Stages of Play

Whether they are taking a trip to outer space on a “rocket ship” that’s really a playground swing, splashing around wildly in a water puddle, or quietly building a zoo out of colorful blocks, children are always spending the majority of their time and energy doing one simple thing: playing.

But how simple is it, really? Let’s all take a moment to remember what it was like to be a kid at playtime.

It’s safe to say that we all look back and remember doing any number of things: climbing all over playground equipment pretending to be monsters and princesses, organizing massive games of hide-and-seek and Red Rover, or perhaps just playing house with a baby doll and a little purse. All those activities that we remember most as adults are representative of just a few of the stages of play a child will experience.

Our brains tend to recall the most interactive, symbolic, and social forms of play, so it can be worrisome when we watch a two-year-old at a play date wandering around and playing with toys on their own, not even interested in the friend we brought them to see. Are they antisocial? Is there something wrong? What’s going on?

Not to worry! In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at the six social stages of play, as well as examining what play looks like and what a child is learning as they progress through these stages. If we know what to look for, we can spot these stages as they come, and we can engage in a child’s play in a way that is supportive and productive no matter their age or developmental level!

Let’s play!

What Is Play, Anyway?

For a child, play is everything! Throu