Approaches to Play and Learning Foundation: 4 - Social Interactions

Topic: APL4.1 - Demonstrate development of social interactions during play

Social interactions are essential in developing a lifelong love of learning and positive relationships. Children establish who they are in the context of the others around them.

The development of social interactions leads to:
*An established sense of self and confidence
*An understanding of what others expect of them
*Increased understanding of respectful communication with both peers and adults
*Increased language and cognitive skills (i.e. problem solving and conflict resolution with peers and adults)

Looking Ahead to Kindergarten Family Engagement Special Populations
Development of social interactions in play supports success in kindergarten by preparing students to:

*Treat others fairly and respectfully (SEL Competency 5A)
*See multiple perspectives and be open minded (SEL Competency 5A)
*Effectively listen to others, take turns speaking, and add one’s own ideas to small group discussions or tasks
*Ask questions to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood

Encourage families to:

*Talk about their and their child’s day and interactions with friends (e.g. “I saw that you were playing with Matt today. Tell me more about the game you were playing!”).
*Model positive social interactions with other adults.
*Plan play dates in unique settings (i.e. parks, museums, restaurants, etc.).

Educators can:

*Provide opportunities for peers of all abilities to interact and play together.
*Intentionally focus on and promote the strengths and uniqueness of individuals with varying abilities.
*Modeling use of communication supports (i.e. AAC or other communication devices).
*For DLL, consider having children pair with a friend who speaks their native language.

Powerful Practices
Across all developmental stages, educators can:

*Provide the appropriate amount of materials to support positive social interactions during play experiences (i.e. continually assess the environment available to ensure materials and space reflect the interests and skills of children).
*Ensure children are interacting with other children throughout the day, constantly observing, and providing support when needed.
*Foster the development of kindness and respect while accepting the child’s peer preference.


Create environments that supports onlooker play (e.g. place infant on the floor and in close proximity to peers throughout the day)

Narrate activities of other infants in the environment (i.e. be a play by play announcer of infant’s actions)

Place toys within reach of infants to encourage their independent play skills

Younger Toddler
Create environments that supports solitary and parallel play (e.g. have duplicates of similar objects and space where children can play independently or side by side)

Narrate activities of other children in the environment and begin to encourage interaction (“Oh, Juan is going through the tunnel. Sophia, would you like to follow him through the tunnel?”)

Older Toddler
Create environments that supports parallel play (e.g. have duplicates of similar objects and space where children can play alongside each other)

Intentionally plan for small group activities for short periods of time (e.g. a small group of children using playdough with various instruments to manipulate it and explore)

Facilitate activities while children play in small groups (e.g. “Oh! I see that you’re trying to reach the rolling pin. Let’s ask Cole if he can hand it to us.”)

Younger Preschool
Create environments that supports associative play (e.g. two or more children are discussing their buildings but may not be working on the same project)

Intentionally plan for small group activities (e.g. bringing a parachute outdoors for a group of children to use)

Introduce complex cooperative play (e.g. asking questions to help the children plan or assign roles)

Older Preschool
Create environments that supports cooperative play (e.g. children may plan and assign roles while playing restaurant)

Provide materials that promote engagement in complex dramatic play based on the child’s interest (e.g. providing multiple seats at a table, various types of food, and paper to write down food orders, etc.)

Encourage and model compromising and negotiating with peers in shared decision making (e.g. “If we’re going to open a restaurant, what do you think we need?” and then chart children’s responses)