How can I tell if my 3-year-old’s play is age-appropriate?

Around the age of 3 years, children begin to engage in what is called ‘parallel play’. This can sometimes look like they are in fact playing with another child, but if you look closely, they are often in close physical proximity but engaging in their own separate play. They may, however, mimic what the other child is doing without interacting with them.

As children get close to 4 years old, they begin to shift to what is deemed ‘associative play’. This play is not particularly organised or coordinated, but children begin to interact in their play. This is also the age that children begin to exhibit preferences for particular play partners, and begin to use symbols in their play (e.g. pretending that a stick is a sword). 

If you have any concerns about your child’s play skills, a good starting point is your Maternal Child and Health Nurse or GP. If further support is required, the team at the Centre for Child Development is also here to help!

Olivia Smith is an endorsed Educational and Developmental Psychologist and is a strong believer in the importance of working collaboratively with families and other professionals to ensure a holistic approach to child wellbeing. She is passionate about advocating for and working with children presenting with anxiety and/or neurodiversity (e.g. ASD, ADHD and specific learning disorders) and their families. Olivia strives to make therapy sessions engaging, effective and applicable to everyday life, and views the relationship between child and therapist as key to success.

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