Social Interaction.

Sarah - posted on 06/12/2010 ( 22 moms have responded )




This has stemmed from my other thread about child minders!

A couple of you fine ladies on there suggested that kids don't need social interaction before the age of 3.

One of my friends was actually talking to me about this the other day, she had come round with her little boy (whose about 10 months older than my daughter) and they were playing together. She said she'd heard that kids don't actually play WITH each other, just alongside each other. We were saying that watching our 2 playing (they were pretending to make dinner for each other) it's hard to believe.

So now I'm curious, what's the premise behind this idea? Anyone else believe in it?

Just want to say that I'm not dismissing it, I just want to learn more! :)


Nikki - posted on 06/12/2010




All children develop differently, and of course there are exceptions to developmental emotional milestones.

There are a lot of factor to consider when you are looking at social and emotional development of children, these can include temperament, ethnic background, gender, life experiences, confidence, how social behaviours have been modelled to them etc.

There are six types of play/interaction which cover different ages and levels of development. (I am not going to go through all of them in depth, ill be here all night!)

Exploratory play, sometimes called unoccupied play, refers to children’s seemingly random interaction with things and people around them. An adult may not be able to tell whether or not the child has a purpose to this play.

Onlooker play occurs when a child seems to be playing alone while actually watching others’ play activities.

Solitary play occurs when a child plays alone or near another child with no interaction between them.

Parallel play refers to children’s play when they are near each other and using similar materials but with little or no social interaction.

Associative play is similar to parallel play but involves some social interaction.

Cooperative play includes common goals and collaboration, and may involve complex negotiation, collaborative decision making, and rule setting.

"Parallel Play" is typical for a 2 year old. This kind of play usually involves two or more children in the same area. They are interested in the same toys or activities. The children may be in the same area and play with the same or similar toys, but they don't usually play together as such. Quite often they will mimic behaviours and there may be a small amount of interaction but usually it is not cooperative, by this I mean; there are no social rules, they do not yet have the skills to problem solve conflict, understand empathy etc. Therefore their play requires more adult intervention with things like sharing. At this age children are quite egocentric, it's mine, if I had it half an hour ago it's sill mine, I might be playing with something else but if you touch that toy, it's still mine, they generally do not have the ability to problem solve sharing. Therefore play cannot be constructive, in the sense that they are following social rules. As I said before there are exceptions, an easy going child may not have a problem with sharing, they might pretend to cook together and feed their babies, but it is usually just a copied behaviour.

By about 3 years children usually enter the "Associative Play". stage, they begin playing together in a loosely organised way. They begin to understand simple social rules, grasp empathy concepts and practice their problem solving skills. At this age although at times they may still mimic other's behaviours, their own little personalities really begin to show, they tend to find their place in a group. They start to communicate their needs, want's, ideas to peers. This is where it is important to begin socialising your child, they are beginning to grasp social rules, find their place in the world, personalities developing which will be beneficial in reaching the cooperative stage of play.

"Cooperative Play" begins somewhere between the ages of four or five. In cooperative play, children exchange their ideas about the game or the toy they are playing with, rules begin to be constructed in play, children begin to take role's within the groups they are playing with. At this age the begin to understand the rights of others and to respect property.This is where we see the real social skills start to develop. Children are willing to share for the sake of a game, communication becomes an important factor and children are ale to problem solve without adult intervention. (most of the time!)

Children learn a great deal of their social behaviours from their caregiver's, it is widely accepted that young children who have had close attachments with their primary caregiver's adapt well to social interactions with peers.

So after all of that, to my point, from the last conversation Sarah, is that it will not hinder a child's development to not have much social interaction before the age of 3, generally it won't make much of a difference. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but the general belief is that it is more important for children under 3 to have time bonding with regular and consistent caregiver, eg mum, dad, nan, pop, babysitter.

Ahhhh I could go on and on all night!! Ill stop now! Sorry for the novel!

Nikki - posted on 06/12/2010




Not a problem Sara, it's sad when mother's in that situation feel guilty, it's NOT going to hurt the children at all as long as they have a loving and caring mother/father/caregiver who interacts with them in a positive way. Not everyone can afford to send their children to child care and they should be aware that it is not going to affect their development.

In fact it's not just the theory that I believe, working as a pre school teacher I had a lot of 3-4 year olds who started school for the first time and their parents were concerned about them being able to fit in, children adapt amazingly, I cannot recall having a problem with a child who hasn't been in a child care environment from an early age, in fact when I think about it, there were no obvious differences in social development.

