Children's Health and Wellness

Stages of Play

What are the different stages of play?

As one can expect, children at different ages do not all play the same way. There are distinct stages that children go through as they grow. Each stage is very important to the development of the next. While not all children are the same and may not progress through the stages at the same time, the following are common types of play grouped according to your child's age:

  • Infant. Infants like to be entertained. As an infant grows, he or she is able to play more purposefully with toys.

  • Toddler. A toddler enjoys playing independently with toys. He or she particularly enjoys playing with toys that include body movement or noise.

  • Preschooler. A preschooler enjoys watching his or her peers and imitating others. There is only some interaction while actually playing. Older preschool children begin to borrow and lend toys. This age group often initiates make-believe play.

  • School-aged child. A school-aged child enjoys competitive games and sports, and formal board games. He or she still engages in some fantasy play. Rules are important during play with the school-aged child.

  • Adolescent. An adolescent enjoys competitive games and sports. The goal of this age group is social contact.

Online Source: Chapter 3: Active Children and Adolescents, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotionhttps://health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/chapter3.aspx
Online Source: Cognitive Development: 4 to 7 Months, American Academy of Pediatricshttps://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Cognitive-Development-4-to-7-Months.aspx
Online Source: Cognitive Development: 8 to 12 Months, American Academy of Pediatricshttps://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Cognitive-Development-8-to-12-Months.aspx
Online Source: Emotional and Social Development: Birth to 3 Months, American Academy of Pediatricshttps://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Emotional-and-Social-Development-Birth-to-3-Months.aspx
Online Source: How to Understand Your Child's Temperament, American Academy of Pediatricshttps://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/Pages/How-to-Understand-Your-Childs-Temperament.aspx
Online Source: Stages of Adolescence, American Academy of Pediatricshttps://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/Pages/Stages-of-Adolescence.aspx
Online Source: Toddler Growth & Development, American Academy of Pediatricshttps://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/default.aspx
Online Editor: Geller, Arlene
Online Medical Reviewer: Adler, Liora C., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2016
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