Before going to kindergarten, preschool, daycare, or any other play programs, some play and group skills for kids will make their life a lot more fun.
We might think that kids come already knowing how to play. To some extent this is certainly true. Even animals like to play and have fun. There are wonderful video clips of a fierce lion chasing a ball around an enclosure, a bear splashing in backyard pools, a baby elephant rolling a hula hoop, and more. Most kids have play abilities already downloaded in their brain, but as parents and caregivers we also teach kids about play.
Balls are a favorite toy of kids. When babies are sitting on the floor playing with a ball we reach out for it and roll it back. We encourage the baby to roll the ball and eventually our message gets through to roll it to us. Another play interaction might be as a child is eating a cookie. We pretend to take a bite, make some silly noises, and laugh. This is an early lesson in pretend play. There are countless other ways we teach kids about play that we don’t even realize.
Before kids go to daycare, playschool, preschool, and kindergarten, it’s important for them to have had lots of play experiences and opportunities to be part of a group. Some will have had more than others and a few children will have shy personalities. Being able to interact with kids their own age will help children feel more comfortable and confident in a group.
Besides play skills, kids also need to be able to communicate with their words and bodies. A smile is one way to invite a response, so is a simple question like, “Do you want to play?” Kids need words so they can express themselves and negotiate. “Stop, that’s hurting me!” is a way to protect oneself and is more acceptable than hitting. Knowing the names for emotions and how to read facial expressions are helpful play and group skills.
Many communities have programs and facilities we can access for children’s play. Parks, tot lots, and playgrounds are available anytime. There could also be art programs, gym times, and recreation activities available with parents or for kids by themselves. Families might want to exchange play-dates and get-togethers. How do you support developing play and group skills for kids?