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Children's social development through play

Updated on May 7, 2015

Children's social development through play

According to the dictionary ‘play’ is defined as: activities that are done because they are enjoyable and fun, especially by children. If you ask any child of any age, what they love doing, they will answer ‘I love to play’. This sentence might include: I love to play friends, my dog, my mum, outdoors, at the beach, with my favorite toy, etc. What the child implies is that he/she enjoys the interaction with the specific toy or person. And it is through this interaction between and among children that they learn how to get along with one another, to be helpful and share, and to understand the consequences of their own behavior. Therefore, without them knowing, they participate fully in their own social development.

As a child grows up and its muscles and nerves develop, so their cognitive and social development goes through several stages.

  1. Observer. The child observes from a distance what other children are doing
  2. Solitary Play. The child plays alone with any object that attracts their attention
  3. Parallel Play. The child plays alongside other children but does not interact with them
  4. Cooperative play. The child plays and interacts with other children fully, by giving instructions, taking roles, offering or asking for help.

There are more in between stages in children's play. Watch the video below to get a better idea on the different stages and the ages that are taking place. Without stating the obvious, any questions or concerns you might have about your child, the most appropriate person to get advice from is your pediatrician or family doctor.

Stages of Play


Social Skills for Life

Social skills are not just manners. Social skills are a general attitude needed to be part of a society. The first society we encounter when we are born is our family. As we grow up, the next groups we are part of are our neighborhood, school, and work. Interacting with others is fundamental to our survival but also is necessary in order to reach out to others and understand ourselves. Social skills include:

  • Compassion
  • Sympathy
  • Showing consideration
  • Giving
  • Receiving
  • Appropriate ways to assert our needs and rights
  • Effective communication
  • Showing interest in others

These skills are not inherited. This learning process starts at birth and continues throughout our lives. Toddlers are used to been treated nice at all times. Everything and everyone goes around their needs. Slowly, they discover that others might have different feelings than theirs. Learning to wait for things, or ask for something that is not theirs or express their anger differently are things that they start to realize as they grow up. The first teacher a child has is its parents. Parents teach their children constantly through their own actions. The paradigm they are sharing with their child is going to stay with them for the rest of their lives. Other important teachers are the grandparents or close friends and certainly the teachers at school. All of these people contribute to the social development of a toddler.


What Should Parents Do to Help Toddlers through the Different Levels?

Parents first and teachers later, must help children move through these different levels until they become successful at cooperative play. All levels are appropriate and we must acknowledge that children do not switch from one level to another overnight.

We must also, not forget that cooperative play does not refer only to play with other children but also interaction with adults. When an adult joins in the play, the level of complexity and creativity can be sharply increased. So, for example, a child is playing with a teapot and cups and is pretending to pour for you some tea, and a participating parent can enrich the level of play by commenting, ‘watch that tea; it’s hot’. Soon, the child will be saying the same thing to his/her friends and be aware of the idea of burning yourself with something hot.

In addition, the parent or teacher can establish an awareness of an excluded or ignored child by saying ‘I think Mary would like to join your group. Do you have a cup for her?’

The Power of Play


Main Points of Social Development to Remember

  1. Encourage friendliness by talking and playing with your child
  2. Follow certain routines to show how tasks get completed
  3. Give lots of love and attention
  4. Show consideration by treating them with tenderness and being aware of their feelings
  5. Speak to them at every opportunity
  6. Invite other children in your home, so your toddler can learn to share
  7. Show them how to protect what’s theirs by talking through it(no hitting or pushing)
  8. Use simple and direct language when talking to them
  9. Praise them when they follow the rules
  10. teach them how to take turns at the playground or even at dinner time
  11. Help them to use words to express what they want, instead of crying or shouting
  12. Ask them their opinion and explain further why something is right or wrong
  13. Allow them to calm down before you tell them what they’ve done wrong

© 2013 DemiT


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