Play and Children's Feelings

Playing can help children understand a variety of concepts and ideas. One way in which play can be beneficial is with helping children gain a better understanding of their own, and other people’s, feelings and emotions.

Playing With Other Children

As they evolve from being a toddler to a pre-schooler, children gradually become better at playing with other children. They’re more able to share their toys, play games with other children and indulge in acting out imaginative play scenarios with others.

Playing with other children helps a child build up a better perception of feelings – both their own and the other child’s. As part of their social interaction, they will inevitably have to deal with the ups and downs faced with playing and interacting with other peers. They’ll be times when they get on like a house on fire, but others when they’ll squabble and fall out.

Whether they’re getting on together well or falling out, it’s perfectly normal for children to encounter these situations and the way they feel when it happens and the way in which they deal with their emotions are all a vital part of growing up and developing socially and emotionally.

Playing On Their Own

Children also get to learn about feelings and emotions when they’re playing on their own. Imaginative and pretend play allows them to act out different scenarios and explore how different people might be feeling. In the early years, children find it very difficult to realise that people have different viewpoints, but as they get older and continue to develop, this ability to understand that other people may feel differently to them and have a different viewpoint about a situation increases.

Understanding Feelings Through Books And Reading

Another way in which children can learn a lot more about feelings is through books and reading. Sharing stories with your child from an early age can be beneficial and there are many books that deal with emotions and feelings. Children can, for example, find themselves feeling jealous or pushed out when a new baby sibling arrives, but there are children’s books available which tackle this subject and help children realise that these feelings are normal, but that the situation needn’t be threatening.

Going to school for the first time, losing a relative due to death or having parents that are splitting up are all emotive issues for children and raise a lot of feelings. By choosing age appropriate books that deal with these issues, parents can help children understand their feelings and find ways of working through them.

Play As A Means Of Dealing With Emotions

Children’s play can also be used as a valuable way of helping them deal with emotions. If they’re feeling sad, upset, angry or disappointed, playing with toys, indulging in imaginative play or playing games can serve as a welcome distraction. They can immerse themselves into their favourite form of play and escape from the world around them for a while. It also gives them time to accept situations or circumstances that may be occurring and often provides an opportunity to act things out in their own way and slowly understand them.

Children’s feelings and emotions are a complex matter. There’s a lot for them to get their heads around and understand and the best thing you can do, as parents, is to support them, show you care and let them know that it’s normal to have different feelings and great to express them, rather than bottle them up.