Parallel Play in Toddlers

Have you noticed that your child sits next to other kids to play but doesn’t play with them directly? Chances are this is his attempt towards parallel play. Playing is an important facet of your child’s social and mental development. He learns and adapts to new things through playing. So, it becomes essential to make sure that your child parallel plays correctly.

Read ahead to learn more about what is parallel play, the benefits of parallel play with examples and much more!

What Is Parallel Play?

Parallel play is a kind of play wherein toddlers play next to one another, but not with each other directly. In this activity, they can try to observe or mimic what the other child is doing. As their social or awareness skills aren’t developed yet, they try to pick behaviour from the environment around them. This type of play may begin between the ages of 18 months and two years.

What Is an Example of Parallel Play?

During toddlerhood, imitation and pretend games are common. An example of parallel play could be your child imitating what a playmate is doing while not seeming to interact with him directly. If the playmate is playing with blocks, your toddler may decide to play with blocks, too.

Keep in mind that sharing isn’t a concept that’s understood yet. For example, if there is only one truck and your toddler sees his playmate playing with it, he may decide to try to take it for himself. This could lead to conflict, which you’ll need to help resolve, perhaps by offering your child another toy to play with instead.

Parallel Vs Solitary Play: What's the difference?

Parallel play and solitary play are two completely different stages of play. In the former one, your child plays in proximity with other children without engaging directly. The perfect parallel play example would be your child playing in a playroom. Even though there are other children around them, he is still doing his own activity. But here, he can observe and pick ideas from others as to how to play a particular game. When it comes to solitary play, it’s the developmental stage where your child starts playing voluntarily on his own. This means your child would be immersed in solo activities like building blocks himself. Solitary play gives your child room to explore new skills and build on them effectively.

Why Is Parallel Play Important?

Even though it may seem odd to see your child playing independently next to a child instead of together, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong. Parallel play is an important part of your child’s development because it helps her learn about relationships and how to behave around others. He also observes the children around him and tries to mimic what they are doing. This way he is able to explore new ideas and learn new words in the long run which makes it one of the key benefits of parallel play.

On the other hand, as your child matures, you’ll see her playing more collaboratively, as well as using her imagination in more active ways. All of these types of play are important for her development.

How Can You Help Your Toddler with Parallel Play?

Here’s how you can help your toddler with parallel play:

  • Give your child opportunities to play with other children

  • In the beginning, limit these playmates to two or three children at a time

  • Set up playdates at home with similarly aged children

  • Sign up for a mom-and-me class

  • Be sure to monitor the activities so fights don’t break out over toys

  • Ensure the play area is safe

  • Never leave the children unattended

In time, parallel play will boost her social skills and lead to your child interacting more directly with other children. Parallel playmates are your child's first friends.

What Is the Age Range for Parallel Play?

The parallel play could begin at about 18 months or two years of age and continue for another year or two. Each child is unique, however, and your little one may engage in this type of play for a slightly longer or shorter period. Around the time your child is ready for preschool, you’ll notice her interacting more with other children.

The Bottom Line

Parallel play can be a great start for your child to learn the basics of social interaction. At first, it might seem a little odd that your child isn’t interacting with other children around him and simply playing alongside. But with time, he will start observing and picking up new skills, language, and other behavioural elements. Consider it one of the key benefits of parallel play as it aids your child’s healthy development. To aid this purpose, you can set up playdates for your child with children of a similar age. This can prove to be a good opportunity to develop his social and emotional growth.

Soon enough, your little ball of joy would start interacting with other children and making friends for life! Watch him grow and take on this new adventure where he becomes a people’s person.