Types of Play Crucial for Child Development

Types of Play Crucial for Child Development

Playtime is one of the best moments for children / Photo by: Iam_Anupong via Shutterstock


Playtime is always an enjoyable activity for children as it helps them build up their creativity and imagination. It also helps them improve other skills such as their social skill when they learn to take turns, cooperate, and get along with their playmates. The activity itself is synonymous to childhood, investing their time to something they enjoy doing, and is essential for development and growth.

The value that children learn as they play has a significant role in maintaining their focus on early childhood education, even though it may not seem productive to adults. Through acts of playing, kids learn and understand what is going in the world around them.

Six types of play

Although playing may look the same, sociologist Mildred Parten stated there are six kinds of play that children engage in. Very Well Family reports that kids take part in these types depending on their age, mood, and social setting.

Unoccupied play. This refers to any activity where the child is not really playing at all. This is when they engage in random movements that have no particular goal or objective. Although this may seem nonsensical, it is still a form of play which sets up the foundation for further play exploration.

Solitary or Independent play. The name itself describes what kind of play this type is—playing alone. This type of play is particularly in teaching the child to keep themselves entertained, which eventually sets the path to being independent. Solitary play is common among younger children aged two to three—the age when they are still quite self-centered and lack good communication skills. Shy children are often found to engage in this kind of play.

Onlooker play. This is when the child would merely observe other kids play and does not involve themselves in the activity. Young children who working on improving their vocabulary are the usual participants of this play. However, parents don't have to worry if their child is behaving this way. The kid may just be shy, is observing to learn the rules, or just wants to step back from the game due to their age.

Parallel play. FeedFond defines this as a sign that the child is taking a step to reach out and connect with other kids. This is the stage wherein they are unsure how to connect with others and is trying to befriend their peers. They would play together despite not having any verbal or physical communication, generating a sense of "ego," and learning to understand ownership and possessiveness.

Associative play. Children around the age of four start to participate in this kind of play since it is the age that they begin to generate confidence in having a social life. Those who engage in associative play have one goal where they gradually develop the rules and regulations within the group. Through this type of play, they learn to improve various skills such as communication, social, and problem-solving.

Cooperative play. This is quite similar to associative play, except it involves more social interactions between peers. Kids in preschool commonly engage in this activity since the school encourages acts of socializing. This is where they learn everything they have to know in terms of social rules. Cooperative play occurs in the later stages of a child's development. Cooperative play is where they learn about working together, the importance of having a social life, and how they should behave.

One of the games that kids play in their playtime are cooperative games / Photo by: Claudia Paulussen via Shutterstock

Importance of play in the development of children

FirstCry Parenting states that the best kind of learning is through playing. Activities like this, done in different environments, establish the basic foundations for children to learn, practice and create a safe setting for them to express themselves.

Games like hide-and-seek and tag help kids understand group dynamics and how people interact with one another. Playing with adults, specifically with parents, increases their bond with one another. It also teaches the polite way to interact with other adults.

Learning activities care always gradual and spaced. Physical activities like playing sports strengthen their understanding of spontaneity and quick response to situations. It helps them improve their quick thinking modules in the brain.

Playtime is an essential time for children to develop their social interaction to others / Photo by: Boroda79 via Shutterstock


Playing also introduces children to the concept of making choices. Physical play provides children the environment where they learn how to make rational, well-thought decisions among many choices. It is where they are allowed to choose what they want to play and make quick decisions while engaged in play.

Being locked up in the house or a classroom is pretty dull for children. Playing outside can give them the joy and freedom that may possibly be foreign for them. Moreover, this can provide parents with the opportunity to rediscover their own joy of playing and even help them be better parents.

Playing together can also help parents understand their non-verbal cues. Their behaviors can reveal a lot about their attitude—if they are confident or hesitant, whether they are a follower or a leader.