How Does your Child Play?

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How Does your Child Play?

By Pinky McKay

Unless you already have more than one child, you will be your child’s first playmate (and teacher) and even if you have several children, unless there is an age gap of a few years, playing together peaceably without supervision will be a challenge for a while yet.

While toddlers love the company of other children and playgroups are fun (especially for parents who need reassurance that their child’s spirited behaviour is actually ‘on track’!), the ability to share toys and play co-operatively will take time and depends on stages of maturity. One year olds usually wander around by themselves, exploring and occasionally taking a toy from another child or imitating their actions, but generally they don’t really play together with other children. This kind of play is called ‘solitary play’ by the experts. Later, little ones begin to engage in ‘parallel play’ which means that two children may play alongside each other but without much interaction – they might both play with cars or build with blocks but they will be playing separately. Then, when they are closer to three years old, toddlers begin to play co-operatively perhaps building a road together in the sandpit or making a block tower together. However, sharing treasured toys and attention (especially their parents) can take a while yet.

So please don’t give up on playgroups or play dates because it seems like a waste of time – despite his developmental stage right now, with your support, your child will gradually learn to get along with other children and adults, he will enjoy meeting people in a familiar setting and by making this commitment, you are sowing seeds of later social skills such as sharing, empathy, fairness and self control.

For more top tips about toddler play and learning, see Toddler Tactics by Pinky McKay (Penguin) or visit Pinky’s website

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