What does play look like?

What does play in the typically developing child look like? The chart below can help you figure out what to expect from your child at each stage.

6-12 MonthsChildren may enjoy back/forth games like peekaboo. They will respond to facial expressions and give toys back to
adults. Towards the end, they may have preferred adults and will continue to enjoy interactive games.
1-2 YearsAt this stage, children will begin to recognize themselves. They will imitate a pretend play action and will begin to look
for objects when they are hidden from sight. Begins to parallel play and showing interest in other children.
2-3 YearsWill treat inanimate objects as if they are alive (bears, dolls). Can substitute objects for other objects (pretend a stick is
a sword). Children are concerned with their parents approval (or preferred adult), but will simultaneously say “no” to
assert their independence from adults.
3-5 YearsChildren will begin to demonstrate a wider variety of emotions. They become interested in pretend play and may
become confused with “make believe”. They are interested in magic and stories. Are able to play with 2-3 children in a
group and may begin to start turn taking. Enjoys games with easy or simple rules.
5-7 YearsMay start to begin playing with their “same-sex” peers, can feel shame or embarrassment when completing the wrong
thing. They have the ability to express feelings but not well. Play themes are organized, coherent, and have structures.
They will begin to engage with new concepts they aren’t personally familiar with (going to space, being a firefighter).