The idea that kids make friends effortlessly stems from the fact they’re in classes together and work in groups. This emotional development in children is because they see each other nearly every day, so it’s easy.
However, outside the classroom, some kids struggle. It’s the shy and nervous ones who are likely to be alone at break time or on holidays as they’re not naturally social or outgoing. Maybe they need the help of a playground?
The real benefits of going to the playground
- Does playing aid emotional development?
- Social skills and playtime
- Is playing alone bad?
Let’s explore the benefits of a kitted-out playground and see how it can help your child when making friends.
Does playing aid emotional development?
When you were a child, did it ever cross your mind that the enjoyment you gained from play and running around with your friends, speeding down the playground slide, or going on the seesaw was helping you develop? Of course not! It was all about the good times and laughter (at least until someone had an accident). But in fact, these activities were helping us develop and learn valuable lessons and life skills.
- Playing on the swings is great for motor skills and balance
- Multiplayer games like football are all about coordination, communication, and critical thinking
- Climbing frames are excellent for physical health and planning.
- Find out more here
But it’s free play where we see the most significant emotional development in children.
What is free play?
Free Play is unstructured playtime, where children make their own decisions and use their imagination to stay entertained. It’s spontaneous, creative, and is all about using the world around them.
This kind of play requires communication and sharing, consideration, and more to have a good time. It’s great for making friends because children can learn what others like and begin to understand body language and tone of voice. They can find their people and, therefore, find their voice.
Having this confidence to be vocal and involved gives them a measure of control of their emotions. Moreover, the sharing and taking turn required in play gives them patience and understanding too. All of this builds character and emotional maturity to help prepare them for future relationships and situations.
Social skills and playtime
All of this emotional development and confidence-building is imperative to their developing sufficient social skills. When a child first takes that brave step into group play, they begin to understand social norms and the value of listening to and sharing with others.
For example, playing on the playground slide or climbing an access ladder for the play castle isn’t something you can all do at once, so the children need to wait and be patient. Plus, the queuing can help them learn self-discipline and the benefit of sharing a piece of playground equipment with others. Similarly, with group games like tag or double dutch skipping – children need to work together, listen to each other, and learn how to express themselves clearly.
Parents and teachers can help children on their way during social play, but it’s a good idea to let them learn this on their own. Why not just nudge them in the right direction and give them advice?
For instance, shy children may not feel brave enough to ask to play with the group. Instead, parents could advise them to join in where they can. So, if a group is playing on the swings and one person needs a push, parents or teachers could suggest a shy child goes and offers them a push? Or if a group is queuing for the playground hopscotch, tell them to go and join in the queue.
These kinds of soft introductions to social situations means shy children have the opportunity to continue or not. Fingers crossed; it kick-starts their making friends.
Is playing alone bad?
Don’t worry if you see your kid wander off and play on their own sometimes – a little alone time is good for us all. Shy children are more predisposed to this, and it’s good to get them to interact with others in groups, but don’t try to remove it entirely.
According to Voice of Play, playing alone can support social and emotional development. “It develops a strong sense of independence, promotes creativity and imagination, and alleviates boredom when they devise their own entertainment.”
A strong sense of independence will help a child prepare for anything life throws at them. If they’re confident with themselves, they’ll be confident with others. Playing alone facilitates this like nothing else. As a result, they’ll learn to be ok when they don’t have someone with them.
They’re only limited by their imaginations when they play alone – there’s no one else to please or worry about, they can let their imaginations run wild.
Without someone telling them what to do, children can learn to be comfortable on their own and find out what they enjoy doing the most. It’ll help them be less clingy and to understand that everyone needs space.
It’s also brilliant for observation. Building up enough courage to join in can take a long time, so watching to see what others do helps children learn and prepare for their big jump.
To help your child play alone if they aren’t already, here are some tips.
The real benefits of going to the playground
In short, play is essential, not just for emotional development in children, but for their social skills and to help in making friends. We suggest you take care of shy kids and ease them into group activities – it’ll be incredibly beneficial down the line.