We are all friends together. Connection to the people we spend time with is really important for our emotional and mental wellbeing. This is true even for wee folk. As the wee folk spend most of their time together playing, let’s consider their ability to socially interact and share meaningful connections.
Play develops the dispositions to engage and learn… it encourages so many skills in our children such as self-esteem, independence, creativity, exploration, imaginative thinking, the list goes on! In order to encourage our children through play we must create an environment with empathy, respect, and acceptance in abundance.
Today I want to look at how play can foster social skills and connection with and amongst our children.
Our ‘play offer’, if rich, fabulous, exciting and intriguing means the children will be eager to become involved and of course share the joy with their friends.
Using a child centered pedagogy can help us to with this. Putting our children at the start, in the middle and at the end of every play experience we offer should be our biggest consideration.
Child centered pedagogy
If this is what we aspire to have, a child centered pedagogy, our focus is then on interactions, sensitive Interactions. Encouraging every child’s needs, interests, opinions and contributions to be valued and accepted and nurtured.
We should set up flexible and organic experiences that capture our children’s attention, that provoke their thinking and invite them to develop and learn where they are at. Our experiences should have familiarity but also be enriched. Add some aromas to your sand, place bars of soap in the water so they go all sludgy and slimy and the children can make the dinosaurs create footprints or use cars to have tyre tracks appear. Don’t bore them with the same old same old!
Our wonderful array of experiences should be provided to give breadth and depth of thinking, offer choice and decisions to be made, problems to be solved or risks to be taken in a variety of spaces and places.
Play that enriches our children’s connections to each other allows us to observe, capture, interpret, and document their development and thoughts. Listen and watch for their responses, how they use their actions, control their emotions and express themselves in sharing words.
We all know that the best play, the play where children just wallow in it, is mostly about their responses, them shaping and leading each other and manipulating the resources without any interference from us. However, balance and blending with responsive and intentional plans to facilitate, scaffold, enable and inspire is our responsibility too.
Sit back a while and watch, listen and hear your children. Are they connected to each other? Are they listening to their friends, allowing all the voices to be heard? Do they encourage one another, share, take turns? Do they extend and negotiate? Are they having fun? Do you hear laughter? Are they up to nonsense and mischief? Never forget that’s the job of every child, to be mischief makers, to push boundaries and become themselves.
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