccupied Play: At this stage, an infant is becoming familiar with his/her own body – that the thing with 5 fingers is their hand and they can control it!
  • Children play alone, with objects and toys around them. This is important for building concentration and working independently.
  • When a child watches other children playing but does not attempt to join in. This child is learning by observation.
  • Children continue to play on their own, but they are beside children and may be using the same toys.  They may be observing and imitating one another at the same time.
  • Children truly begin to play with others. They share play materials but may be following their own story line.
  • Children play in groups and everyone is cooperating to achieve a common goal. This involves negotiation, as they change “roles” in the play and/or take turns making suggestions about the plot.

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