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Pure Friendship for Individuals with Special Needs
Ahren Hoffman

Five Toys That Can Help With Social Development

Part Five is the final post of a series that concentrates on the inherent benefits of play for children with special needs. In this post we focus on how toys and the experience of play help with social development. Part One was devoted to toys and the development of gross motor skills. Part Two of the series was associated with physical development and the growth of fine motor skills Part Three of the series was related to emotional development. Part Four concentrated on the role of cognitive development in children. For the average person the concept of play is considered helpful in assisting a child to grow, learn, develop and thrive. What many don’t realize is that play is extremely helpful when it comes to physical, social, emotional and cognitive development.

Why is social development important?

Social development is parallel to emotional development; they simply go hand-in-hand. When children play, they are learning to regulate their own emotions and feelings towards others in social situations. Children can practice their verbal and nonverbal communication, body language, release of feelings and build self-confidence through emotional development. Social development affects a child’s specific reactions, responses, techniques and strategies used in social situations like playing on the playground or doing group activities at school. So often enough, social and emotional development are learned and used in tandem starting from birth through adulthood. The greatest influence on a child’s social and emotional development happens through relationships developed in adolescence as quoted by Ovid (Roman Poet 427-347 BC), “In our play we reveal what kind of people we are.”

Social Development

Every day experiences and interactions contribute to social development. Parents are the initial source for social development and continue to be the most influential in a child’s social awareness and acumen through their role modeling. Parents promoting their child’s extracurricular activities like sports and clubs help too! The easiest way for kids to learn social skills is through play- sharing, negotiating, and resolving conflicts (sometimes with the assistance of a caregiver!).  Attitudes and language development can also be promoted naturally through play experiences. Social development is just as important as meeting other milestones such as cognitive or physical development and is constantly evolving. Promoting healthy connections with peers and adults through social situations like play dates are critical to establishing self-esteem, communication skills, and healthy attitudes towards self and others. Here are 5 toy ideas that can help with emotional development:

Family Time Fun Gather Round Dinner GameGather Round Dinner Game

This game is sure to combine fun and food to the dinnertime experience! This game just needs food and family to get started. Press the button on top and your next bite of food may be a vegetable or maybe you will have to tell about your most embarrassing moment of the day. Price: $24.99

Soft Photo Recognition Flashcard Game in YellowZatswho

Zatswho lets you slip photos into a soft flexible frame that makes it easy to carry around while protecting the photo from little hands. Great to stash in luggage, backpacks or under a pillow.  Children can learn about loved ones near and far with a caregiver or turn the frames over to learn shapes, matching or sequencing as children grow! Price: $14.99

My Friendship Bracelet MakerMy Friendship Bracelet Maker

This arts and crafts project has been kicked up a notch with the My Friendship Bracelet Maker! The My Friendship Bracelet Maker holds up to 10 strings (and keeps them organized) for making intricate bracelets for the more advanced bracelet maker or the artist.  Young fashion accessory designers can also use just 3 strings for a more traditional approach to making bracelets to share with their friends! Price: $15-$30

My First Daily Planner

My First Daily Planner

Planners are a great way to keep social calendars in order! My Daily Planner organizes dates, seasons, and weather to help kids plan their days and even includes feelings to prompt them to express their moods. Pieces are all attached by Velcro to the cloth planner with pockets for storing all of the pieces. Prices: $39.95

Wadoba BallsWaboba Balls

Waboba or “water bouncing balls” are used for active play in knee deep to waist high water. Throwing a ball teaches kids the essentials of turn taking, and playing attention to others.  All these elements are essential in healthy social exchanges.  Each ball provides a different variation of water play to fit everyone’s needs- Extreme, Pro, Surf and Blast balls all amazingly bounce on water in a splash! Price: $8.99-9.99

The Importance of Play

Children have opportunities for social growth while playing with friends, siblings and caregivers in a plethora of environments. Every child develops social skills, but promoting play can assist with the child’s reactions and responses in social situations. “Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive and emotional strength,” as stated in the American Academy of Pediatricians report, The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds.

WRITTEN ON December 22, 2013 BY:

Ahren Hoffman

Ahren Hoffman IS the manager of Industry Relations and Partnerships for the National Lekotek Center. Lekotek, is a not-for-profit and leading authority on toys and play for children with disabilities. Lekotek is dedicated to providing children of all abilities access to the benefits of play experiences. Visit for a complete listing of toys. You can also find them onFacebook