The Importance of Group Play in the Early Years

The Importance of Group Play in the Early Years

Group interaction can be incredibly important in the early years of a child’s life. While the current COVID-19 restrictions may be making it difficult to arrange play dates and birthday parties as usual, group learning in an Early Learning environment is still hugely beneficial to your child’s developing mind.


The Importance of Socialisation

It’s easy to see why socialisation is important as young minds develop. Babies begin to learn social signals from very early in life, as any parent of a smiley three-month-old will know! For babies, socialisation starts with that first skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding and cuddle time, and babies will receive most of their socialisation from simply being part of a Family.

It’s only natural that as a little one grows, their social interaction will evolve to developing communication skills, learning about teamwork and building friendships. Many activities within our Busy Bees Services are centred around group interaction, including singing, story time, free play and discussions.


Parton’s stages of play

Sociologist Mildred Parten Newhall developed a theory of the stages in children’s play in the 1920’s, which explores a child’s changing nature of interaction. These stages can occur at any age and generally follow this sequence (but can occur at any and all ages):

  • Unoccupied play, which is not active playing but observing.
  • Solitary play, where a child plays alone and maintains focus on the activity.
  • Onlooker play, where a child might watch others play without joining in.
  • Parallel play, where a child might play close to others and mimic their actions without joining them.
  • Associative play, where a child is interested in the people playing and there might be substantial interaction, but play is not coordinated; and lastly,
  • Cooperative play, where a child is interested in the activity as well as the people who are playing. The child might have a role in the activity and there may be some rules involved, such as a game of hide and seek.

Cooperative play can be more advanced than the typical early learning level, but social play learning in a child care setting can play an important role as a child progresses through these various types of play.  


Sociodramatic Play

Sociodramatic play is where children share imaginative or dramatic play – for example, pretending to be pirates or ‘playing shops’ during free play. This type of play can (but doesn’t always) include costumes or props. As E.P. Fisher suggested in 1992, Sociodramatic play can help children to develop their cognitive language and social-emotional functioning. It’s also a lot of fun!


At Busy Bees, our programs and curriculum are focused on both one-on-one and group activities to help children develop socialisation, cognitive language and many other skills. This can be an important part in your child’s social and emotional well-being as they grow.




Learn more about early learning, Kindergarten and childhood development

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