There is a strong correlation between a child’s early life and later developments. The process involves changes to various behaviors, including a shift from immaturity to maturity and dependent to self-reliance. It is, therein, ideal that a child adopts such capabilities since they are vital to prepare for future outcomes (Rauf & Bakar, 2019). Notable examples entail fine motor abilities, risk-taking, exploring, and gross motor development. Consequently, these skills can primarily be learned effectively, when children partake in play-based practices with their peers. Such supposition is supported by the fact that children’s nature is premised on “play,” which provides valuable lessons and fosters learning processes. A similar notion is echoed globally among education experts, curriculum developers, and organizations, signaling the significance of integrating play into children’s education (Dzainudin et al., 2018). In this regard, the associated practices encourage social interactions and access to peer groups and construct knowledge when they engage with their immediate environment.
Besides establishing a healthy relationship with family members, play is integral to cultivating a friendship relationship among peers. Children of similar knowledge and skills encourage the development of numerous social capabilities carried through adulthood. For instance, in peer relation relationships, it is possible for a child to easily learn how to start and maintain social interactions with others (Setyaningsih & Wahyuni, 2018). This outcome is feasible because play fosters mutual, complex, straightforward coordination of objectives, actions, and comprehension. A good case example would be when preschoolers partake in pretend play, wherein they establish narratives, select roles, and work together to act out stories. In the long-term, such experiences help develop friendships that avail additional sources of support and security to those availed by parents, guardians, and teachers (Rauf & Bakar, 2019). Thus, to further comprehend the dynamics of play activities and their role in establishing friendship relationships among children, the text reviews several literatures and offers a personal standpoint on the issue.
Impact of Social Play on Young Children
In the social context, Whitman (2018) noted that play was critical in the holistic development of children, including the cultivation of healthy relationships with their peers. The justification is that at the early stage of development, they begin to create interactions pegged on various factors. For example, children may seem more inclined towards building trust and creating long-term bonds with their age-mates. The numerous playing activities foster their imaginations, enabling them to be creative and engaged. In addition, Whitman (2018) fronts the idea that play increases interaction and access to peer groups because children communicate in “one” language. They can, in turn, improve their communication capabilities and develop language skills that are solely unique to that age set. These abilities could be tied to different emotions and attitudes, either positive or negative, depending on the context of play and the settings. Ergo, the relationships are made stronger because children can see other peers’ perspectives and relate to their emotions while playing.
Whitman (2018) further highlighted that access to peer groups arises when children can compare physical experiences with what they already know. Healthy and unhealthy relationships will hence be developed when children relate to and understand each other. While it may not be ideal, it is natural across all human beings that relatability plays an essential role in social construction. Similarly, when children learn and associate experiences, the outcomes are added to their schema, termed building blocks of knowledge. Following subsequent peer interactions, it is built upon through learning and experiences, influenced by constant changes. In this case, Whitman (2018) supposed that peer relationships among children playing together improved once everyone was conscious of their behaviors. Such conduct enabled them to understand others’ emotions and empathize when appropriate. Together, individuals who depicted the mentioned capabilities had higher probabilities of constructing friendship relationships and access to peers, unlike children who did not.
Finally, Whitman (2018) highlighted how cooperative play is integral to constructing friendship relationships among children and access to peer groups. He alluded that when they reach 4 years, associative play metamorphosizes into cooperative play. In turn, this form of interaction and engagement results in increased access to peer groups since every play has set objectives, requiring a team. This way, children start to become more interested and concerned about what others are partaking in, leading to the formulation of friendships. According to Whitman (2018), the stage from 4 to 6 years, and individuals may seem to want to their items of play, including toys and personal belongings, such as wears. These outcomes breed an excellent ground for communicating their ideas, needs, and wants as a collective unit. Ultimately, during this stage, friendship relationships and access to peer groups blossom as children agree on things and cooperate.
