Discover the Benefits of Solitary Play: Your Ultimate Guide

Solitary play is the beginning of your little one’s ability to play, engage, imagine and develop a sense of self. And by encouraging your baby to play independently you are opening up their minds to the wonders of self-focused play and self-regulation.

What Is Solitary Play?

What Are The Characteristics Of Solitary Play?

Solitary play is identified by the following 3 characteristics:

What Is The Difference Between Solitary And Parallel Play?

This is a common question that parents often ask and the truth is…

The main difference between solitary play and parallel play is that in solitary play the child does not pay any attention to what others around them are doing.

Simple as that!

Parallel play is when a young child plays alongside others BUT is aware that others are there… however they are not ready to play with them in a cooperative fashion yet.

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What Age Do Babies Engage In Solitary Play?

Solitary play is common between the ages of 1 and 3. However, you may see your baby engaging in independent play even earlier than this because as soon as a baby is able to reach out and pat or grab a toy they are capable of solitary play.

It is also common in young toddlers because of their limited social, cognitive, and physical skills.

What Stage of Play Is Solitary Play?

Solitary play is one of the earliest stages of play. In fact, it’s the second of Mildred Parten’s six stages of play that your baby will progress through as they grow.

If you’re interested in the 6 stages of play, check out the below posts to learn more:

Benefits Of Solitary Play

There are a huge number of benefits for your little one to engage in solitary play.

Here is a quick list of the main benefits of solitary play:

8 Benefits of Solitary Play

It has also been proven that children who engage in solitary play are more able to focus and have longer attention spans, which will undoubtedly make them better learners as they grow.

How Does Solitary Play Help With Emotional Development?

As well as the above benefits to your child learning to play independently, solitary play activities provide vital opportunities to develop and regulate your child’s emotional state.

Overstimulated toddlers can very easily end up in a state of meltdown…

So being able to play independently and alone, allows your little one to have time to regulate their emotions and re-centre themselves.

Introducing quiet times into your child’s daily routine where they are encouraged and allowed to play independently, allows them some downtime where they can relax and just be in the moment.

And we all need that from time to time!

How Can Parents Encourage Solitary Play

Obviously, young children should never be left unattended for long periods of time and you should always be keeping an eye on your little one…

But you can encourage your child to engage in solitary play by offering them opportunities to do so from an early age!

1. Let Them Take The Lead

Leaving your baby to play in their play gym as soon as they are able to swipe or grab at the toys, is a great way to start.

Later on, make sure you have times in the day when you allow your baby or toddler to just explore the world around them whilst you keep a watchful eye on them. (A box of silicone kitchen utensils or open-ended toys is always a winner!)

2. Provide Opportunities For Solitary Activities

With babies, you can put certain toys in their reach and watch what they do with them. Allow them to explore what they and the objects can do.

Stacking and nesting toys are great for solitary play and this eco-friendly stacking set ticks all the right boxes. I love the subtle colours and the shape of the nesting cups are super easy for little hands to hold.

Green Toys My First Stacker
Safe for babies and designed for their hands to perfectly fit around, this stacking toy is stylish, practical and great fun to learn fine motor skills and colors.
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I also love choosing wooden toys for children and this set from Melissa and Doug has all the basic essentials to keep your little one engaged for endless play sessions.

Melissa & Doug Wooden Town Play Set
An ideal gift for children aged 3 and up, this wonderful wooden town play set will spark imagination and wonder through screen-free, open-ended play for years to come.
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3. Encourage Your Child To Do Things For Themselves

Finally, encourage your child to do things for themselves as soon as they are physically able.

This will not only help with their ability to play independently but it will help to develop other areas such as fine motor skills and cognitive skills too.

Young boy engaging in Solitary Play with wooden blocks and dinosaurs

15 Examples Of Solitary Play Games

In infants, some examples of solitary play include:

In toddlers and preschoolers, great social play examples include:

3 Common Concerns About Solitary Play

Understanding what level of play your child is emotionally and developmentally ready for is very important in your assessment of how your child is doing socially.

Common concerns about a child who engages in a lot of solitary play can include:

While parents are usually very happy when their little one is able to amuse themselves and give them a bit of a break… parents may become anxious when their child prefers to play alone and not with others.

If this is the case, then slowly start by letting your little one observe the room when they are around other children or set up a playdate with one child on their home turf where they feel more confident.

If your child is not a social butterfly that is perfectly OK… they will eventually strike up a friendship with one or two children that they feel comfortable with.

Always remember that some children are naturally happier to engage in solitary play (much like some adults!) as they are naturally shy and may struggle to socialise with other children, particularly in a larger group.

In truth, a lot will come down to the personality of the child.

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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