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  • Emily Bruce

Navigating the Stages of Play: How Peer-to-Peer Interactions Enhance a Child's Development

Peer-to-peer interactions play an important role in a child's development, as they help children learn social skills, practice communication, and build friendships. Through play, children have the opportunity to experiment with different roles and behaviors, and to practice problem-solving and negotiation. As children grow and develop, their play behaviors change and evolve. Here are the stages of play through the developmental years:

  • Unoccupied play: This stage occurs in the first few months of life and is characterized by random movements and exploration of the environment. Children at this stage are not yet interacting with others.

  • Solitary play: From about 6 to 18 months, children begin to engage in solitary play, where they play alone but are aware of others around them. They may show an interest in toys and objects and may begin to immerse themselves in play.

  • Onlooker play: From about 18 to 24 months, children may begin to watch and observe others playing, but may not yet join in. They may also engage in parallel play, where they play alongside others but do not interact.

  • Associative play: From about 2 to 3 years, children may begin to engage in associative play, where they play together but do not yet have a shared goal or plan. They may take turns and share toys, but their play is still self-centered.

  • Cooperative play: Around 3 to 4 years, children begin to engage in cooperative play, where they work together towards a shared goal or plan. They may negotiate roles and rules and may take turns and share.

As children progress through these stages of play, they learn important social skills and develop their sense of self. It is important for parents and caregivers to provide opportunities for children to engage in play with their peers, as this can help them learn and practice these skills.

Remember, every child is unique and will progress at their own pace. It is important to be patient and understanding as children learn and grow through play. With the right support and encouragement, children can learn to develop strong peer-to-peer relationships and build meaningful friendships.


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