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What is Toddler Parallel Play?

How To Encourage Your Toddler To Engage With Others During Playtime

Playing -- part of the joy of being a child -- is more than just fun and games. Play is the way that children explore, integrate, and master the world around them. According to noted developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, play is the work of childhood, and, as children develop, they progress from playing simple games of peek-a-boo to make- believe to complicated computer games.

At around the age of 3, you may notice your child demonstrating developmental behavior called parallel play.

At this stage, your child might seek out other children, only to plop down next to them to play by herself. This desire to play next to instead of with others is called "parallel play." Children at this age don't yet have the skills necessary for playing together -- namely, cooperation. However, they are generally responsive to directions and able to take turns, so there are some things you can do to encourage your child to engage with others.

For example:

  • You can takes turns throwing a ball to your child and her friends during a playdate.
  • Encourage older siblings to play with your toddler, which will teach her how to play cooperatively with others.

Keep in mind, however, that even if you don't do anything, your child will naturally learn to play with others on her own when she's ready.

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