It Isn’t Just ‘Child’s Play’: How Playing Games Helps Children Develop Social Skills

Posted in Fun Time, Games and Brain Stimulation, Growing Up, Learning & Development on Friday, February 20th, 2015

children at play
We’ve often heard the dismissive expression, ‘oh, that’s just child’s play’. The reality is that ‘child’s play’, plays a hugely important role in early childhood development, particularly in the evolution of a child’s social skills. This kind of play—whether it’s with other children, family members, inanimate objects, or even animals—teaches a child how to interact with the world around her in a curious yet respectful and self-assured manner.
All work and no play makes Jaya a dull girl
Experts are now telling us that work and play are actually interconnected. Bringing an intense but playful attitude to our work helps us do it better and faster. Skills that children are supposed to ‘work at’ such as speaking, reading, and socialising, are best learned through play. As mentioned in the introduction, there are different ‘kinds’ of social skills games that a child can engage in.
a. Solitary play—where a child plays by him or herself, with objects like toys and building blocks, oblivious to other people in the room.
b. Character play—your child starts to mimic and model other children’s play behaviour–arranging the building blocks the way another child seems to be doing, for example.
c. Parallel play—here, children interact with each other but focus on playing their own individual games.
d. Associative play—children ‘associate’ with each other to play non-interactive, rule-free games, like crawling around the room and barking like dogs.
e. Cooperative play—here children work together in an interactive manner, to play a game or engage in an activity that has a specific set of rules and/or goals, which requires a level of compliance from each participant.
Children who are struggling to pick up key inter/personal skills demonstrate specific behaviours that parents should keep an eye out for.
a. An inability to focus and engage in any one activity; flitting from game to game, incapable of sitting still or sustaining an activity for a significant length of time.
b. Difficulty reading other children’s verbal and non-verbal cues—inability to take turns, listen to input from other children, or engage in ‘give and take’.
c. Mostly plays alone (not that this is a bad thing. However, when a child seems to get upset or becomes disturbed around company, this might be a cause for concern.)
d. Is ‘clingy’ and needs an adult to accompany them everywhere.
Remember, children learn best by ‘playing’ at being independent—and interdependent—social beings.

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