The earliest play observed among children is individual play, as when the child rattles some toys or beats them together. Some of his very early play activities are with adults, as in playing peek-a-boo, and the like. By the age of two years or a little later, we many observe many a child plying with another child. At this early age he often plays merely beside the other child or near him, rather than with him. Often two children are together, but engaged in individual play. Some children retain the preference for individual play longer than do others. In many cases, this is caused by lack of social stimulation, or by a feeling of inferiority. Some handicaps, such as those of habits, physique, dress, intelligence. and the like, may overwhelm the child with such a feeling of inferiority that he may prefer playing alone. Normally, he gives less time to playing alone as he gets older and has more experiences and more contacts with other children.
Children of three and four years often are found playing some little game together. In fact, it is quite common for a child at these ages to plan some play activity and to get another child to engage in it with him. A later stage in his social development is seen when he devises or selects some game and gets a number of others to play it with him. Interesting and suggestive differences have been observed in the kinds of games preferred by children of different ages. Apparently, games in which children copy others, but not according to a definite sequence, are the most popular with pre-school children. Those which involve copying others and following definite orders are quite popular with children from four to six years of age. As children approach and enter the teens there seems to be a definite shift in popularity from games involving following definite orders to those in which they have more freedom in organization and in determining details. These changes in the kinds of games preferred indicate an important differentiation between younger and older children in the nature of the cohesive force needed to keep them cooperating as groups.