When it comes to improving children’s grades and behavior, the last thing parents might think of is adding more playtime to their kid’s schedule. Turns out, though, social play, has a significant role in early childhood development.
In a recent study on social play for kindergartners, Professor Adele Diamond, PhD, FRSC, a specialist in developmental cognitive neuroscience at the University of British Columbia, found a lack of playtime greatly impacts students’ development. The study also revealed social play’s myriad benefits.
In the study, Diamond proposed a greater focus on hands-on learning and social play for improving attention regulation, grades and overall self-control.
“Learning by doing incorporates learning by watching and listening,” Diamond tells Parentology, “then adds the critical components of trying it oneself, practicing it as much as needed, and the joy and excitement of discovering things for oneself without being told.”
Diamond explains some young children have difficulty sitting still, behavior that often brings with it a misdiagnosis of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These kids are often scolded and their natural curiosity and love of learning are squashed. The better answer would have been instilling more social play.
Social play innately teaches beneficial life skills. Among them, “A sense of community — a feeling that we care about, help and support one another,” Diamond says, pointing to how this also reduces stress.
Further, through social play, “Children learn to listen, develop the self-control needed to share and to collaborate and work together with others,” Diamond says. Then there’s the, “flexibly to adjust to where other children might take a play scenario — all critical skills for intellectual development.”
Dr. Virginia Boga, a New York-based child psychologist, has seen similar effects on children and social play. She tells Parentology school districts that eliminate social play are losing sight of what’s important for normal childhood development. A repercussion: diminished social play leads to higher levels of anxiety and the potential for school avoidance.
Boga believes schools should embrace social play. “It develops emotional intelligence, which is as important as cognitive abilities,” she says. “Learning social skills teaches children about limits, boundaries and self-control. It helps them learn about emotion regulation and increases their frustration tolerance. It’s one of the first places where children role model how to socialize in an appropriate manner.”
Diamond’s research reveals social play benefits teachers, too, particularly when it comes to burnout. Her findings reveal children who engage in social play are more capable of working on their own in class, making it easier for teachers to provide one-on-one teaching time.
Worried your child isn’t getting enough social play in their schedule? Carving out time for them to do so at home can help, as do extracurricular activities.
How Social Play Can Improve Academics and Behavior — Sources
PLOS: Randomized Control Trial of Tools of the Mind: Marked Benefits to Kindergarten Children and Their Teachers
Professor Adele Diamond, PhD, FRSC, University of British Columbia
Virginia Boga, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist
Science Daily: Emphasizing social play in kindergarten improves academics, reduces teacher burnout