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Definition

Parallel play describes the type of play when children play independently side-by-side, even playing with similar toys or mimicking one another, but with a lack of group involvement in their actions. Parallel play is most common in toddlers aged 2½ - 3½, but can occur at later or earlier ages as well. Children may look like they are playing separately without cooperation, but they are learning important social skills during parallel play, which are needed as a strong foundation for cooperative play to develop.

The social stages of play were first categorised by Mildred Parten in 1929. Her work was a great influence in how current literature categorises play by its social dimension; solitary play, parallel play, associative play, cooperative play, games with rules, and onlooker play.

See also: Solitary playCooperative playGames with rules 

Barbu, S. et al. (2011) Boys and girls on the playground: sex differences in social development are not stable across early childhood (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Sex differences in human social behaviors and abilities have long been a question of public and scientific interest. Females are usually assumed to be more socially oriented and skillful than males. However, despite an extensive literature, the very existence of sex differences remains a matter of discussion while some studies found no sex differences whereas others reported differences that were either congruent or not with gender stereotypes. Moreover, the magnitude, consistency and stability across time of the differences remain an open question, especially during childhood. As play provides an excellent window into children's social development, we investigated whether and how sex differences change in social play across early childhood. Following a cross-sectional design, 164 children aged from 2 to 6 years old, divided into four age groups, were observed during outdoor free play at nursery school. We showed that sex differences are not stable over time evidencing a developmental gap between girls and boys. Social and structured forms of play emerge systematically earlier in girls than in boys leading to subsequent sex differences in favor of girls at some ages, successively in associative play at 3-4 years, cooperative play at 4-5 years, and social interactions with peers at 5-6 years. Preschool boys also display more solitary play than preschool girls, especially when young. Nevertheless, while boys catch up and girls move on towards more complex play, sex differences in social play patterns are reversed in favor of boys at the following ages, such as in associative play at 4-5 years and cooperative play at 5-6 years. This developmental perspective contributes to resolve apparent discrepancies between single-snapshot studies. A better understanding of the dynamics of sex differences in typical social development should also provide insights into atypical social developments which exhibit sex differences in prevalence, such as autism.

Date:
January 2011
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
6
Page/s:
e16407
Synonyms:
  • Cooperative play
  • Cross-sectional
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Free play
  • Parallel play
  • Peers play
  • Social play
  • Social-emotional
  • Solitary play
Research discipline:

Buggey, T. et al. (2013) The Use of Self-Modeling to Promote Social Interactions among Young Children (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Video self-modeling (VSM) has been used to teach social skills to children with autism older than 4 years of age. Attempts to use VSM with younger children with disabilities have produced less than favorable results; however, it is unclear whether VSM could be used to promote social initiations by typically developing children. Thirty minutes of staged filming, in which the four typically developing participants were prompted to interact with a peer with autism on the playground and inside during center time, was edited into 2.5- to 3-min clips. Each clip took less than 2 [hours] to edit. Data were collected on frequency of solitary play, initiations, parallel play, and engaged play and were then analyzed in a multiple-baseline-across-participants single-case design. Visual analysis led to the conclusion that VSM did not affect the typically developing children's behavior. Limitations of the study and cautions for using VSM with very young children are discussed.

Author/s:
Date:
January 2013
Volume:
28
Page/s:
202-211
Synonyms:
  • Atypical development
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Engagement
  • Parallel play
  • Peers play
  • Playground
  • Social cognition
  • Social-emotional
  • Solitary play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Hirose, T. et al. (2012) Correspondence between Children's Indoor and Outdoor Play in Japanese Preschool Daily Life (Journal Article)

Abstract:

This study examined the correspondence between children's indoor and outdoor play in a preschool environment to investigate whether the children maintained a tendency to engage in a particular type of play irrespective of the environment, or whether they changed the type of play according to the environment. Play behaviours of 18 three-year-old and 20 five-year-old children were observed in both settings in an urban preschool in Japan. Various characteristics of play were examined based on cognitive play categories, social play categories, and types of objects used. The results indicate that children do not maintain fixed play behaviour without taking into consideration the play settings: their play differed greatly in accordance with the play setting. Not every child showed the same differences in play corresponding to differences in the setting. However, for each age group there was a qualitative difference based on the setting. For the three-year-olds, the "subject of interest" changed between settings, whereas for the five-year-olds, the "participation in society" changed related to the setting (indoor or outdoor). The "relation with the environment" was greater for both age groups in the outdoor setting. There were no significant sex differences. (Contains 3 tables and 2 figures.)

Date:
January 2012
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
182
Page/s:
1611-1622
Synonyms:
  • Correlational
  • Free play
  • Functional play
  • Indoor play
  • Outdoor play
  • Parallel play
  • Peers play
  • Physical play
  • Playground
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline: