- Beverley Morgan
How Interactive Play is a Life Skill
Getting children to play happily together can be a little challenging on occasion as I well know. When I was teaching children, a large proportion of my time was spent mediating between them. However, play has many lasting benefits for children, and so it’s worth the extra effort of helping them to interact with one another.
Through playing together, children grow accustomed to the give-and-take aspects of communication, and they learn how to collaborate effectively. Moreover, they gain the confidence to put forward their viewpoints and to listen as others express theirs. These are valuable life skills, and the importance of them shouldn’t be underestimated.
Interactive Play leads to Greater Social Skills
The stages of play are strong indicators of a child’s developmental skills and help us all to understand how children interact together. Knowing about them also stops us from putting unrealistic expectations upon the child.
Initially, in the infant years, children play alone in what is termed by psychologists as ‘solitary play’. Between the ages of two and three years, children become aware of other toddlers, and they begin to engage in ‘parallel play’. In this stage, they will play alongside one another, but there is very little interaction between them.
The next phase is ‘associative play’, during which they participate in common activities and exchange toys with one another. The final stage is ‘cooperative play’. This is the most complex as it involves learning social skills, such as sharing, following rules, and turn-taking. Research has shown that children who master cooperative play as a pre-schooler tend to enjoy greater success at elementary school, both socially and academically.
Play and Listening to Stories
As well as developing social skills, play enhances imagination, creativity and language skills. Imaginative play helps children to develop critical thinking skills, as well as key qualities, such as empathy and understanding. Listening to stories is a crucial part of this development. Children engage with storylines and then create their own versions, using their imaginations. Through repetition and replaying of stories and experiences, the child explores a range of situations and develops the skills to manage them in the future.