solitary play

Solitary Play: Benefits and Activities for Independent Fun

As a parent, I've observed my child playing independently, and I've come to realize the benefits of solitary play for young kids. Often called solitary play or independent play, this type of play is an essential part of a child's development. It fosters creativity, problem-solving skills, and even independence. Let me share with you some insights on this wonderful aspect of child development.

During the early years of a child's life, solitary play is commonly seen. Babies and toddlers might engage in their own little world, exploring toys and their surroundings, learning the ropes of their environment. This type of play sets the foundation for future cognitive and social skills, as they learn to entertain themselves and express their curiosity in a safe way.

Moreover, as our children grow, solitary play continues to be a crucial aspect of their development. Whether engaging in imaginative play, creating art, or solving puzzles, our kids learn to rely on their own skills and creativity to get by. Independent play not only fosters their sense of self but also teaches them valuable skills they'll be using throughout their life.

Mildred Parten Newhall's Stages of Play

As I learned about children's play, I discovered the insightful work of Mildred Parten Newhall. She developed a theory outlining six distinct stages of play for children, ranging from newborns to six-year-olds. In this section, I'll briefly discuss each stage, focusing on Unoccupied Play, Onlooker Play, Parallel Play, Associative Play, and Cooperative Play.

Unoccupied Play

In the early months of a child's life, from birth to three months, we can observe Unoccupied Play. During this stage, a child engages in sensory activities that may appear random but are actually important for their development. These activities help them explore their surroundings and sensations, laying the groundwork for future, more complex forms of play.

Onlooker Play

During Onlooker Play, a child observes their peers engaged in play without actively participating. This stage allows them to learn by watching and can lead to valuable social and emotional insights. Children in this stage may be more introverted or simply need time to process the behaviors and actions they see before joining in on the fun.

Parallel Play

Next comes Parallel Play, which occurs when children play independently but within close proximity to one another. They may be engaging in similar activities, but they do not actively interact with each other. This stage helps children develop their own sense of independence while also starting to build important social skills.

Associative Play

In the Associative Play stage, children begin to interact more directly with one another. They may still be focused on their own activity but will share and communicate with their peers. This stage is crucial for developing cooperative skills and forming relationships with others as children learn the value of teamwork and sharing.

Cooperative Play

Finally, in the Cooperative Play stage, we see children working together towards a common goal. They engage in more complex interactions, involving planning, negotiation, and cooperation. As one of the most advanced stages of play, the skills children develop during this stage will set the foundation for their future social and emotional development.

In summary, understanding and observing these stages of play from Mildred Parten Newhall's theory is essential for anyone involved in nurturing and educating young children. I believe that recognizing and supporting each stage allows us to foster a love for play and creative exploration while also supporting healthy social and emotional growth.

Benefits of Solitary Play


During solitary play, I've noticed that my child learns to be more independent. It's amazing to see them entertain themselves, making choices about what to play with and how to play. This improves self-reliance and develops self-confidence in children.

Exploring Preferences and Interests

While observing my child play alone, I've found that it allows them to discover their preferences and interests without any outside influence. They experiment with various toys and activities, gradually figuring out what they enjoy the most. As they grow, this becomes an essential skill to navigate their social and academic world.

Developing Creativity and Imagination

In solitary play, it's equally impressive to see how my child's imagination and creativity blossom. Free from judgment or the need to follow others' rules, they can create their own unique play scenarios. This helps to develop an inquiring mind as they explore new ideas and possibilities.

Improving Concentration and Persistence

Finally, I've observed that solitary play helps my child improve their concentration and persistence. As they engage with a task on their own, they learn to focus and refine their problem-solving skills. When faced with challenges, they become more resilient, as they understand that overcoming obstacles is a part of the learning process.

solitary play

Activities and Toys for Solitary Play


One of my favorite toys for solitary play is blocks. They are simple yet engaging and can help develop a child's creativity and motor skills. I recommend providing various sizes and shapes for the child to explore different combinations and structures. Blocks are a classic toy that never goes out of style!


Coloring is a fantastic way for children to express themselves artistically and is a great addition to solitary playtime. I like to offer a variety of coloring tools, such as crayons, colored pencils, and markers, as well as different types of coloring books or plain paper. This allows children to tap into their imagination and explore different styles and techniques.

Wooden Blocks

Wooden blocks are a timeless and eco-friendly option for solitary play. They come in various shapes and sizes, which provides endless building possibilities. These blocks help develop hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and creativity. I always enjoy seeing the unique creations children can make with wooden blocks.

Train Set

Introducing a train set is an excellent way to engage children in solitary play. They can use their imaginations to create different scenes and routes for the trains. Train sets also help children gain knowledge about transportation and improve their problem-solving skills while they figure out how to connect the tracks. To make it even more interesting, I sometimes incorporate small figurines so the child can create their own stories while playing.


Magna-Tiles are magnetic building tiles that can be used in solitary play. They allow children to create various structures by connecting the tiles through their magnetic edges. Magna-Tiles are an engaging way to develop a child's creativity, fine motor skills, and spatial reasoning abilities. I find them to be a versatile and fun addition to solitary playtime.

In this section, I have included some popular and helpful activities and toys for solitary play, such as blocks, coloring, wooden blocks, train sets, and Magna-Tiles. These toys not only provide entertainment but also help achieve developmental milestones while keeping the child's best interests in mind.

Solitary Play Conclusion

In conclusion, solitary play is an essential aspect of a child's development. Through solitary play, children learn to explore their environment, engage in imaginative play, and develop important cognitive and social skills. It provides a safe and comfortable space for children to be themselves, and to learn and grow at their own pace. However, parents and caregivers should not overlook the importance of social play and encourage children to engage in both types of play. By providing a balance of solitary and social play opportunities, children can build a strong foundation for their overall growth and development.

Other Play Resources you Will Love

What is Creative Play: A Quick Guide to Unleashing Your Child’s Imagination

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