The Who of Balanced Play
Playing with others is enormously beneficial for children and helps them to develop many skills. Ideally, children will have a balance between playing alone and playing with others – with a greater emphasis on social play, particularly with other children.
Strong communication skills, compromise, negotiation, and empathy are all learned by playing with other children in the absence of adults. When an adult is a constant presence children are deprived of the opportunity to develop skills such as conflict resolution. If an adult is there, children will expect them to solve any issues such as deciding whose turn it is with a toy. Learning how to negotiate and resolve conflicts yourself is a really valuable skill for life, so child-led play without adults is an extremely important part of childhood development. That being said, playing with adults does have its benefits which we will explore later.
Boost Development through Interacting with Different Age Groups: The Power of Play with Peers of All Ages
When it comes to playtime, children often gravitate towards peers of their own age. However, there are significant advantages to encouraging interactions with older children. Playing with older children exposes younger ones to new perspectives, ideas, and experiences. Older children generally have a broader range of knowledge and skills and become role models for younger children, encouraging them to become aspirational and challenge themselves in ways they may not have done if playing with children of their own age.
Playing with younger children also has its benefits. Firstly it fosters a sense of responsibility and leadership as older children can take on the role of mentor and guide, and by playing with younger children they learn to be patient and empathetic. Secondly, it helps reinforce their knowledge and skills as they explain or demonstrate instructions and concepts to younger children. They also have to learn to adapt their play style and language to accommodate the younger ones which helps strengthen their communication skills.
Foster Inclusivity and Empathy: The Power of Playing with Diverse Peers
The wider the variety of peers a child plays with, the better. When children play with others of various abilities, they develop a deeper understanding and acceptance of individual differences, helping them to appreciate other children’s unique needs and strengths. It also challenges them to adapt their play styles, make changes to games, and modify rules etc to make sure that everyone can be included. This helps children to become flexible and able to adapt to situations, which will be very useful for them throughout their lives.
Playing with children from diverse backgrounds is also important for promoting tolerance and an appreciation for diversity. When children play with others from different backgrounds, they learn about their traditions, and customs, and see different perspectives, which also encourages them to challenge stereotypes and biases.
Building Bonds and Skills: The Value of Playing with Adults in Child Development
Playing with adults provides children with unique opportunities for growth, learning and relationship building. Not only is it a great way for the different generations to bond, but playing with their parents, grandparents, and caregivers also helps children to learn positive behaviours and communication skills. As adults play with children they can make suggestions to encourage children to try out new strategies for example, such as placing a building block somewhere different to make a structure more stable. Adult-led role play can also be used to help children express complex thoughts and feelings that they can’t put into words. They can then take the skills they learn, such as being patient, taking turns, playing by the rules, and apply them when they’re interacting and playing with other children.
Empowerment and Self-Discovery: The Benefits of Solitary Child-Led Play
Solitary child-led play means that children have full control over their play, so they can explore the things that interest them. It helps them to develop independence and learn how to entertain themselves without having to rely on others to always be around. Children want to know that adults are there for them if they need them, but playing by themselves teaches them to be able to self-soothe by becoming their own problem solvers and understanding their emotions. Playing alone also helps children learn about their own preferences, strengths and interests. It can help them understand what makes them feel good and what activities they like doing when they are in different moods, or at different times of the day. Intra-personal intelligence (understanding yourself) is important in positive mental health.
The interactions that come from playing with people of different ages, backgrounds and abilities will help to enrich your child’s world and increase their opportunities for learning, encouraging them to be compassionate, adaptable and resilient individuals.