It’s Not “Just a Play Date”

You can’t see them but there are kids inside!

By Nadine Briggs

Kids who attend our social education centers come to us because playing with peers is difficult. Sometimes it’s really, really hard. Play time is fraught with barriers to social success. Ideas for how to play live invisibly inside the imagination of each child. When the ideas don’t play out as planned, kids become upset especially if they struggle with inflexibility and rigidity. Flash point anger can occur when his or her plan is disrupted by another’s idea. Everything that doesn’t go his or her way is determined to be inherently nefarious. When things go wrong during peer interactions, there is shouting, stomping away, sometimes aggressive acts, and ultimately locked down minds. Heels are dug in and the ability to reason has vanished.

So when those same kids have learned and practiced what we teach them, they become able to collaborate, discuss, and share ideas with open minds. They begin to use the “how about we” language of friendship and that is when the magic happens. And it happened last week. My goal was to keep the great play going for the whole hour with no strife. How? Praise. Lots of praise and positive reinforcement for using the collaborative skills and language I have taught them. Together, the kids created this impressive fort and played in it without arguments. It was everything but “just a play date”.