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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Side-by-Side Smiles: 5 Benefits of Parallel Play

Photo by David Nestor (Flickr)

I was looking through my girls' baby pictures the other day and noticed a trend. In most of them, they were playing in the same room but not playing together. Child development experts call it parallel play, and it's totally normal. It also offers five important benefits to kids, which is why you should encourage side-by-side smiles.

Parallel Play Boosts Confidence

Babies have so much to learn about the world, including how to play. They have to figure out how to turn a book's page, push buttons on an interactive toy, and stack blocks. Parallel play gives them a chance to learn how to operate toys as they inspect the toy alone and mimic and mirror the way their playmates handle the toys. As your child becomes proficient with basic skills, their confidence grows and prompts them to keep trying new things. The foundation has been laid for your child to be confident during playtime and in daily life.

Parallel Play Eases the Transition to Group Play

Babies aren't born knowing how to interact with other people. They have to learn how to communicate, share, and play nice as they prepare for real life. Parallel play gives kids a great start at learning how to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate with others. It helps kids get comfortable being near someone else. In time, they learn how to transition from solo play to group play because they have become acclimated to being near others.

Parallel Play Develops Social Skills

I can hear you now wondering how parallel play develops social skills since the kids don't actually talk or play with toys together. It's true that they don't do much, if any, talking, but watch your child the next time they play beside a friend. You'll see the kids observe and imitate each other. They also probably communicate in other ways, like giggling with each other or grabbing toys they like. They aren't playing house or kickball together yet, but don't worry. Parallel play does promote social skills that help your child play nice with others soon.

Parallel Play Encourages Self-Expression

Every child has a unique personality, interests, and talents, and individualized play gives children the perfect opportunity to develop self-expression. They can choose the toy they prefer, play with it however they want, and have fun on their own terms. The next time your child engages in parallel play, watch them. What toys interest them, and how do they play with those toys? You'll learn about your child while they express themselves during parallel play.

Parallel Play Reduces Sensory Overload

Too much exposure to new things, other people, or toys can be overwhelming to a child's senses. Instead of pushing your child to play directly with someone, let them play beside their friend. By playing in the same room but alone, kids can get a little space to deal with their sensory overload as they calm down or decompress. It's a smart move that reduces tantrums, anxiety, and frustration while increasing fun.

I love side-by-side smiles. It means that children are having fun. Parallel play also gives kids five important benefits. How will you encourage parallel play today?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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