Aged four, a preschooler Patrick is actively engaged in parallel play. While playing independently with a nerf gun, the boy keeps a close eye on the other children in the daycare. Without direct communication, he remains a part of the group, playing alongside other kids. At Patrick’s age, parallel play is a valuable tool in forming social relationships outside of the family, which teaches him observation, listening, and peer regulation skills. Furthermore, through parallel play, the boy may first learn how to share and respect other people’s boundaries. Focused on finding the right bullets for his nerf gun, Patrick demonstrates another benefit of parallel play – the development of gross and fine motor skills. In the company of other children, he is not limited in the games he plays, which allows him to develop his motor skills through a set of repetitive actions.
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A three-year-old toddler CJ enjoys the fun of the unstructured dramatic play. When he uses nerf guns to shoot, the boy learns how to use play items instead of real things. The made-up images of monsters and bad guys that appeared in the dramatic play develop CJ’s creativity and stimulate him to use higher-level thinking. More specifically, while imagining a setting for the game, the child learns essential planning, organization, and problem-solving skills. Engaging in dramatic play on his own, the toddler prepares to play complex role-playing games with his peers. The acting process also contributes to the development of language. By acting out the desired scenario, CJ learns how to verbalize his wants and needs. Another benefit of dramatic play for the boy is an opportunity to release emotional tension and learn self-regulation. At such a young age, role-playing activities serve as a healthy alternative to emotional tantrums.