Day 6/30 – I was today years old when I learned about parallel play

Our baby is 1 year and 3 months young now (15 months for those who are anal about this. Pro tip: 12 months equals a year)

We’ve always tried to spend as much as possible playing and having fun with our baby, and she has been very contented playing with us and also by herself. We try to encourage this behaviour to develop her imagination, train her motor skills, strengthen our bond, and also because obviously play makes her happy.

Since a couple of months back, we’ve tried to take things up a notch, the wife and I started trying actively (not for another baby) to let our baby girl socialise and play with other kids.

Our intention behind this was t0:

  • Let her be more familiar with other kids’ company
  • Help her realise that she’s not the only kid in this world
  • Improve her communication and social skills
  • Let her learn to share
  • Help her build her confidence
  • Again, obviously, to make her happy

We brought our daughter on a play-date yesterday night. It was at a cousin’s place, with their two very well behaved daughters that were three and seven years old (I think). They also had a very organised play area with a nice kiddy sized kitchen set, a couch for kids and also a nice play mat. It was the first time, as far as I can remember, that our daughter was able to touch toys that were not hers freely in a play area setting (we don’t allow her to play with toys or kid areas at restaurants or public places yet) and run around without her shoes on and without many restrictions

Our daughter was E X C I T E D. The cousins had a tonne of cardboard books that they passed to our baby yesterday. Usually, Alyssa opens up books and points at objects she recognises and says it out loud; but all that came out yesterday was excited flipping (of books, not fingers) and the words ‘WAH, WAH, WAH’. Toy cars, picnic sets, binoculars made from toilet rolls, soft toys, plastic ladles, spoons, pots and pans; Alyssa was so happy that she was looking at us adults and constantly running up and down and smiling. The two elder sisters were also kind enough to be taking care of Alyssa and sharing their toys with her

The only thing was, Alyssa wasn’t playing with them. She was contented playing alone and was only occasionally looking at the elder sisters.

Thinking further about this, I realised that this was not the first time I’ve seen this behaviour in Alyssa, and also in other younger nephews and nieces of mine. I spoke about this to the cousins and apparently they think it’s common too.

I thought to myself – maybe it’s because our baby still doesn’t know how to share, maybe it’s because she still do not know how to socialise or express herself, maybe she is contented playing alone, or maybe she is so engrossed in her own world that she doesn’t realise that there are other kids around

Then it came to bath time for both of the elder sisters, and this is where I got really curious with what happened (about Alyssa’s behaviour, not about the kids bathing). The moment the elder sisters went into the bathroom, Alyssa looked around and was frantically looking for her playmates. Turns out she did realise that she was on a play date with other kids. She also constantly paced from the play area to the toilet area and was trying to see what the elder sisters were doing, despite showing no intention of wanting to join them; she just wanted to be near the elder sisters.

I was Googling for more information before writing this post, and turns out this is a phenomenon called Parallel play, and it is crucial for a child’s development. According to GEMS World Academy, there are 6 distinct stages of play (Unoccupied play, Solitary play, Onlooker play, Parallel play, Associative play, and Cooperative play)

Parallel play – This occurs when children play side-by-side from one another, but there is a lack of group involvement amongst them. They will typically be playing with similar toys and often times mimic one another.  Parallel play is common in toddlers between the ages of 2 ½ and 3 ½ but can take place at any age. Although it looks like there is very little contact between them, these children are learning valuable social skills and actually learn quite a lot from one another. For this reason, parallel play is important as a transitory stage for the development of social maturity, which is key to later stages of play.

GEMS World Academy

Several other educational and parenting websites, and even personal blogs had similar information and they were all generally pointing to the conclusion that this kind of play is crucial for kids development and for them to transition and learn to socialise with other kids. So, to all fellow parents, this is normal (phew!) and I’m glad that these play dates are beneficial for our baby; we’re definitely going to continue doing this

So yeah, I was today years when I learned about Parallel Play

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you if you have any parenting tips, or even want to set up a play date with our daughter!

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