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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

All Together Now: 7 Ways That Play Builds Social Skills

Photo by Simon Blackley (Flickr)

"Kids who play play well as adults. Kids who play build their confidence and learn the social skills that help them become happy, well-adjusted adults." That quote by KaBOOM! means a great deal to me because as a parent, I want my girls to grow up to be awesome adults. If you agree, consider how play teaches our kids seven social skills that help them get along with others, play nice, and succeed in life.

Play Builds Empathy and Understanding

Children don't try to be selfish, but they truly cannot understand that other people have feelings. They need to learn how to be empathetic and understanding, and play builds this important social skill. While observing their playmates during parallel play, they safely watch how other children act and behave, and they begin to develop empathy and understanding for others.

Play Fosters Emotional Expression

Emotions are difficult for kids to express. A kid might show anger when they're really feeling anxious. Kids often don't even realize what they are feeling and certainly struggle to share how they feel. I've found that play helps my girls express themselves emotionally. They become more in tune with how they feel and learn to express their emotions in an appropriate way.

Play Improves Self-Regulation

When my girls don't get enough play, they pick on each other, get hyper, and can't sit still. Does the same thing happen with your children at home or at school? Kids need recreational time to regulate their bodies, mind, and emotions. Nancy Barrand, senior adviser for program development at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, agrees. She says, "Great recess is an essential building block for healthy school environments that help kids thrive socially, emotionally, and physically." Give your kids time to play and they learn to control their emotions and act appropriately as they self-regulate.

Play Promotes Sharing

When my girls were little, I wondered if they'd ever learn to share and take turns. We kept practicing during play dates and at home, and I've seen great improvements lately. These social skills are important on the playground, at recess, and in real life, so I'm glad that play promotes sharing.

Play Develops Leadership

Most groups have a leader who takes charge and gets things done. I don't want my girls to boss their friends around, but I do want them to become confident in expressing their opinions and stating their wishes and desires. That's why I encourage my girls to speak up about what they want to play or when they see something they don't like. Your kids can develop leadership skills, too, as they exercise their voice, express their opinions, and take an active role in group play.

Play Teaches Negotiation

As a caregiver, you know that kids don't always get along. They may argue about what to play, how to play, and even when to play. They need to learn the art of negotiation as they decide which activity to do first on the playground, share art supplies while drawing, and choose which board game to play together.

Play Strengthens Friendships

One of the kids in our neighborhood was always at the park but never wanted to play with anyone. He always stood on the sidelines and did his own thing. Then, last month, my older daughter befriended him. Now, they always play together, and he's starting to make friends with other kids in our neighborhood. This is only one example that proves that play is powerful for starting, growing, and strengthening friendships.

Joseph Chilton Pearce, an author and college professor, says, "Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold." I agree! Children become better adults when they learn valuable social skills, so let's get all together now and encourage our kids to play!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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