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, with 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, formal board games, and 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: American Psychological Association. child Development 6 to 8 Yearshttp://actagainstviolence.apa.org/resources/fact-sheets/parenting/development-8-years.html
Online Source: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families. Stages of Play: 12 to 24 Months Young Toddlers Solve Problemshttp://main.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/stages_of_play_-_12_to_24_months-6-15.pdf?docID=13863
Online Source: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families. Stages of Play: 24 to 36 Months: The World of Imaginationhttp://main.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/Stages_of_Play_-_24_to_36_-_6-15.pdf?docID=13864
Online Source: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families. Stages of Play: 6 to 12 Months Babies Discover Connectionshttp://main.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/stages_of_play_-_6_to_12_months_-_6-15.pdf?docID=13862
Online Source: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families. Stages of Play: Birth to 6 Months Babies Use Their Bodies and Senses to Playhttp://main.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/stages_of_play_-_birth_to_six_months_-_6-15.pdf?docID=13865
Online Source: US Department of Health and Human Services. Active Chldren and Adolescentshttp://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/chapter3.aspx
Online Source: American Academy of Pediatrics. Cognitive Development 4 to 7 Monthshttp://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Cognitive-Development-4-to-7-Months.aspx
Online Source: American Academy of Pediatrics. Cognitive Development 8 to 12 Monthshttp://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Cognitive-Development-8-to-12-Months.aspx
Online Source: American Academy of Pediatrics. Cognitive Development Birth to 3 Monthshttp://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Emotional-and-Social-Development-Birth-to-3-Months.aspx
Online Source: National Association for the Education of Young Children. Good Toys for Young Children by Age and Stagehttp://www.naeyc.org/toys
Online Editor: Metzger, Geri K.
Online Medical Reviewer: Finke, Amy, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 4/29/2014
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