Parents know their children best. Mommas, you know what toys your kids like to play with, what foods they eat, and what sends them into a tantrum. While we are armed with the knowledge of our children, activities to help their development may elude us. Whether it be lack of time, knowledge, or resources, parents (including myself) struggle to provide activities that stimulate the growth we so desperately desire for our children.
If you’ve been following along I have been sharing one technique each week that fosters speech and language growth in children. These techniques are easy to incorporate into your everyday routine and use items you already have around the house!
This week I want to talk about parallel play. Parallel Play when children play alone and adjacent to each other, but do not try to influence one another’s behavior. Around age two, kids start to engage in parallel play. They can be playing with similar toys or different toys. It seems kinda awkward – but it’s totally normal! In fact, it’s a crucial step in your child’s development. Children reap many benefits from something as simple as play time. Playing alone may seem anti-social, or self-centered, but kids are absorbing surroundings during this phase. Language, cognition, problem solving, and requests can all be learned through play time. If your toddler is already engaged in parallel play, then great! Follow along to learn how to enrich this time. If your child is not doing this, learn how to propel your child into parallel play by reading below.
Benefits of Parallel Play
Children are constantly listening to language around them. Even when your child is playing by herself next to a friend, she is taking in her surroundings. She will be listening and learning words from her friend. Your child will glance over and connect the words she is hearing with the toys being played with.
Social and Emotional Development
I love this phrase: Parallel play doesn’t mean isolation. It’s so true! When your child is playing alongside another child, she is learning. Parallel play may make you wonder if your child is anti-social, but don’t worry! Your child is growing in their own world – beginning to learn how to interact with other children. Your child needs this basic skill so that she knows what to do when she is ready to play with others.
Facilitate Parallel Play at Home
Arrange a playdate with a friend from daycare, church, or your neighborhood. Set our 2-4 toys in your living room and allow the children to pick what toy they want. Arrange the environment by spacing the toys out so that the children will play near one another and see each other, but do not feel crowded out. You can bring attention to the other child and their toys, but don’t force engagement between the children.
If you have multiple children at home, allow your toddler to play next to another sibling. They can be reading a book or playing with blocks with the older sibling is doing their own activity. Again, engage in conversation with both children about their toys, but dont push conversation that doesn’t seem natural. Remember, parallel play helps children learn typical social skills.
Mommas, you can be a part of parallel play! If your child is sitting on the floor playing, go grab a toy to fiddle with and sit down next to her. Or, get a book you are reading and go read next to your kid. Glance over to see what she is doing, and allow her to watch what you are doing. You don’t need a constant stream of conversation – just let her watch you play, and respond to requests and comments if they arise.
Parallel Play can seem silly at first, but it’s all part of development! Take this opportunity to snuggle up next to your child and enjoy some self centered play. 🙂