Cause and Cure of the Socially Snobby Syndrome – make right with play

My friends Heidi and Suzie had things that I didn’t. Suzie had an easy bake oven that baked real cakes you could eat. One time when I was over, she gave showed me the new gift. I was so jealous. “So, what do you want to make oatmeal cake or brownies” she said holding out two mixes.We picked brownies. She read the instructions carefully. Suzie was very meticulous and organized. This was a new endeavor for me to bake on my own. But I knew with Suzie’s help, it would turn out just right. We mixed it up and put it in the oven. There was a light that lit up the pan and we watched it bake. It didn’t take long before we were eating real chocolate brownies. I felt so grown up.

Heidi, another good playmate, was interested in animals quite a bit. Either that or Little House on the Prairie. I had fun with both. One day we played Little House. Heidi was the horse pulling a red wagon. I was Pa heading to town. She pulled me around the house bumps and all several times and even made the perfect horse sounds. I felt like I was really out on the prairie.

Heidi and Suzie had things that I wanted but never got. Yet, I still have fond memories of playing with their toys. They shared. They instructed at times but didn’t boss me around. They didn’t have a lot of toys that prevented us from developing a play scheme. They invited me to play and had ideas.
I could either refuse or join in. I was almost always joining in. Heidi and Suzie were rarely Socially Snobby.  So was that just the “good old days” when play was at its perfection?
The socially snobby in the young play circles are those that have too many toys, are overwhelmed, and bored all too quickly. Their play schemes are limited.  They are focused on being first with little turn taking which prevents sharing. They may also have little social graces including a pleasant invitation to play, eye contact, and two way conversation.

When I wrote about both my daughter’s play experiences and my own with the socially snobby, I neglected to mention that by no means was I nor is my daughter play perfect.  I had to be coached and continue to be through some trained teachers in the area of autism and through some helpful “bibles” such as Out of Sync Child and Julia Moore’s book on play. With my daughter, she could fit the syndrome to a T as would any autistic child.  But the nonaustistic child is showing these characteristics as well and therefore is becoming more the social snob. My point in warning about the socially snobby is that it seems they will take over play unless we as educators, parents,  observers recognize the cause and cure of the syndrome. In addition, we need to be coaches along this early childhood way and world of play. That has been my motive in play with both of my children and the children I teach. In the name of good citizenship and healthy social skills not to mention many other play teaching skills for overall healthy development, I have sorted through this issue and continue to learn how to cure this epidemic.

 Too many toys are one cause for SSS. They overwhelm the child causing them to flit from one to the next without giving a good focus to one. The more they have the more they want something better. They have little play schemes to use for their toys. Parents are constantly buying new things for their kids making for a fantastic garage sale later. It is somehow been the mindset that many toys are needed for play and can take the place of time that parents play with their child. This too has led to the socially snobby child.

“My mom went on a trip to Las Vegas for two weeks and brought me this keychain that lights up, a Polly Pocket and pool, and a pair of sequence sunglasses” . This was in a nutshell what was shared during show and tell time in my class. Christmas time, birthdays, or just to get the kids to stop whining, are all reasons parents justify giving their parents one more cool toy.

 Julia Moore’s book on play provides helpful solutions. Hide some toys. