Early Childhood Education Journal

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 67–72 | Cite as

Understanding Nonsocial Play in Early Childhood

  • Alicia J. Luckey
  • Richard A. Fabes

Nonsocial play continues to be perceived as a behavior that is detrimental young children’s development. The research evidence in this area is mixed but lends itself to a more positive view of nonsocial play. Despite the substantial amount of literature available, the terminology used fails to be consistent and may prove to be distracting and confusing to practitioners and caregivers. This paper reviews the current literature on young children’s nonsocial play. Distinctions among different types of nonsocial play are identified, as well as some reasons children engage in these activities. By developing a better understanding of the role of nonsocial play in early childhood, caregivers may better understand when children need their help in promoting more social types of play and when intervention may or may not be necessary.


solitary play nonsocial play play early childhood play child development nonsocial intervention constructive play non-constructive play 


  1. Asendorpf J., (1990). Beyond social withdrawal: shyness, unsociability, and peer avoidance. Human Development 33:250–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bakeman R., Brownlee J., (1980). The strategic use of parallel play: A sequential analysis. Child Development 51(3):873–878CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Burger J., (1995). Individual differences in preference for solitude Journal of Research in Personality 29:85–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Buss A., Plomin R., (1984). Temperament: Early developing personality traits Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, Hillsdale, NJGoogle Scholar
  5. Coplan R., Rubin K., Fox N., Calkins S., Stewart S., (1994). Being alone, playing alone, and acting alone: Distinguishing among reticence and passive and active solitude in young children Child Development 65:129–137PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dodge K., Coie J., Brakke N., (1982). Behavior patterns of socially rejected and neglected preadolescents: The role of social approach and aggression Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 10(3):389–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eisenberg N., Fabes R., (1992). Emotion, regulation, and the development of social competence In: Clark M. S. (eds) Emotion and social behavior. Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 119–150Google Scholar
  8. Fabes, R., Gaertner, B., & Popp, T. Getting along with others: Social competence in early childhood. In D. Phillips & K MacCartney (Eds.), Handbook of early development. New York: Wiley. (in press)Google Scholar
  9. Graham S., Hoehn S., (1995). Children’s understanding of aggression and withdrawal as social stigmas: An attributional analysis Child Development 66(4):1143–1161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gunnar M., Sebanc A., Tout K., Donzella B., Van Dulmen M. M., (2003). Peer rejection, temperament, and cortisol activity in preschoolers Developmental Psychobiology 43(4):346–358CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Harper L., Huie K., (1985). The effects of prior group experience, age, and familiarity on the quality and organization of preschoolers’ social relationships Child Development 56:704–717Google Scholar
  12. Harrist A., Zaia A., Bates J., Dodge K., Pettit G., (1997). Subtypes of social withdrawal in early childhood: Sociometric status and social-cognitive differences across four years Child Development 68(2):278–294PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hay D., Payne A., Chadwick A., (2004). Peer relations in Childhood Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines 45(2):84–108Google Scholar
  14. Henninger M., (1994). Adult perceptions of favorite childhood play experiences Early Child Development and Care 93:23–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kagan J., Reznick S., Snidman N., (1988). Biological bases of childhood shyness Science 240:167–171PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Katz J., Buchholz E., (1999). “I did it myself”: The necessity of solo play for preschoolers Early Child Development and Care 155:39–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Larson R., (1990). The solitary side of life: An examination of the time people spend alone from childhood to old age Developmental Review 10:155–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lloyd B., Howe N., (2003). Solitary play and convergent and divergent thinking skills in preschool children Early Childhood Research Quarterly 18:22–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lyytinen P., (1991). Peer interaction in children’s dyadic play Early childhood Development and Care 71:105–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. McElwain N., Olson S., Volling B., (2002). Concurrent and longitudinal associations among preschool boys’ conflict management, disruptive behavior, and peer rejection Early Education and Development 13(3):245–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Molina, M., Coplan, R., & Wichmann, C. (April, 1999). Nonsocial play in the kindergarten classroom: Gender differences in relations with adjustment. Poster presented at the Society for Research in Child Development Conference in Albuquerque, NMGoogle Scholar
  22. Moore N., Evertson C., Brophy J., (1974). Solitary play: Some functional reconsiderations Developmental Psychology 10(6):830–834CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Parker J., Asher S., (1987). Peer relations and later personal adjustment: Are low-accepted children at risk?Psychological Bulletin 102(3):357–389CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Parten M., (1932). Social participation among pre-school childrenJournal of Abnormal & Social Psychology 27:243–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Roper R., Hinde R., (1978). Social behavior in a play group: Consistency and complexityChild Development 49:570–579CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Rubin K., (1982). Nonsocial play in preschoolers: Necessarily evil?Child Development 53:651–657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rubin K., Bukowski W., Parker J., (1998). Peer interactions, relationships and groups In: Dunn W., Lerner R. (eds) Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 1. Theoretical models of human development (5th ed.). Wiley, New York, pp. 619–700Google Scholar
  28. Rubin K., Coplan R., (1992). Peer relationships in childhood In: Bornstein M., Lamb M. (eds) Developmental psychology: An advanced textbook (3rd ed.). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 519–578Google Scholar
  29. Rubin K., Maloni T., Homug M., (1976). Free play behaviors in middle and lower-class preschoolers: Parten and Piaget revisited Child Development 47:414–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Smith P., (1978). A longitudinal study of social participation in preschool children: Solitary and parallel play reexamined Developmental Psychology, 14:517–523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Strom R., (1976). The merits of solitary play Childhood Education 52(3):149–152Google Scholar
  32. Younger A., Boyko K., (1987). Aggression and withdrawal as social schemas underlying children’s peer perceptions Child Development 58:1094–1100PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Younger A., Daniels T., (1992). Children’s reasons for nominating their peers as withdrawn: Passive withdrawal versus active isolation Developmental Psychology 28(5):955–960CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology in EducationArizona State UniversityMesaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Family Studies and Human DevelopmentArizona State UniversityMesaUSA
  3. 3.MesaUSA

Personalised recommendations