Play-Based Learning and Social Development
Daubert et al. (2018) alluded that play was critical to a child’s healthy social development, including establishing and accessing peer groups. According to them, allowing children to engage in physical activities helps them learn vital aspects relating to cooperation and the depiction of socially acceptable conduct. For example, games that border on pretense or mimicry help them bolster their competence by enabling them to self-regulate, discuss emotions and cope with stressful outcomes. However, children must be subjected to relatable surroundings to actualize these suppositions. Such an environment is characterized by healthy and friendly relationships, particularly involving peers. Daubert et al. (2018) noted that when children aggregate together, they can easily learn about considerate behaviors, conflict resolutions, and peer acceptance. Therefore, depending on which joint play a specific group of children prefer, they will seem to collaborate and engage in the associated practices.
According to Daubert et al. (2018), play among children involves exploration. However, such outcomes cannot manifest unless they belong to a particular peer group, sharing similar ideals and enthusiasm towards certain activities. For example, children may prefer open-ended pretend play and those in favor of rough-and-tumble play. The two groups show distinct variations when evaluated because the former tend to exhibit more private speech while the latter are often vocal. As such, depending on the divide a child may belong to, they will seemingly access peer groups that identify with their preferences, leading to the creation of friendship relationships along the same line. Another notion contributed by Daubert et al. (2018) was that play provided a safe space for children to try out new things with their peers. The underlying merit of such an outcome is that it constructs an essential baseline for subsequent interactions to flourish from it.
Overall, activities that involve interactions among children provide a vital platform for children to express themselves among their peers. It is often debated that a child is likely to interact and open up more to a peer than a parent or close relative. The reason being is that they are easily related to one another because of age and shared vision, especially when it comes to playing (Daubert et al., 2018). As such, when they aggregate, the opportunity can culminate as a form of therapy, mainly for younger ones who cannot express or communicate effectively using words. For instance, children allowed to play in the backyard usually show a heightened degree of togetherness and improved social skills. In addition, it accords them the opportunity to learn how to control their (impulsive) traits, resulting in the construction of suitable responses to different situations (UNICEF, 2018). Thereupon, children who master these attributes easily construct friendship relationships and gain access to peer groups.
Learning While Playing: Forest School Experience
According to Coates and Pimlott‐Wilson (2019), collaboration and teamwork significantly impact children’s different types of relationships. The two were primarily evident among the relatively older ones since they showed increased levels of the associated practices. In the study, School 1 children were accorded the opportunity to foster the mentioned attributes in a classroom setting. This setting involved direct interaction with peers, meaning everyone had access to the peer group they liked. In addition, the classroom learning was an independent practice, allowing the children to interact with their immediate neighbors. The subsequent revelations from the approach showed that learners enjoyed working and doing different things together, unlike when operating independently. Coates and Pimlott‐Wilson (2019) further noted that since the children were allowed to interact with their immediate neighbors and not necessarily their best friends, it resulted in more access and positive interactions. These outcomes could be because the opportunity predisposed them to “new” people with diverse attributes previously never experienced.
Children worked alongside their peers continuously on similar practices, intending to realize joint objectives. Coates and Pimlott‐Wilson (2019) showed that they reflected on avenues to effectively manage their collaborations, including the capability to be diplomatic and negotiate in ensuring that the purposes were achieved. Allowing children to associate with peers freely they would ordinarily not work with at school offered an opportunity to learn about themselves and how to collaborate successfully. For example, it was evident the roles peers and the subsequent access to peer groups played in the overall learning process of children ((Pamuk & Berat, 2019). Furthermore, due to mutual engagements created, it became easier for them to extend their social and learning networks. This supposition was supported by Coates and Pimlott‐Wilson (2019) by indicating the benefits of learning with peers, Y4 children experienced, stretching their learning potential. Essentially, play activities were vital in constructing friendship relationships and gaining access to peers.
