Teamwork encourages empathy and communication.

Activities Used for Psychosocial Development in 3 Year Olds

by Christina Schnell

Thanks to her psychosocial development, your 3-year-old is becoming a budding social butterfly. Psychosocial skills include negotiation, conflict resolution, cooperation and empathy. In other words, your tot is beginning to understand that other people have needs and desires of their own. Older toddlers naturally become more social, but certain activities can further improve your child's psychosocial skills.

1. Duck, Duck Goose

Duck, Duck Goose might not sound like a particularly meaningful psychosocial activity, but it is. And unlike many large group activities involving 3-year-olds, there's almost zero chance of anyone losing an eye. Playing Duck, Duck, Goose requires your 3-year-old to comply with a peer's directions, wait her turn to run and promptly respond when selected as the "goose." Because of its structured, simple rules and objectives, this game is especially beneficial for 3-year-olds who are unfamiliar with playing in a large group.

2. Board Games

Simple board games, such as Candyland, provide your 3-year-old with a basic blueprint for appropriate social interactions and cooperative play: Wait your turn, don't cheat and accept that sometimes you'll win and sometimes you won't. Choose board games that are short enough to hold your 3-year-old's attention, but have enough rules so that neither player feels that stomping on the board is an acceptable way to end the game.

3. Everyday Reenactments

By 3 years old, your child has spent enough time at the doctor's office or supermarket to recreate the experience, even if she spent much of her time in either location pitching a tantrum. Playing out these fantasies with her peers encourages her and the other children to follow a social script of entering the store, greeting the cashier, paying politely and exiting the store. Additionally, these reenactments also require the toddlers to negotiate, communicate and take turns regarding each other's roles and responsibilities. For example, deciding who gets to be the cashier and who gets to be the shopper, and then switching with each other, or allowing other children to contribute to the game as well.

4. Group Construction

Three-year-olds have a natural affinity for building forts and castles. Creating a cardboard block structure by herself is challenging in its own way, but creating a block structure with three other 3-year-olds requires all the children to cooperate, communicate and resolve conflict. A lack of clearly defined roles or rules makes this activity best suited for toddlers who have a basic understanding of cooperative play or previous experience working in a group. Otherwise, one angry tot can ruin the experience for everyone else by kicking down the entire fort in a fit of frustration and running off in tears.

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