Social development is the gradual gaining of the skills, attitudes, relationships, and behavior that enable children to interact with others. Social play happens when children are playing with adults or with other kids.
Sociodramatic play is an especially valuable type of play. Besides having fun (which has value in itself!), children learn social skills that include: communication, cooperation, problem-solving and perspective taking. Research shows that these social skills help children succeed in school and in life, too. (Caprara et al.)
For children to best learn social skills through play, they need lots of opportunities to play with other children, of course. But they also need support from sensitive adults. Here’s why:
We can support children’s social skill development by playing with our kids and modeling the positive social behaviors we want them to use. We can also teach them social skills using a technique called “scaffolding” - giving just enough help at first to build new skills, then letting them do more and more on their own.
Here are some ways to support young children’s development of social skills:
Explain what cooperation looks like in different play situations:
When children play together, conflicts are inevitable. Help kids learn to solve problems collaboratively by teaching them to negotiate. Here are the steps in successful problem-solving:
We can help children understand the perspective of others by pointing out:
Caprara, G. V., Barbaranelli, C., Pastorelli, C., Bandura, A., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2000). Prosocial foundations of children's academic achievement. Psychological Science, 11(4), 302-306.
Forrester, M. M. & Albrecht, K. M. (2014). Social emotional tools for life: An early childhood teacher’s guide to supporting strong emotional foundations and successful social relationships. Houston: Innovations in ECE Press.
Lancy, David F. and Grove, M. Annette, "Marbles and Machiavelli: The role of game play in children's social development" (2017). Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology Faculty Publications. Paper 621.
White, R. E. (2012). The power of play - A research summary on play and learning. For Minnesota Children’s Museum Smart Play. https://www.childrensmuseums.org/images/MCMResearchSummary.pdf
I'm Diane Goyette, a Child Development Specialist, Trainer, Consultant and Keynote Speaker. I'm excited to share my blog!