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Joint Play: The Power of an Engaged Play Partner

In early years, children’s primary method of learning and development occurs through play. Children develop a variety of motor, emotional, social, and cognitive skills through play activities, which will set them up for success later in life. Parents frequently serve as play partners for their children, and therefore, play a crucial role in their child’s development.

Research has shown that joint play with a responsive caregiver positively impact child development of these crucial skills. Being an engaged play partner means your join your child in pretend play, encourage the use of objects as they relate to play scenarios, and encourage play across different settings and environments.

Below are examples of games and activities that you can do with your child as an engaged play partner to help foster development of motor and cognitive skills through play.

1. Pretend kitchen sets: Create play restaurants and kitchens with your child and take

turns ordering, preparing, and serving food to each other.

2. Construction work: Pretend to build and fix items around the house with your child.

3. Pretend shopping: Take your child shopping in the kitchen with shopping cart toys.

Create a list and have your child help find all the items on the list.

4. Playing doctor: Use toy doctors kits and play doctor with your child. Take turns being

the doctor and the patient, practicing body part identification to improve body


5. Playing post office: Draw postcards with your child of places you have been, practice

handwriting letters to friends and family, and take turns collecting and delivering mail to

different rooms in the house.


Grinon, S., Waldman-Levi, A., & Olson, L. (2019). The power of a play partner: Assessing the

influence of parent behavior on young children’s playfulness in joint play. The American

Journal of Occupational Therapy, 73(4_Supplement_1), 7311500005p1-7311500005p1.

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