There are tons of helpful “Stages of Play” graphics online. Hopefully these are helpful for parents to navigate and translate your child’s play in the various stages!

These stages are integral for a child’s development in all areas, especially social skills. However, every child develops at their own pace. I invite you to contact me if you have questions about your child’s behaviors at any stage- I’m happy to help!

  • Unoccupied Play (Birth-3 mos): A baby in this stage makes alot of body movements, discovering how to move their body and arms and legs.

  • Solitary Play (Birth-2 yrs):A child seems totally content playing by themselves without the involvement of others.

  • Spectator/ Onlooker Play (2 yrs): A child begins to watch others play, but still is content playing alone.

  • Parallel Play (2+ yrs): A child starts to play next to, or alongside others, but does not necessarily join in.

  • Associative Play (3-4 yrs): A child starts to interract with others while playing, however, they may all still be doing different things. This article gives an example of all the kids playing together on a jungle gym- but they may be doing different activities within that jungle gym.

  • Social / Cooperative Play (4+): When a child starts to not only pay attention and alongside other children in an activity, they are actively aware and playing with the other children involved.




Play alone little interaction with others. spectator. 2-21/2. Watch other children but do not join in. parallel. 21/2-3. Play alongside others but not together. associative Interact with others, preference of people, mixed sex groups. Co-operative. 4+ Play together and share goals, single sex groups. A=stages are not necessarily separated.