The Role of Play in Building Social and Emotional Intelligence

play written on building blocks
*Collaborative Post

Playing comes naturally to children and is an enjoyable way to stay active, healthy, and happy. Allowing children to engage in free play promotes their development. Throughout their infancy up to adolescence, children require a diverse range of play experiences to maintain their physical and mental well-being and acquire valuable life skills.

Why is play important?

The ability to explore and learn about oneself and the world around one depends on a child’s growth. Toys make this easier as they enable kids to express their creativity and let off steam while honing their emotional intelligence and social abilities. Children who play have better cognitive, physical, social, and emotional health, as they learn about the world and about themselves. We can encourage civility in our kids by teaching them skills like empathy and problem-solving.

3-4 year olds: Kids of this age already begin to express and comprehend a great variety of emotions, and they also have a propensity for being nice and considerate at inconvenient moments, but they may still act out to acquire what they want.

5-6 year olds: Children of this age may occasionally challenge your limits, but they still want to please you and receive praise. Kids start to notice other kids’ emotions and comprehend what it’s like to be embarrassed.

7-8 year olds: These children are more responsive to the emotions of others and tend to verbally communicate their feelings, but they may still have tantrums if they become upset.

“Through play, young hearts and minds find a path to cultivate empathy and resilience, as unstructured play and thoughtfully chosen toys lay the foundation for emotional intelligence. Nurturing these essential skills fosters authentic connections and thriving development.” – Michael Lantigua, Director of Community Relations at Children’s Rehab PPEC

Benefits of Unstructured Play

Kids engage in free play when they determine and direct it based on their own intuition, creativity, and interests. They engage in play without parental supervision, and the way they play has no right or wrong approach. Free play contributes to children’s growth, well-being, and health. It gives kids the flexibility to experiment, imagine, and learn while enhancing their social and emotional capabilities. Here are several examples:

  • Creativity and imagination. Kids set their own rules and games, which stimulates their creativity and cognitive growth.
  • Problem-solving abilities. During free play, kids collaborate to find solutions to issues like who goes first, who will play which role, and deciding the game’s rules. This encourages the resolution of any problems among the kids. You may intervene to support each child by affirming them and asking questions that encourage problem-solving when they encounter difficulties.
  • Social skills. Unstructured play motivates kids to take turns, share, bargain, listen to others, create scenarios, and solve problems in groups. Children may learn from and with their classmates during this kid-led activity.

Together with these higher-level abilities, various unstructured play activities can stimulate learning in the following ways:

  1. Children learn to make decisions, assess risks, and control their emotions through active play activities such as spinning or jumping from manageable heights.
  2. Children learn empathy, reciprocity, sharing, perspective-taking, and collaboration via interactive play, which also promotes sentiments of acceptance and connection.
  3. Building forts, stacking blocks, making art, telling stories, and assuming different personas are all part of creative play that aids children in making sense of their surroundings.

To help your child learn diverse social and emotional skills, try the following games:

  • “Red light, green light” teaches impulse control, self-awareness, self-management, and focus.
  • “Freeze tag” teaches coordination, emotional resilience, self-control, social skills, and problem-solving.
  • “Mother May I” teaches taking turns, self-awareness, social skills, emotional regulation, self-control, problem-solving, and communication skills.

Toys That Improve Communication Skills and Emotional Intelligence

Promote speaking and listening while assisting kids in learning excellent communication skills. With the help of communication tools, kids will engage in a variety of activities, including talking and listening in turns, learning to recognize sounds and words, naming and describing various emotions, telling stories, and acquiring descriptive vocabulary.

Talking Tubes

You can play with this toy both indoors and outdoors to help your child improve their interpersonal and communication skills. Children can communicate with one another across short distances, inside and outside of buildings, and between different rooms using a sturdy, hollow, flexible yellow tube with handsets that connect to both ends. With this cutting-edge air-powered gizmo, your kids will have a blast talking to their friends and discovering how sound travels.

boy and girl using talking tubes in the garden

My Emotions Wooden Tiles

My emotions wooden tiles is a wonderful starting point for talking to your child about various emotions and sentiments and how we express them. Little hands find the smooth, rounded plywood discs to be tactile and simple to hold, twist, and inspect.

Your children can easily recognize facial expressions that show a variety of emotions, such as pleasure, enthusiasm, fear, and wrath, thanks to the high-resolution colour image on one side of each disc.

Children can use the discs to discuss feelings with each other and develop their awareness of each other’s feelings. This is a fantastic method to introduce notions of empathy and descriptive language surrounding feelings.

little girl looking at the emotions tiles

Holly’s Phonics

This lovely phonics game makes reinforcing phonics skills for kids interesting and entertaining. The goal of this play is to match the image tiles with the word tiles. Children can segment words into sounds by using the dots and dashes under each word, which they can then combine to read the word. The word tile and the picture tile are considered a match if the bars on the front of both tiles coincide.

little girl looking at phonics cards

To summarise

Children can improve their social skills with others via play. In this way, they can explore their emotions, practice self-control, and learn how to express themselves by listening, paying attention, and sharing play experiences. Don’t forget to check out We create toys to spark curiosity and creativity. Our amazing selection of open-ended educational toys supports the development of today’s kids into tomorrow’s inventors.

*This is a collaborative post. For further information please refer to my disclosure page.

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