The foundations for socialisation are laid through play. Through play, the number of contacts young children have with their peers increase. Between the ages of two and three, children show an interest in watching other children and they attempt to make social contacts with them. This is known as parallel play - play in which young children play independently beside each other, rather than with them. It is the earliest form of social activity that young children have with their peers.
Following this, comes associative play in which young children engage in similar, if not identical activities with other children. As social contacts increase, young children engage in cooperative play - play in which they are a part of the group and interact with group members. Even after children begin to play with other children, they like to be onlookers watching other children at play but making no real attempt to play with them. From this onlooker experience, young children learn how others make social contacts and what their behaviour is in social situations.
With this preliminary socialising, children at four years understand the rudiments of team play. They become conscious of the opinions of others, and they try to gain attention from the peers, learn new patterns of behaviour that will make acceptance by the peer group more assured. Play with others encourages babies to cooperate, an essential to good social relationships when babyhood comes to a close.
Play is the best way to help the child adjust to the society in which he lives, his group, family and himself. In play, the child can express his ideas without any restrictions and disapprovals. He can express much about his feelings to others, which he cannot put into words, or for which he as a child has no words.
By playing with other children, the child learns to establish social relationships and how to meet and solve the problems such relationships raise. Through games with peers and adults, he learns to give and take, be tolerant and ultimately make better social adjustments. The child learns about his abilities in relation to the abilities of others and thus gets a clear concept of himself.
Play thus helps a child to pass from the stage of desiring to have everything for himself to being a member of a team. As a member of a team, he plays for the good of the team - not just as an individual. Like other foundations, if the foundations in cooperation are properly laid in babyhood, adjustment to the demands of childhood will be easier to meet successfully.