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Mildred Parten (born 1902) was an American sociologist, a researcher at University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development.

She completed her doctoral dissertation in 1929. She developed the theory of five stages of child's play[1]

Mildred Parten was one of the first to conduct extensive studies on children for the case of play. She supervised children between two and five years old for intense one minute periods. In these time frames, she could see the different children’s behavior and documented them accordingly. She noted that most of the play is by themselves, in the first four stages. The latter two are more extensive sets of play, and occur in older age groups which involve more interaction between children.


  1. Parten, M. (1932). Social participation among preschool children. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 28, 136-147.
  • Rebecca Staples New, Moncrieff Cochran, Early Childhood Education: O-Z (Volume 3 of Early Childhood Education: An International Encyclopedia), Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008, ISBN 0-313-33103-0, Google Print, p.592-593

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