To help determine if your child’s play is problematic, it helps to know what the development of normal play looks like. As young as infancy, babies begin to interact with one another. They imitate each other’s sounds, and between one and two years they try to engage one another in playful interactions.
By age two to two and a half, toddlers use words to initiate others to play. They also engage in complementary play where each one performs a task to help the other, such as when one holds a doll while the other feeds it. Around this same age, toddlers spend much of their time playing alone even if there are other children around. This solitary play is the most frequent type of play for three to four-year-olds and occupies about one-third of the play of kindergarten children.
Parallel play develops next, where toddlers play with the same toys and do not influence one another’s play but may interact by exchanging toys and talking about one another’s play. Cooperative play develops later, where toddlers and young children play in an interactive manner, playing towards the same goal, such as building a sandcastle or playing make-believe.