Playing together is more fun!

Going to the playground to meet other kids
Reading time: 4 minutes


Why is it important to go to the playground?

Relationships are vital for our health and wellbeing, all the more so after the pandemic period, when opportunities for relationships were severely restricted.

Relationships are a source of interaction, learning, emotions and also play!  Playing together “brings into play” every aspect of development. It engages many different spheres, including social-emotional, cognitive and motor skills, among others. We often forget how much children need to play, and how much this affects the development of their potential, such as problem-solving strategies, emotional management, the creative process, and so on.

Playing means giving children the opportunity to “regenerate” themselves and to discover and rediscover a new and different environment from just staying at home, so why not play outdoors?

The playground as a place where they can meet other kids

The social dimension is a key aspect for every child’s growth and development. Social development is influenced by different interaction experiences, with significant educational figures and peers alike. Social relationships are based on emotions and feelings but also on doing things and playing together. Social relationships can be based on children’s “significant” affectional bonds, as in, “I want to go to the playground with my friend”, for example, or they can involve occasional relationships, as in sharing a toy or playing a game with a child they have just met in the playground. Every interaction experience leads to the development and consolidation of social-relational skills as it allows the emotions that arise from being with others to be lived and managed.

What should I do if my child has an argument?

In recreational contexts it is only natural for arguments and fights to occur among peers. Trying to avoid arguments means hindering the attainment of a key milestone in a child’s social-relational development. The adult’s role is not to “block-avoid” the process but to support children in managing their emotions and developing self-regulation skills. It is therefore important not to intervene - like a judge who establishes who is to blame, who is responsible for starting the fight and for ending it - but to see the child’s behaviour as signalling a need, and to support them in expressing that need in the most appropriate and functional manner.

What if my child doesn’t play with other kids?

Play in early childhood enables children to learn about themselves and discover the world around them. According to Piaget, during the sensorimotor stage, which begins at birth and lasts through to around 18 months, the child grasps and handles objects, so play is purely a sensory and motor activity. At around 18 months, we see the beginning of symbolic play (see the article “Liberi di giocare: Tuo figlio/a come impara?” - “Free to play: How does your Child Learn?), and children reach an important milestone when their symbolic play, from being an individual play activity, turns into a social play activity with other children. We could therefore consider individual play as laying the groundwork for the development of social play. The adult’s role here is once again to respect and be responsive to the child’s individual needs and pace. It’s important not to confuse observation and exploration of the environment with isolation.

What if my child doesn’t want to go home?

Sometimes, when they are told “it’s time to go home”, children might protest or react by having what we call a tantrum. This protest behaviour could be driven by different reasons: they are having fun, are displaying the defiance typical of this age group, or they can’t see why they have to go home while their friends don’t.

Firstly, it’s important to warn children well before leaving that it will soon be time to go home, that way we can ensure there will be enough time to say good-bye to the slides, climbing frames, and so on, and most importantly, to their playmates. Moreover, it’s crucial yet again to be attentive to the needs and emotions underlying their behaviour, precisely to underscore that leaving doesn’t mean we are not attentive to their needs.

There is still so much to talk about and consider, but it’s time to go back to the playground with a single goal in mind: to offer children the opportunity to experiment with new surroundings in order to learn more about themselves and their friends.

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