Physical Development: Playing Together!

By Francis Wardle PhD
  • Grades: PreK–K

Indoors and out, physical play is important - and fun!

TAKING TURNS, helping one another, playing cooperatively, and resolving conflicts positively are all issues that come up during physical play. To help children develop these important social skills, keep this information in mind:

Toddlers typically engage in parallel play - near or beside each other, but not with each other. To help avoid conflicts, have duplicate toys on hand or distract children by involving them in alternative activities until the one they want is available.

Younger preschoolers are now progressing to more cooperative play. Though not always proficient or organized, they talk to each other, sometimes arguing. Their play shifts rapidly at the whim of individual children and as the group changes. Disputes and conflicts are best handled by first observing the situation and then helping children redirect or share their play in other ways.

Older preschoolers begin to truly cooperate, taking on specific roles and defining specific rules. Teachers are needed as facilitators to support resolution of conflicts by encouraging children to explain their actions and needs to one another. With help and patience, older preschoolers will arrive at a compromise and go back to their play. In fact, the more children use this method, the better they get!

Great Games!

TODDLERS

Step by Step

Trace toddlers' feet on sheets of posterboard or construction paper. Laminate or cover with clear contact paper. Use them to create a path or course for children to follow inside your room or on the playground. Vary the path or ask children to help you create new ones. Encourage them to follow the path to different styles of music, stepping low and stepping high.

PRESCHOOLERS

Water Relay

Ask three to six children to stand in a line with about a foot of space between each person. Put a bucket holding crumpled blue paper at one end and an empty bucket at the other. Tell children it's their job to work together to pass the blue paper "water" so it gets from one container to the other. If any water drops, the game starts over again! After you've tried this indoors, go outside and use real water and a plastic container children can pass. Vary the activity and speed with accompanying music.

Honk the Horn

Place a large horn on the floor or on the playground. ("Tonga" horns with large rubber bulbs work great.) Challenge children to stand at a specific spot and try to "honk" the horn by hitting it with a beanbag. Encourage children to share tips and help one another out. Count and graph their results together.

Shape Walk

Start this game by announcing a shape and beginning to walk in a line that forms that shape. Children can follow you or walk in that shape themselves. Vary shapes, and ask children to lead. Or take turns guessing the shapes children are "walking."

  • Subjects:
    Cooperation and Teamwork, Outdoor Activities and Recreation, Motor Skills, Physical Development
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