Toddler prefers to play alone, not with peers

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It can be disappointing when your toddler plays alone, especially when his or her peers play together as a group.

You may feel an instinct to step in and work on getting your child to make friends at all costs.

But intervening may not always be the best option, and in most cases, you probably just need to chill.

Why does my toddler prefer to play alone

"Parents really should do their best not to convey their own fears and feelings to their children," said Sarah Ockwell-Smith, author of the book. Gentle Discipline.

Those who struggle the most are parents who are naturally very outgoing themselves with a wide circle of friends, who then have to raise naturally introverted children who prefer to play alone or with just one close friend.

This is especially true if your child has not yet entered kindergarten. Children under four will often play in parallel.

That's when two kids in the same room are playing near each other, but actually playing alone, like two adults sitting at the same table, each staring at their phones.

Parallel play is crucial because it is the way kids socialize before their sense of social etiquette begins.

You may be concerned that your toddler plays alone a lot.

  • Maybe he plays alone a lot and not with you, but this is good.
  • Perhaps he often plays alone and not with peers, but playing in parallel (playing “next to” other children) is part of the development.

Over time, children begin to understand that not everyone thinks and feels the same.

But before that, if they're incredibly self-centered, a young child will believe the toys they're playing with are theirs even if they aren't and others will want to play with them too.

This is why some toddlers play like real spoiled brats. And nobody wants to play with a spoiled brat.

The result is that parents have to make a judgment and determine whether

  • their children prefer to play alone,
  • are not ready for development or
  • not being able to participate.

Real difficulties with social relationships can be an indicator of autism spectrum disorder, and children with other special educational needs, such as ADHD, may have difficulty forming relationships with their peers.

But often it is more about the adults who expect children to act like adults.

Introversion in itself is not a problem that needs to be corrected. Some adults also often prefer to be alone.

I love to party with friends and family, but I am also an introvert and still enjoy being in my own company at 39.

Let them be themselves, even if it is very different from how you were as a child, or think they should be.

The worst thing you can do is try to change them, try to make them more social, or play with others more. This is almost always counterproductive!

From toddler to toddler activity book collection

Educational games and coloring pages for 3 to 6 years

Your toddler and preschooler will love this e-book, along with the accompanying printables. He or she can play with it at every stage of development, together with mom and dad.

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Social stages of play

The best way to learn is to play.

Not only can children learn about science, math and technology through play, but they can also learn important social skills while playing.

Children can learn about problem solving, standing up for themselves, decision-making skills, working in groups, sharing and resolving conflicts.

As children develop and grow, so does their way of playing.

To better understand in which phase your toddler perhaps sit and be Games To follow, let's take a brief look at how social Games develops and changes over time for children.

There are six stages of social Games and it starts at birth.

Free game

I know this is hard to believe, but it Games starts at birth.

You know those random movements infants make with no apparent purpose? This is actually the beginning of it Games.

Solitaire game

This phase, which begins in childhood and is common in... toddlers, is when children begin to play independently.

When engaged in solitary play, children do not seem to notice other children sitting or playing nearby during this type of play.

Just because it starts in childhood and toddlerhood doesn't mean it has to stop.

All age groups can (and should!) have some time for independent, solitary time Games and one child gets out of here faster than the other.

Play spectator

Spectator play occurs most often during the toddler years, but can happen at any age. This stage is when children see others playing.

The child watching the others playing may ask other children questions, but it usually takes no effort to get involved.

This can happen if a child is shy, unsure of the rules or hesitant to participate Games.

Parallel play

Parallel Games is usually found at toddlers, although it occurs in every age group.

Parallel play starts when children start playing side by side with other children without any interaction.

While it may seem like they don't interact, they do pay attention to each other. This is the beginning of the desire to be with other children.

This stage really starts to lay the foundation for the more complex social stages of it Games.

Associative play

Around the age of three to four, they eventually become more interested in the other kids than the toys.

At some point a child will start to communicate more with the other child they are playing with; this becomes associative Games .

They start asking questions and talking about the toys and what they are making. This is the beginning of understanding how to interact with others.

During associative play, children within the group have similar goals (for example: building a tower from blocks).

However, they do not set rules and there is no formal organization.

Social game

Children don't start socializing until around three or four. They begin to share ideas and toys and follow established rules and guidelines.

They play shop and decide who will play which role. They can work together to build something or perhaps a simple one together Games play.

This is really where a child learns and practices social skills such as working together, being flexible, taking turns playing and problem solving.

As children progress through the stages of play, their... Games more complex and increasingly involves interaction with others.

For kids to practice social skills such as working together, compromising, and problem solving, the best way to do that is to let them play.

They will remember the rhythms and melodies of social interactions much more smoothly if we give them the time and space to play.

Can Playing With Your Toddler Hurt Playing With Friends?

No, playing with your toddler won't hurt playing with friends. It can actually promote social skills and interaction. Playing with friends and family all contribute to healthy development and when you play games with your toddler they also learn this.

Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?

Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child he came into contact with everything related to games when his mother started the Tinnen Soldaat in Ede. Now he and his team create helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.