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  • If Your Child Wants to Play on Her Own When in the Company of Kids, See It as a Good Thing

    Believe it or not, letting your child play alone while surrounded by other kids boosts brain and social skills.
    by Kitty Elicay .
If Your Child Wants to Play on Her Own When in the Company of Kids, See It as a Good Thing
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  • Do you notice that your child prefers to play by herself even when there are other kids her age around? You try and urge her to interact and make friends but she’s pretty content in her own world, ignoring all the ruckus around her. It's called parallel play, and it’s actually crucial in developing your child’s social skills.

    At around age 2 to 3, your child will love seeing other children her age. But she won’t necessarily engage with them. Instead, she’ll sit with them but she will still play on her own. “A child this age is still busy figuring out so much about the world and doesn’t yet realize that people his own size are indeed people (and who might actually be fun to do stuff with!),” according to What to Expect.

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    It's why it’s even more important to bring your little ones to the park or playground, attend children’s parties, go to family-friendly attractions and arrange play dates to encourage socialization. “If he frequently spends time with the same group of babies, he may even seek out a special few to sit alongside more frequently,” says What to Expect.

    While parallel play may look like a bunch of kids who don’t care about each other, it’s actually a brain booster for all of them. “Children model one another, so they develop through observational learning: language skills, motor skills, and social/emotional skills. Parallel play also allows kids to maintain their ability to play alone,” says Dr. Katie Davis, a clinical neuropsychologist and researcher at John Hopkins University, in an interview with Romper.

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    Here’s a breakdown of the benefits parallel play provides your toddler

    1. Parallel play helps in language development

    Even if your child is minding her own business, she’ll still be listening and learning words from the other kids. It will help her especially if the other kids have learned things that she doesn’t know yet. Sometimes, a toy or action can catch their attention and they’ll hear it being called a certain word by her playmates. “They’ll add it to their vocabulary and surprise you with it later,” says Healthline.

    2. Children playing on their own develop gross and fine motor skills

    Play often involves the use of the senses, the body, and the extremities. When children play, they acquire gross motor skills — they exercise their bodies for physical strength, fluidity of movement, balance, and coordination. Once they gain control, they’ll also tune their fine motor skills whether by playing alone or with others — gripping balls, manipulating clay, stacking blocks, and drawing can all help with the mastery of these skills.

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    3. Parallel play is a chance for your children to observe other kids

    She’ll see how they interact, whether positive — like sharing toys and happily playing with each other — or negative — a child pushing another or snatching a toy. Make sure you talk to your child about all these interactions as she might copy them when they have moved on to doing group play.

    4. Parralel play teaches him how to share

    Even if your child is playing alone, she won’t be immune to the other toys and objects that she sees, and she would also want to play with them. But she wouldn’t be as gracious as lending her own toys to others.

    “A toddler is very egocentric at this stage and this is why he refuses to share his toys — his prized possessions,” explains JP Sordan, a preschool teacher.

    “Learning the word and concept ‘mine’ is an important step in understanding boundaries,” says Healthline. “Allow them to say “mine” to protect what’s theirs, but help them understand that toys brought to a common area can be safely shared without fear of being taken away.”

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    As your little ones grow, they will depend on interactions as a way to learn more about their environment. They also learn by exploring on their own at their own pace. By providing them with both, your child can boost cognitive development and learn about social behaviors.

    So don’t get too anxious when your toddler decides to play on her own. Consider parallel play a necessary step that will allow your child to progress to other kinds of play, including associative and cooperative play.

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