Generally speaking from my experience, children that had difficulty with social/emotional development (not including medical reasons) came from mild to extreme abusive families. It sounds really bad to say but a lot of those children were in care for long days all week from an early age, while mum sat at home smoking pot or spending tax payer dollars!

La - posted on 06/12/2010




Based on Erik Erikson's theories of development:

Age 2

Social Development

Solitary play, dependent on adult guidance, plays with dolls, refers to self by name, socially very immature, little concept of others as "people." May respond to simple direction.

Age 3

Social Development

Parallel play, enjoys being by others, takes turns, knows if he is a boy or girl, enjoys brief group activities requiring no skill, likes to "help" in small ways--responds to verbal guidance.

Age 4 Social Development

Cooperative play, enjoys other children's company, highly social, may play loosely organized group games - tag, duck-duck-goose, talkative, versatile.

Here's the link if you want to read more about it

Nikki - posted on 06/12/2010




Ok, just one more thing, you have to take into account that a lot of these developmental milestones are taken in care facilities, therefore it doesn't always cater for a home environment for children, children in day care may have to deal with different children on different days, different carers, it is never a 100% secure environment, and all of these factors affect children.

Also you have to account for the fact that in most cases they are talking about peer interaction with the same age group, where as a 2 year old may learn about social rules from a 4 year old, generally two 2 year olds don't really develop active social skills from each other.

Your children are obviously doing great with their social development, which mostly you can thank yourself for, they have learned from you! (big pat on the back :)

Lucy - posted on 06/12/2010




I've heard this one before, and I'm not saying it isn't true in general as I haven't met every pre 3 child, but it isn't what I've experienced with my little ones.

Since they have been about 16 months (my son, Rowan) and 2 and a half (my daughter, Ivy) they have played together most of the time. They love to build dens, sit in cardboard boxes and pretend they are cars/spaceships, pretend to cook dinner, kick a ball around, make each other better with the play doctor's kit etc, and always have done since they could both walk and talk.

When we have other children at the house, we do notice a variation in the level to which they will join in with games my guys have set up. Some will get stuck in, whereas others will say hi on arrival and then potter off to do their own thing.

My auntie, who has taught reception for about 40 years, often comments that those who have siblings or have spent time in an informal pre-school setting like a playschool, are more prepared to play and co-operate with others at school. Given her experience, I think there might be something in that.

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Lyndsay - posted on 06/15/2010




I didn't read the previous posts. I think Nikki summed it up pretty well - haha

Lyndsay - posted on 06/15/2010




I took a class in childhood development, and there is a theory out there that children do not play *together* until around 2-3 years old. Before this, they play by themselves or they will play alongside eachother but not necessarily with the other child (its called parallel play). To say that social interaction is not important before the age when children begin to play together is, in my opinion, totally off-base. It's a level system... they start at the bottom and work their way up. You don't just throw a kid into a room full of other kids and expect him to play with the other kids if he's had no preparation for such a situation.

Amie - posted on 06/12/2010




I think a lot of it depends on the home life. If the parents are working and the kids are in daycare or have a sitter. If they attend pre-k (which starts here at 3 years old). If they have older or younger siblings. If the family has friends with other children. If there's neighborhood kids they can play with.

There's a lot of ways to affect social interaction. My son's kindergarten teacher though can always pick out the kids who are not socialized at all or very little. They are always the ones that have difficulty with other children. One in particular is a little terror.

Children need interaction. They need to learn how to play together and alone, how to get along with other children, etc. I think the longer you wait, the more behind they'll be.

Joanna - posted on 06/12/2010




All kids NEED social interaction, starting as young as possible. They may not necessarily play together, but they need it, if not for entertainment and friendship, then at least as a start to a social future. My daughter is 2 1/2 and she loves other kids... she doesn't usually play with them (unless it's chasing each other which she loves), but she likes to know that people are around if she needs them, needs help, or wants to show them something.

[deleted account]

Nikki, if you don't mind, I'd like to copy what you wrote to a friend of mine. She stays home with her two daughters under age 3 and is constantly worried that they don't see other children enough. We attempt regular play dates, and our girls do play well together. But I think she feels guilty that she can't afford to send them to some type of day care setting a few times a week. I've tried explaining what you said, but you said it so much better!

Also, Carol said, "Perhaps that is in some small way how they learn to move on to the next phase?" This was part of what she said about children playing with other children in different age groups. I totally agree. I don't think it's natural for a child to always be in a setting with children only their age. Younger children can learn by modeling older children. And older children can learn by helping younger children. I've definitely observed this while watching my daughter interact with her cousins or the children at church.

