There are 5 types of Social Play:  Solitary, Onlooker, Parallel, Associative and Cooperative.  Read below to understand the differences and why they are all so important to include in an inclusive design.

At the SOLITARY PLAY stage, children are very busy exploring and discovering their new world.  They tend to play alone regardless of whether other children are in the same area.  Children can engage in Solitary Play in many areas of the playground.

ONLOOKER PLAY is when the child watches others at play but does not engage in it.  The child may engage in forms of social interaction, such as conversation about the play, without actually joining in the activity.  We place equipment into groups to encourage Onlooker Play.  Children can watch how more experienced children play on the equipment and when they are ready can try it themselves. 

The two kids are playing next to each other, so this is PARALLEL PLAY.  Children play next to each other simply because they are in the same area but they are engaged in their own activities.  They play side-by-side, watch and listen to each other.  Parallel Play often occurs on climbers, swings, slides and musical instruments. 

In ASSOCIATIVE PLAY, children are still playing independently but often do the same thing as other children.  For example, if one child puts on a dress-up outfit, another child will put one on also.  The children will begin to interact through talking, borrowing and taking turns with toys, but each child acts alone.  We see a lot of Associative Play with sand and water play and around pretend play pieces of equipment.

This stage becomes quite apparent when children have acquired the skills to interact together for the purpose of play.  Speaking and listening skills are more developed, so children can communicate with each other.  Children can share ideas and tell each other what to do.  Communication about play is the critical skill of COOPERATIVE PLAY.  We see Cooperative Play on see saws, group spinners and game play.



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