Excerpt (Book Chapter)
Children derive unique benefits when their parents and teachers give them undivided, focused, regular, and responsive attention during child-directed play interactions. During adult-child play, the child develops a trusting emotional bond and important physical, cognitive, social, and language skills. Attentive playtimes also play a critical role in shaping the way children think, learn, react to challenges, and develop relationships throughout their lives (Raver & Knitzer, 2002). Children who are not supported to develop these prosocial and emotional regulation skills are more likely to continue to exhibit immature behaviors typically seen in toddlers, such as aggression, oppositional behaviors, and tantrums (Tremblay et al., 1999). Such children with “early-onset” conduct problems or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) are subsequently at high risk for recurring conduct disorders, underachievement, school dropout, violence, and eventual delinquency (Loeber et al., 1993). Thus, early intervention efforts designed to assist parents, teachers, and child therapists with the strategies to promote children’s optimal social, emotional, and problem-solving competencies can help lay a positive foundation for optimal brain development.