But back to the original question, I agree with those that say the social interaction is not necessary, and because kids develop differently, some will play at higher levels earlier in life.

Charlie - posted on 06/12/2010




I was about to put on my kindy teacher hat but Nikki s said everything we were taught about child development in her post , and like we all know each child develops and learns diffferently :D

Lea - posted on 06/12/2010




I think its more like, you can't *expect* that most kids will do that. I'm sure plenty do.

LaCi - posted on 06/12/2010




I wouldn't know. Mine is rarely around other kids. We always seem to be the only ones at the park. I have no friends with 2 year olds. *sigh* I do think they play with each other though. I'll have a real opinion when I find another kid I guess.

Sharon - posted on 06/12/2010




Its crap. Kids before 3 yrs do play with one another.

Yes, they need social interaction. If they didn't, they wouldn't need to bond with mothers either.

Sometimes I think those women who advocate staying home with your kids until school age and never letting them see another kid, just want to justify their childs 100% utter dependence on them.

Sarah - posted on 06/12/2010




Thanks Nikki (and everyone else who has commented!!)

Now I've got a better picture of what the different types of play and stuff are, it all makes more sense to me!
I think Shia seems to be between Parallel Play and Associative Play......with some Solitary Play thrown in too! lol
All depends on the situation and who she is playing with. I think having an older sister has helped her with a lot of the "rules" of play to be honest.

When I first heard about all this, I was like "no way!" but now I see the logic behind it, thanks! It's interesting stuff! :)

Suzette - posted on 06/12/2010




I believe that it is very dependent upon the child and the situation. I have to use my friends children as an example since my little one is still baking in the oven. lol.

My friend has 3 boys that are ages 4yr, 2yr, and 8 mos old. The 2 oldest have trouble sharing at times, especially the 2 yr old. They do, however, usually share with one another. The 2 yr old will sometimes throw a fit over what he believes are "his" toys. The 8 mo old is learning to walk at the moment, he is cruising around tables, chasing his brothers as he crawls or walks in his walker, and he gets damn frustrated when he can't play with them as they play. He does play with them for the most part. He's intelligent and he's forming words that are proper for his age. He knows what some mean, but we know he's not connecting all of them. (That would be amazing for his age!)

Dependent upon mood the older two will help their younger brother. Usually the middle child has to be directed by their mother to do so. The older two are usually off on their own, playing. I agree with Carol that it could be something with how they learn to move on to the next phase.

Johnny - posted on 06/12/2010




One thing I have noticed is that my daughter (22 months) often enters into parallel play with children around her own age. When a child is much younger, she tries to "help" them. And with children a year or so older and up, she becomes an active participant (as much as she can) in the game that is being played. It is almost as if they are adapting their own play to meet in the middle with other children. When she is with our 6 year old neighbor, she is highly interactive and somehow manages to take turns and share well. With our 3 year old neighbor, she's more solitary and gets all obsessed with "mine" and whose turn it is. At first I though it was a personality thing, but now I've seen it happening with many different groups of kids she is with. Perhaps that is in some small way how they learn to move on to the next phase?

Becky - posted on 06/12/2010




I think this is basically true for my 2 year old. When we are at moms and tots or on playdates, he does not really play much with the other kids. He will interact with them a bit, particularly if it's something active, like running around in circles, but it's more parallel play. However, there is one little girl he actually plays with, and when we are with his cousins, who are older than he is, he plays with them. I think the difference is that they take the lead, so he just kind of follows their lead. Plus he knows them very well, and I think he is a little bit shy with kids he doesn`t know well.
He tries to play with his baby brother as well, although sometimes that doesn`t go so well!

ME - posted on 06/12/2010




That IS something we were taught in Child Development courses! I know that when Miles was around 14 months, I put him in a baby tumbling class, and he didn't interact much with the other kids, but now, at 27 months, he's very social...All kids are different...

Sarah - posted on 06/12/2010




Yeah, I mean I was really surprised by how early on my 2 started properly playing together!
Now, at 2 (and even before) Shia is totally involved in whatever the game might be, she understands what is going on (mostly) and she's definitely playing with Cadence rather than just alongside her.

I'm really intrigued what the idea behind this theory is all about! lol :)

Iris - posted on 06/12/2010




I've heard this too. But I have a good friend here and she has a 2 year old boy and he absolutely adores my younger daughter (4) when we come for a visit. They play together most of the time we are there and she helps him out with things. Same with my daughters, they had friends that they played with when they were 2 years old (the friends being few months older). Maybe it just comes down to how well socialized your child is at an early age.

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