Play and Acceptance
If EVER there was a time for forging a greater understanding between and amongst people it’s now. It seems people have failed to remember one key fact that Dr. Wayne Dyer noted:
“When you live on a round planet, there’s no choosing sides.”
We NEED to find ways to get-along...and the sooner the better! Luckily, we can look to and use PLAY to foster an appreciation for our individual and cultural differences and, to ultimately, embrace acceptance.
Children go through various stages of play as they grow and develop. Play addresses all areas of development and is especially adept for developing social skills. Cooperative play, the last stage of play, requires a fairly high level of sophistication in terms of social skills.
How Cooperative Play Makes Use of Social Skills:
1. Children must be able to develop and create friendship—how? By having a welcoming, positive attitude and being self-assured and confident. Non-verbally, this is accomplished through smiles, eye-contact, hand waves and body language.
2. For play to progress, children need to offer ideas, negotiate and be willing to compromise—they need to be able to express themselves effectively, not giving in to frustrations or being subjected to bullying, but participating in the ‘get-and-take’ and exchange of ideas. This taking into consideration others' ideas or thoughts, even feelings, gives them practice at viewing something from someone else’s perspective which is key to developing empathy.
3. For play to continue day-after-day, a child needs to be viewed by other children as someone they want as a friend. Children often aren’t given the credit they deserve for the insights they have on various issues. In Kids Define Friendships it’s apparent they really do get it--for continuing play relationships, a friend:
1. Needs to show care and compassion;
2. Needs to be willing to share; and
3. Needs to be able to listen and love.
ACCEPTANCE STARTS NOW
No two people ARE alike—those individual traits are what make us unique. Even in your own home there will be differences among family members. The book We Are All Alike, We Are All Different, written by a group of Cheltenham Elementary kindergarteners, is a fabulous introduction to multiculturalism and tolerance. It’s ‘written’ by the kindergarten students. In it they share a variety of things such as the ways they look; what they eat; where they live; ending with: "We are all alike. We are all different. We are a family.” You can bring the book to life in your own home. Compare and contrast your family and family members with the ones presented in the book. How is your family alike? How is your family different?
Gender & racial differences are something children start to notice at about 2 years of age. When they’re around 3 years old, they’ll notice physical disabilities as well.
It might be natural to start noticing differences. But before that happens, you can augment their natural tendency to view each other as individuals through play…specifically dramatic play. Dramatic play is the ideal setting to strengthen your child’s inherent acceptance-- to view people that don’t look like her/him with value, respect and love.
Including baby dolls of different skin tones or physical abilities is a great way to keep a young child’s natural inclination of acceptance open and to reinforce what Lin-Manuel Miranda said: “Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love…” The ability to accept others – for whom they are - and feel compassion for them is an integral aspect of social competency. Social competency is the ability to get along….and getting along is something we could use more of right now too. What the world needs now...
About the author:
Teacher Karen is a former preschool teacher, lifelong educator, soon-to-be grandmother, and the founder of Rent the ToyChest - an innovative way for kids to try out lots of different toys and for them to learn through play. You can find a wide variety of amazing toys there, including Fort Boards.