When you think of kids playing, you often think of small groups running around together. While kids love this, it’s not just about having fun. Social play is also a vital part of a kid’s development.

Think about how much you enjoy spending time with your friends. The same is true for kids. It’s a special connection formed during playtime that helps kids grow mentally and socially.

Introducing Social Play

There are four introductory levels of social play for kids as established by Mildred Parten. These levels are still used today to show how quickly kids advance through socializing through play. When introduced to peers their own age, kids may start exhibiting social behavior as early as 18 months, though most start at around 24 months.

At this point, kids’ naturally inquisitive behavior leads to them showing off toys, learning to share and even communicating simple feelings of happiness or disapproval. By three years, social situations help them learn how play together, express goals and even start working out differences.

Develop Vital Skill Sets

Social play has the unique advantage of teaching some of the most vital skill sets for a child’s development. Playing with both peers and adults helps them to learn and improve certain skills, such as:

  • Cognitive
  • Social and emotional
  • Self-regulation
  • Language
  • Relationship building

One other noticeable skill is stress management. Studies have shown that not only do kids who play together have a more prosocial brain, but they’re able to better process and manage toxic stress, which can damage development if not managed properly.

Social Play Proven At Daycare

If you need more proof about the benefits of social play, look no further than daycare. A study tracked 1,428 kids from 12 months to 8 years to determine how children developed under different childcare situations. Children in daycare had better cognitive, academic, language, social and behavioral skills than their counterparts. Why? They were constantly engaged in social play with their friends and even childcare workers.

While solo play is great too, social skills are vital to a child’s growth and what better way to do that than letting them play with friends. Plus, studies have shown kids with friends, even just one or two close friends, tend to be happier and healthier. It’s win-win for everyone involved.