Children engage in social play when they interact with grownups or other children. Play eventually becomes more interactive and complicated as kids get older. Children start role-playing at the age of four, collaborating to think up roles and establish the rules of the game.
This kind of play is particularly beneficial. Children not only have fun, which is valuable in and of itself, but they also develop social skills like communication, teamwork, and empathy. Social skills are important for children’s academic and personal success, so it’s great for them to practice in this way.
Playing with your children and using the opportunity to teach them the desirable social behavior will help them develop socially. Receiving input from adults helps them learn what’s acceptable and desirable in communication with others.
Why is social play important?
Children are too young to have developed social skills. For example, they are mostly unable to tell how their behavior affects other people because they only see the world from their own perspective. They’re also self-centered, thinking only about their own needs and wishes. They also lack the ability to resolve conflict in a mature way. Play is the perfect way to learn the ins and outs of social interaction.
What can children learn from social play?
Children get a chance to hone different social skills while playing pretend and interacting with peers or adults.
- Effective communication: Social play enables kids to practice how to join a group, resolve conflict, express their opinions, and more. Learning how to speak their minds and make themselves understood are important life skills that they’ll need in adulthood.
- Cooperating with the group: Joint play creates a sense of community among friends, but it can also generate friction when they need to share, compromise, and wait for their turn. Children should learn that this is a normal part of social interactions and should be helped to overcome these difficulties.
- Problem-solving: Problems inevitably crop up in interactions because of differences in characters, opinions, and needs. These challenges are excellent opportunities to practice problem-solving. They can get a taste of what it’s like to talk through a problem, negotiate, and come up with a solution that fits all sides.
- Empathy: By role-playing, children adopt different roles and learn how to watch things from different perspectives. While playing with others, they’ll become aware of others’ feelings, learn how to read faces and realize how their behavior affects others.
How can adults help?
The help of adults, like parents, nannies, and teachers, is crucial when it comes to adopting positive social patterns.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Set a good example: when you talk to the child and other people in the child’s presence. Kids soak up everything they experience and mimic the behavior of authority figures. If you expose them to healthy interactions, it’ll translate into positive, sociable behavior.
- Encourage role play: and engage in it with your child as often as possible. If the kids aren’t feeling inspired, suggest different scenarios, like at the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, and so on.
- Watch them play: when you take them to a fun park for a playdate with friends. You’ll be able to tell if they have trouble with any of the social skills, like sharing, taking turns, or negotiating. You can then work on these skills later on.
- Take them in the right direction: when the situation allows for it. For example, if you notice that they’re having trouble speaking up in a friend group, explain how they could do it. Keep the explanation simple and practical.