How to get kids to play well together.
Play is children’s work. Children learn best through play. Research has shown that children move through developmental stages of play as they grow. In 1932 Mildred Parten identified six stages of children’s play. The thing parents need to remember is that kids really begin to play together around age 4. Until then kids play alone (solitary play) or next to their peers (parallel play).
Getting kids to play well together might be an expectation for preschoolers rather than toddlers.
The best way to start is to play with your kids! Let them lead the play. If they seem to be in a parallel play stage sit and play along side your child. Observe what they play with. Gender neutral toys are best in the early years, boys enjoy dolls as much as girls like trucks! Introduce pretend play maybe with a phone or tea cup. This is the beginning of cooperative play. The best advice is to have fun!
Later, when cooperative play becomes uncooperative, bullying my surface. This is when kids need confidence and assertiveness skills. These skills can be taught and honed over time as Andrea Fox describes in her September 2013 article on Psychology Today’s site. Andrea reminds us that we need to keep our own childhood misconceptions in check as we now parent our own children in her update to this article.
Here are some helpful resources for helping kids take their play to the next level.
This article from the National Association for the Education of Young Children shows parents the strategies used in high quality accredited child care centers that help children play well together. http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/201001/OstroskyWeb0110.pdf