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Strengthening Relationships through Play

Strengthening relationships by combining resources can encourage conversation and learning that feels natural and responsive.

Written by: Jo Harris - Early Educational Advisor  

Relationships are always all around us, with people, places, and things. Each day children are presented with many different situations and will experience a variety of emotions as they engage in play and learning within their early year’s education and care setting. Children of all ages are discovering who they are inside and outside of their homes in an environment that they are attending, and forging relationships and connections.

It is through play that they become aware of a sense of belonging to communities other than those of their immediate families and friends. A large component of a child’s early emotional relationship is centred around who they are becoming as they grow and develop. 

The most important aspect of relationships

Relationships are formed with both verbal and nonverbal communication. The ability to listen and acknowledge each person within it is integral for connection and bonding to occur. A give-and-take attitude is important as children and adults learn what individual's needs are, allowing them to grow and flourish.

Strengthening relationships is not limited to role play or teacher-led experiences. Combining resources that reflect aspects of children’s interests and preferences can encourage conversation and learning that feels natural and is responsive to meeting children’s emotional needs.

The Link between Safety and Positive Relationship building

When children feel safe, they can learn in safety and with confidence. During play, relationships can be nurtured through carefully planned activities and experiences based on educators’ visual and auditory observations.

With guidance that offers both support and challenge, children learn to identify and manage their feelings and learn to associate them with positive outcomes. Relationships are built on a solid foundation in which children’s autonomy is developed, with the knowledge that they are trusted to share their needs and wants respectfully.

Seeing what they choose to play with and how they choose to use them as well as listening to the conversations they engage in can provide vital information about how they see themselves independently and with others.  

 Key Benefits of Relationship Building

Strong, robust relationships are integral to our health and vitality, contributing to happier communities of learners and overall learning. Providing opportunities to develop relationships will have a lifelong impact on children and their families. 

Factors such as higher self-esteem and empathy, greater trust, and an increase in cooperative and empathetic members of society are fostered through intentionally selected activities and experiences with resources made specifically for children.

How interactive, multi-resourced activities can enhance relationships

Using props to aid music and storytelling activities, conversations can occur with or without words. Instruments can convey the emotions of the characters of popular stories and traditional tales including The Three Little Pigs or The Billy Goats Gruff.  Additionally, wooden figures of the people and animals that are central to the morals of the story, can be a meaningful way to highlight key learning moments. 

Selecting the ideal instrument, or tempo to bring a character or feelings to life can instill confidence for children to express themselves throughout group or independent play. 

Studying different resources up close using a light panel, children may engage in play that focuses on what is happening inside their bodies. X-ray slides of animals and insects could be accompanied by a model skeleton with which children could compare what makes them the same and different.

Other items, including a Human Body reference book and poster, and Get to Know Me  picture cards could provide question starters and ideas for topics to further explore.

There are many opportunities to encourage conversation and strengthen the connections between children as they get to know one another.

For more information about nurturing and guiding positive relationships please visit


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