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How do children learn to play and socialize together?

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Playing and socializing together is an important part of the (social-emotional) development of a child.

However, playing together is something that often does not happen automatically and therefore has to be learned. As a child gets older, playing together will become more and more natural.

Children start playing together around the age of 3. Playing together, for example, will help with empathy and learning to share together. Team sport is also important for social-emotional development. Playing together can be stimulated with games and as a parent you can set the right example and create situations for interaction.

Encourage playing and socializing together

In this article I would like to explain everything about playing and socializing together.

Why is it good and so important for a child? How does playing together develop over the years and what role does team sport play in this development? What are nice examples of games to encourage playing together?

Finally, I would like to give you a few general tips to encourage playing together as a parent.

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Why is playing and socializing together good?

In the society in which we live, being social and being able to work together are very useful qualities. After all, we will always have to deal with other people.

In order to be socially educated as an adult, it is important to be properly involved in contact with other people from an early age.

Children learn a lot from playing and socializing together:

  1. That it is nice and nice to have boyfriends and girlfriends
  2. Empathize with other children (empathy)
  3. Share toys and wait your turn
  4. Consider other children
  5. Resolve disagreements by talking instead of physical violence
  6. Collaborate and share together

Playing together also promotes language and thinking development. Furthermore, a child develops humor and fantasy by playing together.

To be able to work together, various skills are needed, namely social insight (children must be able to empathize with others and reason from themselves), be able to listen, share (honestly) and wait for your turn.

Also read: Toddler plays a lot alone | This is what you need to know as a parent

What are the milestones from baby to toddler?

Keep in mind that playing and socializing together are things that children should learn, because it usually does not happen by itself.

As a child gets older, they will be able to play and socialize with other children.

1-1,5 years: (easy) playing together

In the period 1 - 1,5 years, however, children are not yet able to empathize with another child. In this phase, therefore, a child does not really play together, although more and more contact is sought with other kids.

Your child plays next to other children, each focused on his own game.

2-3 years: more contact

In this age phase, contact with other children increases, although a child is not yet able to play well together.

Because in the age phase 2-3 years the contact with others increases more and more, there will also be some conflicts about playing and sharing together or waiting their turn.

Read more about this: Toddler prefers to play alone, not with peers

3-4 years: really play together

Between the ages of 3 and 4, children come to understand that another child also has feelings and wishes. At the moment, playing with two other children is better than with more kids at the same time.

The first friendships will develop and a child will be able to accept group rules.

Role play also starts in this phase. In this case, they use the same toys, they can already take each other into account and interact with each other.

From 4 years: taking into account and role play

From the age of 4, children learn to take each other into account. Role-playing promotes imagination and children learn to deal with reality in a playful way.

As kids grow, they can increasingly divide roles and they will agree on rules with each other. Children now really need each other at play.

How important is team sport?

Play and exercise can have positive effects on the learning performance of children. By exercising, the brain gets more oxygen.

Sport can increase concentration through these and other processes in the brain. But (team) sport can also influence social-emotional development.

A positive climate in team sport, where attention is paid to social interaction and teamwork, can have a good influence on social-emotional development.

Sport helps children with socialization, but also of course with learning skills, making friends and communicating. In this way the emotional and social skills of students are increased.

However, the effect of sport on the social-emotional development of children depends on the climate in which sporting activities take place. Of course there must be positive interactions between children.

Examples of games to encourage playing together?

Until the second year of life, a child is mainly focused on himself and toddlers no longer play each other, but next to each other.

From the age of 2, a toddler becomes more interested in others, but still from their own perspective.

Until the second year, it is important to provide a varied range of game material. Create play areas where toddlers can play together or separately.

From the age of three you let children together, for example hide and seek, or play tag, or bake cookies together.

From the age of four, children can police and play crook, school or other role-playing games.

From the age of about 3 years you can let a child play games with (simple) rules. In this way, children learn to follow the rules, to be considerate of others, to wait their turn and to deal with winning and losing.

It is also important to provide play material with multiple 'parts': for example different rooms in a doll's house or several cars in the autobahn.

From the age of four, children consciously choose games in which others need them, because they understand that you can get further by playing together.

This will not be without conflict, but that is okay because it can only sharpen social skills.

Read more: What is educational toys for children | pay attention to these 5 things

How do you stimulate playing together?

As a parent, there are a number of general things you can do to encourage teamwork and socialization:

  • Bring your child into contact with other kids
  • Name feelings
  • Compliment your child when they play or share something together
  • Intervene in the event of aggression
  • Set a good example yourself
  • Send your child to playgroup
  • Create situations for teamwork
  • Teach your toddler that 'no' is part of life

When naming feelings, you can say, for example, "Your boyfriend is crying because he lost his car". In this way a child can learn to empathize with the feelings of others.

Show how you interact with other people and always set a good example yourself. Come up with your own suggestions (“Mommy now wants to play with the dolls”) so your child learns that sometimes it can follow others and that he / she does not always determine everything.

The playgroup is a great way to bring your child into contact with different children.

You create situations for teamwork a board game to use or come up with a joint assignment. Clear rules are essential.

Explain to your child that he cannot just take anything. He may ask another child to play with his or her toys, but if this child says 'no', your child must be able to accept it.

Also read: Help! My toddler does not play in playgroup!

Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?

Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child he came into contact with everything related to games when his mother started the Tinnen Soldaat in Ede. Now he and his team create helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.