Toys that Help Develop Social Skills

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Toys that Help Develop Social Skills

Written by lover of wooden toys, Chelsy Theriault (

Children learn many skills through play such as language and speech, hand-eye coordination and problem solving (to name a few) but none so much as the social skills necessary for them to get along with other people and build healthy and durable relationships.

While play seems like such a commonplace occurrence in a child’s life, the act itself is extremely meaningful to their growth and development. As children grow and develop, they experience 6 stages of play:

  1. Unoccupied Play: (ages 0-2) Child does not actively play with others and watches random movements.
  2. Onlooker Play: (ages 2-3) Child watches others play but does not participate or interact.
  3. Solitary Play: (ages 2-3) Child plays alone.
  4. Parallel Play: (ages 2-3) Child plays beside peer but not with them.
  5. Associative Play: (ages 3-4) Child interactions with peers during a neutral activity.
  6. Collaborative Play: (ages 4-5) Child works together with peers to achieve a goal.

It is during stages 5 and 6 (associative and collaborative play) that children begin to develop the fundamental skills for their social development:

  • Sharing
  • Turn taking
  • Teamwork
  • Peer communication
  • Following rules

Providing the right toys and activities for growing and developing children can help impact the strength of their social development and the stages of play. Here are some ideas for toys that can help your child develop associative play and collaborative play skills:


Pretend Play

It is in pretend play that children can practice social situations (such as trips to the doctor or caring for a child) or engage in imaginative worlds that exercise their creativity skills. Children must work together to create the pretend play scenarios and agree upon the rules within that world. Pretend play is a great practice in empathy since children experience someone else’s role, such as playing house and pretending to be a mom and playing school and pretending to be a teacher.

Costumes and props are great materials for encouraging pretend play.

Sports Toys
Providing your children with sports-related toys such as balls, badminton rackets and plastic golf clubs allows them the opportunity to practice following rules, working with different people and communicating with others. Children can work together to make up a game and agree upon the rules. Much like board games, these toys foster a sense of fair play and encourages children to deal with the emotional aspects of winning and losing.

Building Blocks

There is a reason why toys like building blocks have survived the test of time – These versatile toys, apart from strengthening other areas of development, provide an outlet for children to work together, share and communicate to complete a goal or task, whether it be designing and building a castle to planning and constructing a race track.

To a child, play is a fun and exciting activity but for an adult, we now know how deep the importance of play really goes. As a child plays, he or she is learning so many important skills that will benefit them as they age and mature. Be sure to provide your child with toys and activities that will strengthen their social skills.

Board Games

Board games, as most know, can be a true test of patience and fair play. These activities are a great way to teach your child about following rules and playing fairly and they also provide a great opportunity to practice the emotional balance between winning and losing. This helps children to learn how to regulate their feelings.

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