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Kids Learn Best Through Play. True or False?

kids communication skills, say no to bullying

Some kids love sports (I wasn’t one…) and others love make-believe. Some like puzzles, or dress-up, or word games. Others like to practice agility, explore, or play hide-and-seek. No matter how your child plays, let them! Play is fundamental to their social and emotional development. All types of play present many opportunities for kids to practice the skills they need to develop as successful people.

Think of emotions that arise throughout the course of a game: excitement, frustration, reluctance, patience, competition, determination,’s a spectrum of feelings that our kids get to experience as they play. Whether they’re happy, sad, or just tired when it ends, they’re reminded it was only a game. But the chance to test-drive these emotions in a cooperative, non-judgmental setting is so important to how they, as individuals, will deal with them in everyday life.

It’s not just emotional intelligence, play encourages social smarts too. There are tools like conflict resolution, teamwork, empathy and strategy, which are muscles kids develop and work each time they play with others. These skills make strong, functional people. The more socially aware a child is, the more likely they are to engage positively with society as they grow older, which is known as prosocial behavior. This study shows a link between social competence in kindergarten and prosocial behavior as adults that is remarkable


Just as important as social awareness is self-awareness: thinking about how you interact with the world around you. Learning the thrill of discovery, the challenge of discipline, and the wonder of creative exploration in play will help kids lead more fulfilled lives, in which they can embrace challenge and novel experiences without being absorbed in, or distracted by their feelings. 


All situations present unique opportunities to build relationships and navigate them. It’s important to provide opportunities for play in each setting for your child, but be careful not to over-structure play. As some people “learn best by doing,” it’s also true that kids will learn relationship skills better by figuring out the right way on their own. It's good to be available in case a true need arises, but best to let kids explore and experiment for themselves. Whether the game is collaborative or solitary, play can help kids learn, build confidence and appreciate their abilities. 

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Every Kid Needs SEL. But What is it?

Life Skills: Essential to navigating the  world successfully. More noticeable when they're absent than when they're functioning well. Something every parent hopes their child will develop with time.  But how exactly does this happen?

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL for short) is a term used to describe the complex process by which we acquire skills to help us understand and manage our emotions. If you're feeling fuzzy about what this translates to in day-to-day life, it's helpful to think of the outcome of this process as a set of specific skills. CASEL, The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, has done just that. Their framework is being recognized by educators as essential to positive development in students. The following five core competencies are areas they've identified in which educators can focus and assess learning.  We can all think of times when we explained a basic reality or norm to our child that adults take for granted, but to them is new, confusing and mysterious--"Why can't I complain loudly about how I'm hungry while waiting for my food in a restaurant?" "Why should I avoid talking about the great time I had at Grandma's last weekend to my friend whose grandmother just passed away?" How can we help kids answer these questions themselves? How do our children develop into people whom we regard as emotionally and socially "competent" and ultimately, individuals that are successful at school, at home, and with peers? The answer is SEL. 

Self-awareness is how we perceive ourselves, our identity and our emotions. Self-management is how we deal with these emotions in regard to ourselves, in areas such as productivity, discipline, and organization. The extensions of these individual competencies are their social counterparts: social awareness, or how we perceive others, and relationship skills, or how we relate to others in areas such as engagement, communication, and conflict resolution. 

The fifth area of competency employs all the others and, for this reason, is the most complex. Responsible decision-making asks us to consider all the possible outcomes of a situation and evaluate them, reflecting on our needs and the needs of others, safety, ethics, and social norms among other things, to make the best choice. The ultimate goal of development is to be able to make good choices. We cannot always control what we experience, but we can control how we respond to it. When we do this well, we are successful. Social and emotional learning gives us the tools we will use throughout life to be successful people. 

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