Social and Symbolic Dimensions of Play

No Interaction:  Child does not touch or play with toys.  Child may engage in self-stimulatory behavior not involving toys.

Manipulation:  Child shows interest in toys and demonstrates some exploratory play.  Child does not use toys in a conventional manner. 

Examples:  shakes, mouths, waves, bangs, or lines up toys.

Functional:  Child uses most toys in a conventional manner. 

Examples:  puts bottle to doll's mouth, puts brush to hair, pushes truck, builds with blocks.

Symbolic/Pretend:  Child pretends to do something or be something.  Must involve one of the following:  using an imaginary object (e.g., moves empty hand to mouth as if drinking from a cup), or using a substitute object for a real object (e.g., puts a plate on one's head as a hat), or having a toy figure act on its own (e.g., makes a doll walk or talk), or adopting a pretend role (e.g., pretends to be a doctor).

Social Dimensions of Play:

Solitary:  Child is focused on his/her own activities and appears to be unaware of peers.  Child plays alone with toys different from those used by other children.

Examples:  wanders around room, sits with back to other children.

Onlooking:  Child shows awareness of peers by looking at them or their activities, but does not enter into play with peers. 

Examples:  plays independently but faces other children, alternates between self-focused activity and observation of peers.

Parallel:  Child plays independently, but in the proximity of peers and/or using similar play materials.  Child plays beside rather than with peers, though brief interactions (e.g., showing objects, imitation) may occur.

Cooperative:  Child plays interactively with one or more peers.  There is a common focus to the play activity.  Play is characterized by informal turn-taking, sharing of materials, and giving and receiving help as well as directives.

Examples:  two or more children constructing a building with Legos, taking turns playing nerf basketball.