In part, the access to peer groups and the ability to create friendship relationships were tied to the way children managed to address conflicts. It was further pegged on the effective and supportive roles they cultivated to ensure that their mates were safe and capable to partake in the activities enjoyably and successfully (Coates & Pimlott‐Wilson, 2019). Notably, it boiled down to equality and fairness, meaning children who showed such characteristics were better positioned to attract new friends and peer groups to their side. Working together revealed that only those who were mindful of being inclusive to their peers stood a chance to succeed since everyone felt they had a stake in realizing the outcomes. The study’s main lesson was that it was not enough only to make friendships (Coates & Pimlott‐Wilson, 2019). Contrarily, any social association, including friendships and access to peer groups, had to be based on a definite purpose. This way, children who premise their relationship on objectives are often predisposed to successful returns when accessing peer groups.
Overall, the various highlighted sources demonstrated that play activities were vital in building friendship relationships and enhancing access to peer groups among children. These suppositions were viewed from a social context, drawing different illustrations and case examples. The first article alluded that subjecting a child to play activities could foster their imaginations and improve their language capabilities. This outcome ensues because they are often subject to exploration and figuring out alternatives to “problems.” Children can increase their interaction abilities during the activities and develop unique traits unique to their age group. In the long-term, the interactions are further robust since they witness each other’s perspectives, making it easier to relate to different emotions. Depending on the context and requirements of the play practices, different feelings and attitudes could be elicited by those involved. Thus, the subsequent responses determine whether an intended friendship will be successful or not.
Another revelation from the sources was that play activities were tied to individual experiences. Those who identified with similar outcomes were more likely to befriend one another, and the same was also factual when accessing peer groups. Similar to other age groups, relatability significantly impacts social construction among children. Besides being deemed a block of knowledge, it acts as a schema where experiences and events are stored for future “references.” When the need to establish any form of relationship arises, the references are sorted to ensure there is clarity and a sense of belonging. Another factor that was considered involved the association of play activities with exploration. However, to achieve this purpose, they must belong to a particular peer group who identify with identical ideals and enthusiasm. In this view, depending on the divide a child prefers while playing, they will tend to drift towards peers with like preferences, resulting in the attempt to befriend them and establish a relationship.
To foster social interactions, including the construction of healthy friendship and access to peer groups, it is vital that play should be integrated in children’s activities. From an individual perspective, I am livid to the fact that the associated activities are integral to physical, social and emotional development of children. These outcomes can be realized by subjecting a child to a learning approach that corresponds to a child’s needs and age-group. A good case example would be to make them partake in, or offer an opportunity for them to resolve a particular challenge with their peers. The underlying advantage with such an intervention is that it will enable children suppress impulsive behavior and express emotions that conform to social guidelines and support. As such, play activities should be a mandate for children because failure to do so may hinder their social development. In this regard, a child who does not interact with others through play could be faced with challenges of establishing a healthy relationship.
Coates, J. K., & Pimlott‐Wilson, H. (2019). Learning while playing: Children’s forest school experiences in the UK. British Educational Research Journal, 45(1), 21-40.
Daubert, E. N., Ramani, G. B., & Rubin, K. H. (2018). Play-based learning and social development. Play-based learning, 17.
Dzainudin, M., Yamat, H., & Yunus, F. (2018). Emerging Young Children’s Thinking through Social and Cognitive Development in the Project Approach. Creative Education, 9, 2137-2147
Pamuk, D. K., & Berat, A. H. İ. (2019). A phenomenological study on the school concept of the children attending the forest school. Eğitimde Nitel Araştırmalar Dergisi, 7(4), 1386-1407.
Rauf, A. L. A., & Bakar, K. A. (2019). Effects of play on the social development of preschool children. Creative Education, 10(12), 2640-2648.
Setyaningsih, T., & Wahyuni, H. (2018). Puzzle Game Stimulation Affects the Social Development and Independence of Preschool Age Children. Silampari Journal of Nursing, 1 (2), 62-77.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (2018). Learning through play: strengthening learning through play in early childhood education Programs. New York: UNICEF Education Section, Programme Division. https://www.unicef.org/sites/default/files/2018-12/UNICEF-Lego-Foundation-Learning-through-Play.pdf
Whitman, E. (2018). The impact of social play on young children. Integrated Studies. 94. https://digitalcommons.murraystate.edu/bis437/94