Learning to play well together with others is a challenging task for children. They need to coordinate motor skills with cognitive, language and social skills. For very young children it can be especially hard to cope with turn-taking and playing to another child’s agenda through active play. No wonder some kids turn from cheeky to tough. How can soft play help?
Children learn to care with soft play
If a child gets over-excited, a topple in soft play isn’t likely to hurt. Parents can help their children understand the social cues around turn-taking by explaining what it means to care about each other and the type of rough play that might cause a fall. In order to reinforce the message, mum or dad can take their child out of soft play whenever a reminder is needed, so that the child learns to play in a socially acceptable way. By interacting with their child in this way, parents combine physical activity with learning, and that can really help their social development.
Soft play is sensory
If we ask, ‘did that hurt?’ when our child or one of their friends take a tumble, we use a soft setting to encourage them to think about their body and the difference between a cheeky cuddle and being pushed over. Playing together nicely becomes easier to understand when explored using physical play alongside feelings.
Soft play encourages good social rules of play
Sometimes very young children just don’t ‘get’ the complex rules and problem-solving demanded by play. It can help to use visual learning to help them understand. This might be to develop a simple hand sign that you use to discreetly indicate they should come to you or move away from another child. Perhaps a flat palm of a beckoning finger. Or, it could be a visual traffic light system where you award stickers to let them know that they are playing well (green), need to calm down (orange), or take a break from soft play and sit out for a while (red).
The unique thing about soft play is that it creates a fun, cushioned environment where children can develop their motor skills whilst learning to be gentle and engage with one another.