Red Tricycle | By Caroline Maguire

At some point, every parent watches their child struggle to engage in successful play, get along with other children, make friends, and keep them. Whether it’s a phase where a child struggles or has a recurring problem, watching this struggle is painful for all parents. Helping your child to develop the social skills to play better is a key component in helping them to have positive relationships throughout their life. Children are learning not just to play better; they are learning to live better later on as they take those skills into every workplace and every interaction in the future. Some children need more direct instruction and help than others to learn how to play with different children and to improve their social skills.

Here Are Five Ways to Help Your Elementary School Age Child Play Better:

1. Teach your child the skills she needs. Ask yourself what your child tends to struggle with during play such as joining in, sharing, managing emotions, becoming overly excited with a friend, being too bossy, or being too grumpy. Then work on that skill and make it clear to your child that she has one mission for the play date or outing—practice that skill. For example, work on how your child can approach other children, what to say and what to do, role play and practice approaching kids with family members and then help her join in with friends or people she knows.

2. Seek playmates who are compatible. Pick a playmate whose temperament will allow your child a chance to play better and to practice the social behaviors you are working on. Compatibility does not necessarily mean putting two like-minded children together. For example, two overly bossy, rule-oriented children might argue and a domineering child might overshadow a shy child.  Read more»