Socialization is a key goal of childhood. We want our children to be able to relate well with others since life is largely about relationships. We know, however, that just being around other children does not automatically mean a child manuvears social cues comfortably. Play–especially outdoor play–gives children a significant social advantage for several reasons.
First, children learn how to make their own decisions and receive immediate feedback as to how their decisions affect others. Free play outside requires cooperation as well as collaboration, as children sort through ideas and through resources. To keep all participants involved children must control their emotions and impulses. A child who can help another person remain interested in a relationship or activity while simultaneously keeping themselves interested as well, is a child who has a valuable skill set–and how much more so when a child can strike this balance all of this across diverse ages.
The socialization process is not without its challenges especially given that, in young humans (through the early twenties) the prefrontal cortex–the part of our brains that manages emotions and filters our words and actions–is still developing. At The Unschool, grown-ups embrace the role as guide and mentor, using strategies of conscious discipline to model and guide children toward mindfulness and kindness, offering them language to use when communication is hard and redirecting when necessary. We fully expect that young children will need support as they acquire interpersonal norms; we are here to provide that help, as an extension of family.