Playing with others is important to a child's development. Life skills are learned when children play that can help them to make and keep friends. As a parent you can encourage your child to take part in healthy playtime by taking your child to a park to play with other children or by joining an organized play group. Aggressive behavior between children is normal, but as a parent and supervisor there are a number of steps you can take to keep aggressive behavior to a minimum.
Playing with others is important child's work!
Support play by making your home a good place to play.
Teach the skills needed to play well with others.
Learning to play well with others is not a one-time lesson. It takes time and practice.
Important life skills are learned when children play. These skills will help them make and keep friends.
When young children play with children close to their own age, they learn:
Create play opportunities
Invite other children to your home or to play in the neighborhood park.
The first visit needs to be short (about 1 hour) and is best with only one other child.
Plan to end before everyone gets too tired.
Know how to contact the other child's parent.
Go to another child's home.
For the first visit, you may want to stay until you know your child is comfortable being there without you.
Get to know the other child's parents. You might be able to help each other out!
Join an organized play group.
When playing without parents, children do best with a small number of children.
Find out with whom your child likes to play.
For children in child care, preschool, and play groups, invite a friend to your house or to the park.
Make your home a great place to play
Plan ahead. Avoid things like superhero dress-up clothes and toy guns that encourage aggressive play.
Find out what your visitor enjoys. Ask your child what activities the friend enjoys. Playtime will be more fun, and this teaches your child to be thoughtful.
Have enough items for everyone. If there aren't enough, suggest another activity.
Your child's "favorite thing" does not need to be shared. Let your child put away a few things that are off limits.
Make your home a safe place. Poisons need to be locked away. Homes without guns are the safest. But if there are guns, they need to be stored locked and unloaded; bullets need to be stored in another locked place.
Do not overplan. Just set the stage with materials and ideas. Let the children use their creativity and imaginations!
Help the children with some activities, like cutting out shapes for arts and crafts, and keep an eye on them at all times. For the most part, it is better if you only get involved when they need your help. Give them a chance to resolve differences on their own.
Teach your child to be a good playmate
Before, during, and after your child plays with other children, talk about how to get along with others.
Set a few simple and very specific rules.
Help your child express likes, dislikes, and desires with words. Review what to say.
Show your child how to solve problems. Explain why something is not possible and offer other choices.
Notice and praise the children for things that went well.
Aggressive behavior is normal
Since it is hard for young children to understand someone else's point of view, there will be some arguments. Young children react to the moment and may do things without thinking.
Aggressive behavior is often not meant to be hostile or to hurt others. In fact, young children frequently get upset when another child gets hurt while playing.
When something happens that is upsetting, talk with everyone. Help each child try to see the other child's point of view. This way, children will learn how to avoid and deal with arguments.
If you are
concerned about your child's aggressive behavior, talk to your pediatrician.
Tips on reducing aggressive behavior
Provide the right amount of space.
Plan how to respond in a positive way.
Redirect behaviors like pushing, hitting, or taking someone else's toys to a more positive activity.
Teach children to use words to express feelings, desires, and needs.
A child's first reaction is usually "physical," so this may be difficult to learn. With words, children learn how to solve their own problems. Teach your child to say something like, "I don't like that. Grabbing my toy makes me mad. Please give it back."
Assume a child does something for a good reason, even if the action is not nice.
Pay attention to basic comfort and needs.
Conflicts are more likely to happen when children are too hot, too cold, hungry, or tired!