Sharing and turn taking seem like basic skills, just part and parcel of growing up, right? But, for some children (and adults), it may not come naturally. Neurodiverse children and children with communication and interaction needs can find sharing and turn taking challenging, especially during unstructured times. Loss of friendships, isolation, and limited social interaction can all impact a child’s motivation to engage in active play.
In this blog, we delve into why collaborative play is so important for SEND children and how seven activities can help promote sharing and turn taking with your children, achieving inclusive play.
Sharing and turn taking in schools, why is it important?
From EYFS all the way to adulthood, interacting effectively with others is essential. We need to communicate our needs, thoughts and opinions clearly and feel heard. Sharing and taking turns are aspects of effective interaction; listening to others and playing respectfully helps to make interactions positive.
The benefits for children who can share and turn take are vast; they can:
- Join in with group activities successfully
- Develop a feeling of belonging (vital for building secure attachments)
- Increase self-esteem and confidence
- Forge new friendships
- Learn patience, resilience and respect for others
Sharing and turn taking for SEND children
Learning how to share and take turns effectively is particularly important for children who may have additional special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Many children with communication and interaction conditions (and co-existing disorders) find sharing and turn taking difficult, impacting their friendships, confidence, and overall development. Facilitating opportunities to build teamwork, sharing, and interaction skills through outdoor, active play can help SEND children improve their ability to work collaboratively.
From a teaching perspective, we know that sharing skills and being able to take turns impacts the success of an activity. It can be frustrating and time-consuming when the children don’t seem to get it.
Recognising these skills may not be innate and need to be learned can alter a teacher’s perspective from frustrated to curious: why is Amir struggling with playing collaboratively? Are there patterns to these behaviours? Is our playground structure inclusive?
What is inclusive play?
What does inclusive play really mean? Inclusive play involves everyone and promotes equity, not always striving for equality. Children should be made to feel heard and like they belong. Intentional playground design facilitates inclusive play for all four broad areas of need.
Inclusive play for children with SLCN may look different to a provision for children with physical disabilities (although there will likely be a crossover). What inclusive play looks like in your setting will rely on the dynamics of current and likely future SEND needs you will support. You can undertake an inclusive playground audit to build a bigger picture of SEND provision.
Inclusive play for children with communication and interaction needs
Did you know that around 1.4 million children in the UK have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN)? With 1 in 10 children experiencing SLCN difficulties, around three children in each class will likely have communication and interaction challenges. These difficulties may negatively impact their motivation or confidence to join in with active outdoor play activities.
Communication and interaction is a broad term covering a range of conditions, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and SLCN. Knowing some common areas of difficulty found with communication and interaction conditions, including emotional barriers, can be helpful. These may prevent the children from engaging in outdoor play.
- Language understanding and vocabulary to interact with others
- Expressing feelings, thoughts and emotions clearly
- Social interaction with new people
- Processing time when answering a question
- Reading body language, facial expressions, gestures and body movements
- Speech development delay
- Recognising sensory overload due to any of the eight sensory systems
Interaction and imaginative play:
- Imaginative play delay or disinterest
- Limited interest in other children, happy to play alone
- Specific interests outside of imaginative play
- Understanding of make-believe and fantasy
- Balance and mobility differences when playing
- Withdrawal and isolation during social games
- Anxiety about open-ended games
- Low frustration tolerance
- Underdeveloped empathetic skills
- Reacting rather than responding to interactions
Communication and interaction needs are commonly attached to well-known conditions like ASD. Our recent blog with a physical disability expert from Shine Charity highlights the commonality of ASD-like traits in children with Spina Bifida. Having in-depth knowledge surrounding conditions can help to improve sharing and turn taking skills, as the common barriers are known and understood.
How to improve sharing and turn taking
There are two main ways children learn to share and take turns:
- Social consequence
- Intentional activities
Promoting sharing and turn taking through social consequence
The social consequence of a child being unwilling to share or take their turn during a game or activity will often lead to other children playing without them. Most children will learn this early during EYFS and develop their collaborative skills accordingly. As teachers, you can offer structured activities and games to give children these natural opportunities. Whilst keeping a close eye on any bullying behaviour.
For a child with communication and interaction needs, they may not be able to read these social cues easily. Therefore, intentional activities and modelling of correct collaborative behaviours are needed.
Promoting sharing and turn taking through intentional activities
Intentionality is something that sets schools apart when it comes to their SEND provision. When intentionally planning activities or adding structure to unstructured times like lunchtimes, teachers can easily utilise the outdoor play equipment. With versatile outdoor play equipment, teachers can create opportunities to work in pairs and small groups with minimal planning, promoting sharing and turn taking. Combining social skill development with sensory needs can often take the form of sensory gardens or sensory circuits.
Seven ways to promote sharing and turn taking in schools
Although most active play games encourage collaborative play, it can be useful to know the why behind the games and how they benefit development. We have collated 7 of our favourite ways to promote sharing and turn taking outside.
Some children may be able to work in small teams, race against a partner or prefer to race against themselves. Trim trails are the no-resource-needed way to organise safe races. You may create competition on a singular module (like timed net climbs) or use the sports trim trails to test strength and agility.
A sensory swing is in the top 10 most versatile outdoor play equipment for a reason. It can be used to help regulate many of the eight sensory systems whilst giving children autonomy on the speed of the pushing. Improve sharing skills through partner swing time; children can listen to instructions like stop, go, and faster and slower.
Activity boards and panels
Moving towards quieter approaches, activity panels and gameboard tables like snakes and ladders and noughts and crosses pair tactial thinking with turn taking. It is ideal for those children who find fast-paced, active play intimidating.
Swap shops are a fun way for children to learn how to share and swap items. Items such as balls, beanbags and skipping ropes can be laid out for children to choose from and play with. Children can then swap their items with someone else, encouraging turn taking, and waiting for their turn teaches empathy.
Outdoor play equipment that requires fine and gross motor skills, like water play and sand play, can be a great way to encourage sharing through task completion. Our Water Chutes are a firm sensory favourite and offers children sensory feedback at the same time.
Gardening can be enjoyed in solitude or with a small group of keen gardeners. Simple tasks such as weeding, planting seeds and watering the plants can require turn taking and sharing tools.
A reading den is a versatile outdoor learning equipment that builds speaking and listening skills while children escape into a book. Outdoor equipment like reading dens can easily be tailored to children’s specific interests, such as sharing non-fiction facts on trains, dinosaurs, or planets.
How can Playtime by Fawns improve Communication and Interaction provision in your school?
Our SEND-trained support team is on hand to suggest and advise how to create the most inclusive playground possible for your children. Fawns has over 30 years of outdoor play equipment experience, we pride ourselves on quality products designed to meet the needs of your children.
Contact our support team to discuss how to transform your playground 01252515199 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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