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Helping our kids develop social and emotional learning (SEL) skills is fundamental. However, the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic may have parents questioning whether or not their children are getting enough practice. Key to helping little ones "manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions," SEL is incredibly important. And while one-on-one interaction is crucial to teaching kids about empathy, there are also some toys out there that can help.
"Children learn through play," Lourdes Quintana, an infant-toddler developmental specialist associated with Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, told POPSUGAR. "Structured and pretend play can still take place at home during these unusual times. The best thing parents can do is to continue modeling social interactions at home by pretend playing and looking for any opportunity during the day."
Because the use of screen time has increased for many kids during the pandemic due to remote learning, parents may want to consider scheduling time during the day for free or outdoor play whenever possible.
"Any time devoted to this, every day will be very beneficial for their development. More things are now happening [via Zoom] from homework, school, meetings, and more," said Quintana. "It is important to keep clear boundaries to help balance work/home life. The same should apply to your child's schedule. Allowing time for the child independently to play with their favorite toys/games will work, but there should also be a component that would include person-to-person interaction."
"It's important to help kids get in touch with their feelings and practice their social skills."
Additionally, Quintana underscored the importance of encouraging older kids to play with toys and games that will foster social and emotional learning. "Any board game that requires turn-taking techniques will help [them understand] the perspectives of others and the idea that there are many ways of viewing a situation," she said. "Group games and team activities are a great way to build friendships. Free play is also important in a group to work on conflict resolution, communication, and team-building skills."
Marissa DiBartolo, the editor in chief of the Toy Insider, agrees that certain toys can help kiddos with their emotional development. "Socialization is such an important part of development, and with so much of the last year spent in isolation or at least in small groups, it's important to help kids get in touch with their feelings and practice their social skills," she said. "Toys can help!"
Scroll ahead to get a peek at toys that will help children develop their emotional and social skills.