As adults, we know one of the most important things we need to know is how to work well with others. It’s a skill we use every day in our personal and professional lives. We need to know how to respect other people’s abilities and opinions in order to facilitate working together. It is a move from the intrapersonal world to the interpersonal one, and it involves our social and emotional skills. Research has also showed that cooperating with others contributes to our happiness.
As your little one grows, his style and experiences of play will change. He’ll start to be more interested in playing with others. Around his second birthday you’ll notice that he’ll be able to name a couple of his friends and he’ll enjoy having them around. Although he likes having buddies to play with, his primary style of play might still be solo. You might notice some parallel playing in which he and his friend play alongside each other but each one does their own thing. Even though they are not working together per se, your little one is gathering a tremendous amount of sensory information, learning and preparing for future skills.
By the time he’s 3 years old, your son will be able to distinguish between a friend and other kids he may know. He’ll also be more excited to play with them than by himself. During this time, you’ll see he is more attentive and observant to what others are playing. Even though there might not be a full interactive play between him and his buddy, you’ll see precursory elements like the fact that they want to play the same thing and he gets excited to share his toys. This process is how your little one starts forming relationships with the people around him. He’ll start noticing that other kids might like or not like the same things he does, and that everyone has feelings and different points of view. He’ll form profounder connections and choose his tribe.
By the time he’s 4, he’ll be able to actively cooperate with other children in a full interactive play. For example, playing a game and working towards the same goal. At this point, he’ll begin to understand the meaning of teamwork. This is a fundamental step in his socioemotional development. Developing this skill lays the foundation for understanding the idea of sharing, being friendly, and understanding other people’s opinions and feelings; all precursors of empathy. Not to mention that group activities also promote his physical, problem solving, and attention skills.
This is why during these years it’s important to encourage and foster the social and emotional connections your little one makes during group activities. As he works with other children, he’ll learn how to express himself and understand the importance of cooperating with other people; developing close and nurturing relationships that will lay the basis for future ones.
Here are some ideas on group activities to get you started!
- Mirroring each other’s gestures, expressions, and moves. This activity is great for attention, memory, and body awareness.
- Tracing each other using paper and crayons. By turns, each child should lay on the paper and be traced by the other person. Make it fun by incorporating artsy materials like markers, crayons and stickers. You can even make it more interesting by asking the kids that traced to say characteristics of their friends, while you help them write them down inside each of the figures.
- Have fun with bubbles. One kid will be in charge of blowing them and the other of popping them. This will encourage sharing and give your little one a chance to experience both point of views of a situation.
- Play balance challenges. One person has to count with his or her eyes closed and when he or she opens them the other persons have to hold a balance pose like standing on one foot or balancing a book on their heads.
- Make an obstacle course like the ones you did when your little one used to crawl around the house, but this time, encourage the children to hold hands and work as a team to make it through the obstacles.
Apart from having an amazing time, your son will learn about compromising, sharing, and becoming a part of a team. Make today a great opportunity for a group activity!
If you feel your little one is a bit shy during play time, check out this article.
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