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Kids Playing Alone or Playing With Friends: Which is Better?

8 minute read

Kids Playing Alone or Playing With Friends Which is Better? Article Banner

Playing is both fun and educational. 

Although it may seem like the former is more pronounced than the latter, the educational merits of playtime are especially apparent when children engage in open-ended play

Playing exposes their world to a variety of new experiences and information that regular interactions with parents and other peers wouldn’t bring out. 

Additionally, in her research paper on children’s play and toys, Dr. Jasmina Klemenović, a professor of pedagogy, described playtime as a “primitive communication system” where children freely express their innermost desires, dreams, and anxieties without prejudice.

Playing alone and playing with friends can impart essential life skills for children’s well-rounded development. Both are undeniably significant, but which of the two should children devote more time engaging?

Let’s dissect both domains and find out which is better, playing alone or playing with friends? 


Independent play: Why is it Important?

Happy child playing by herself

Playing alone might look upsetting at face value, but independent playtime can teach valuable lessons that your child may carry throughout their lives.

According to Nancy Olsen-Harbich’s exposition on playing alone, more time for solitary play is necessary for this fast-paced society. The Family Health and Wellness Program Director added that playing alone can help kids explore new ideas, solve their own problems, and work through their own feelings.

We outlined the benefits of playing alone below:


• Teaches self-entertainment to kids

Playing alone teaches children to have fun on their own. This way, they don’t rely on others for entertainment and happiness. 

As adults, we can attest that friends won't be available at each waking moment. And children are bound to experience this too. This is where solo-playing helps because it gets them used to becoming independent and confident in their company.


 Inspires children’s creativity

If you think your child is already creative, wait and see how much more they boost their imagination when playing alone. Indeed, a person’s creative juices shine through when there are no distractions, evident in children’s solo play.

Kids can draw out tons of magical scenarios when playing solo. It also trains them to think on their feet quickly and imagine incredible plots that give flavor to the playtime, all in their heads. Providing them with simple toys can serve as the platform that propels their imagination.

Related: Buying Toys for Kids: Are Simple Toys Always Better?


 Develops their sense of social independence

Contrary to popular belief, social independence is not the tendency to be repulsive towards social interaction. Instead, it’s the ability to be confident and comfortable in any given situation, in this case, being alone.

Playing alone doesn’t make children shy away from others. But it prepares them for days when they don’t have anyone else to play with, but themselves.


 Independent play can promote calmness

Sometimes, playing with others can get kids riled up and jumpy. However, children return to a higher state of peace and calm when they play with their toys on their own. Playing alone can alleviate their raging moods as they peacefully interact with toys.


 They learn to soothe themselves

Parents are typically every child's go-to people when experiencing negative emotions. Unfortunately, we won't always be available to provide the much-needed comfort. Learning to play independently teaches them to look inward when seeking solutions to their problems or comfort to their feelings. 

Adult life can be a painful phase. But kids trained to soothe themselves can better cope with the struggles than those who constantly need others.


 It gives parents some badly needed downtime

It’s not new knowledge that every parent is a child’s best friend. And by best friend, I mean playmates because we get the whole package. But consistently playing with our kids can eat up our time dedicated to chores, personal time, and work. 

If kids can play solo, we can bargain a few minutes of silence while they’re busy. This will keep us healthy and sane.

Related: 10 Activities to Keep Toddlers Busy (And Keep Mom Sane!)


Playing alone has many benefits, but it’s not devoid of disadvantages, especially when not executed properly. 

In a research paper on the necessity of solo play, the researchers discovered that children who play alone more than usual could be disadvantageous. These kids typically fall into one of four groups: non-shy soloists, shy soloists, isolated, and depressed, whereas the latter two are the destructive classifications because they are rejected in the peer group, withdraw from social interactions and exhibit sadness often.

Although the research above applies to children who excessively play solo, it subliminally emphasizes the need to play with others. We listed some of the benefits of social play in the succeeding texts:


Why should children play with others? 

A group of children playing together in the park

Playing with others introduces a whole new world for children. They’re no longer alone in their thoughts and musings but will have to adjust their approach to cater to the larger group. But, like playing alone, playing with others has its meritorious benefits too, and I’ve outlined some of them below:


 Playing with others forges social relationships

Peer relationships, compared to familial connections, are unique. Because unlike relatives, peer relationships are voluntary. Children select the people they wish to build friendships with. And during play, all kids are equal regardless of their respective cultures. 

For this reason, children learn to adapt and adjust their principles towards what’s most beneficial to the group.


 It can develop their socialization skills

Building bridges with other kids their age is one thing, but honing the proper socialization skills is another aspect. Aside from equality, children also utilize the art of compromise and negotiation to qualify in the social group. Kids then learn to harmonize with others without resorting to arguments or fights.

These minor adjustments ultimately serve as the building blocks in developing their socialization skills — ones they’ll be actively using, especially in school.


 Improve communication, vocabulary, and language

A study published in 1980 studied the relationship between kindergartners and their communication skills. Results showed that playing with others significantly influenced children's pre-reading, language, and writing. 

Communication is a vital component in group plays, especially if team coordination is required. For example, as kids practice their vocabulary with others, they hone their speech compared to those that play alone.


 It’s good for their emotional well-being

Playing with others is usually associated with playing competitive games. As a result, kids learn to be more socially competent, especially when achieving a desired goal while keeping their humble composure. This is a valued characteristic in the workplace. 

On the other hand, playing with others may also introduce them to defeats and this can be very frustrating for kids. Especially those who spend most of their time solo playing or being the center of attention. With team playing, kids can better deal with frustrations and manage their emotions and behavior. Additionally, they also learn empathy and considerate other children’s feelings.

As a good friend of mine puts it:

“Humble in victories, and graceful in defeats.”

 They acquire essential life skills 

Kids are hardwired to be self-centered, and this negative behavior is slowly trimmed as children interact with others. Along the process, that negative outlook is replaced with more positive, relationship-building dispositions like honesty, cooperation, sharing, and giving chances to others.


Despite the benefits written above, unhealthy dedication to playing with others may also be disadvantageous for kids, like acquiring problematic ideologies or principles from peers that are not straightened out in the home. Also, some children can develop codependence or extreme reliance on others, sometimes to the point where they struggle to be without company.

Nonetheless, playing with others has benefits that far outweigh the cons. Plus, the above drawbacks are only a result of over-dependence on peers.


Which is Better: Playing Alone or Playing with Others?

A child playing alone in the front while children plays together in the back


The truth is, both playing alone and playing with others are two distinct domains, and they benefit children differently. So nothing is better than the other, but kids need the opportunity to engage in both play structures for their well-rounded development. The key is finding the proper balance between the two to maximize a child’s learning experience.

Enabling them to participate in both will help your child get the necessary skills for success.

Check TheSTEMkids' blog posts if you’re interested to read more from our publications.

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