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Definition

Solitary play describes the type of play when children play alone and are uninterested or unaware of other children or adults around them. When children are engaged in solitary play, they have separate toys and do not interact with other children. This stage of play is often seen in young toddlers aged 0-3, and is most commonly seen in toddlers aged 2-3, however older children might might play alone from time to time as well. The reason why young children engage most often in solitary play is because their cognitive, phsycial and social skills are not fully developed yet; all of which would help with the complexity of playing successfully with other children.

 

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: Parallel play, Cooperative 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:

Coplan, R. et al. (2014) ‘I want to play alone’: Assessment and correlates of self‐reported preference for solitary play in young children. (Journal Article)

Abstract:

The goal of this study was to develop and validate an interview assessment of preference for solitary activities for use with young children. We also tested the postulation that negative peer experiences would heighten preference for solitude, particularly among young shy children. Participants were N = 193 children (87 boys, 106 girls; Mage = 65.76 mos, SD = 12.68) attending preschools and elementary schools (kindergarten, grade 1) located in south‐eastern Ontario, Canada. Self‐reported preference for solitude was measured with the newly developed Preference for Solitary Play Interview (PSPI). Children also reported their perceived peer acceptance. Mothers provided ratings of children's social withdrawal (shyness and unsociability) and social engagement outside of school, and teachers assessed children's socio‐emotional functioning at school. Among the results, the newly developed PSPI displayed good psychometric properties and evidence of construct/convergent validity. For example, preference for solitary play was positively related to indices of social withdrawal, and negatively associated with social engagement, prosocial behaviour, and perceived peer acceptance. In addition, peer exclusion was found to exacerbate the association between shyness and preference for solitary play. Results are discussed in terms of the assessment and implications of preference for solitude in early childhood. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved). (journal abstract)

Date:
January 2014
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
23
Page/s:
229-238
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Peers play
  • Play assessment
  • Social-emotional
  • Solitary play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Dansereau, D. (2015) Young Children's Interactions with Sound-Producing Objects (Journal Article)

Abstract:

The purpose of this study was to observe, analyze, and document the range of young children's interactions with sound-producing objects in order to better understand the nature of such interactions. Of particular interest was whether theories of cognitive play, social play, object play, and existing research on musical play could guide concurrently the interpretation of children's interactions with these objects and whether the interactions were consistent with these theories. Two groups of participants, nine 3-year-old children and seven 4-year-old children, played with sound-producing objects for approximately 15 min once a week for 12 weeks. Participants interacted with the objects in rich and varied ways, including explorations of the objects' sound-producing capabilities and other physical attributes, nonmusical and musical functional and pretend play episodes, and construction behaviors. Movement and singing often were layered upon the children's interactions with the objects. Musical functional play was the most frequently observed behavior across both ages of participants. The children were more likely to engage in solitary/parallel behaviors than group interactions, and group interactions were more common among the 4-year-old children than the 3-year-olds. All behaviors that were anticipated via the conceptual framework were observed, with the exception of group nonmusic exploration.

Author/s:
Date:
January 2015
Volume:
63
Page/s:
28-46
Synonyms:
  • Exploratory play
  • Functional play
  • Musical play
  • Peers play
  • Play assessment
  • Pretend play
  • Semiotic play
  • Solitary play
  • Construction play
Relevant age group/s:

Elias, C. et al. (2002) Self-regulation in young children: Is there a role for sociodramatic play? (Journal Article)

Abstract:

This study tested Vygotsky’s assumption that sociodramatic play in early childhood contributes importantly to the development of self-regulation. It also explored whether the link between sociodramatic play and self-regulation differs for impulsive and nonimpulsive preschoolers. In a short-term longitudinal design, 51 middle-income 3- and 4-year-olds were observed in their preschool classrooms. Naturalistic observations of total dramatic play, complex sociodramatic (CSD) play, and solitary dramatic play and of self-regulation in two classroom contexts—clean-up periods and group circle time—were gathered at Time 1, in the fall of the school year. To assess development of self-regulation, clean-up and circle time observations were repeated at Time 2, in late winter and early spring. CSD play predicted development of self-regulation during clean-up periods, whereas solitary dramatic play was negatively correlated with improvement in clean-up performance. The CSD play/improved self-regulation relationship was particularly strong for high-impulsive children, nil for low-impulsive children. Findings are consistent with Vygotsky’s theory and suggest that sociodramatic experiences may be especially advantageous for impulsive children, who are behind their peers in self-regulatory development.

Date:
January 2002
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
17
Page/s:
216-238
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Language
  • Longitudinal
  • Peers play
  • Pretend play
  • Self-regulation
  • Solitary play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Zyga, O. et al. (2015) Assessment of Pretend Play in Prader-Willi Syndrome: A Direct Comparison to Autism Spectrum Disorder (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Children with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) are at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including pervasive social deficits. While play impairments in ASD are well documented, play abilities in PWS have not been evaluated. Fourteen children with PWS and ten children with ASD were administered the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) (Lord et al. in Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule manual. Western Psychological Services, Los Angeles, 2006) as part of a larger project. A modified Affect in Play Scale (APS; Russ in Play in child development and psychotherapy: toward empirically supported practice. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, Mahwah, 2004; Pretend play in childhood: foundation of adult creativity. APA Books, Washington, 2014) was used to score ADOS play activities. Results indicate both groups scored below normative data on measures of imagination, organization, and affective expression during individual play. In addition, the inclusion of a play partner in both groups increased all scaled scores on the APS. These findings suggest children with PWS show impaired pretend play abilities similar to ASD. Further research is warranted and should focus on constructing and validating programs aimed at improving symbolic and functional play abilities within these populations.

Date:
January 2015
Volume:
45
Page/s:
975-987
Synonyms:
  • Atypical development
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Play assessment
  • Pretend play
  • Social cognition
  • Social play
  • Social-emotional
  • Solitary play
  • Symbolic play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline: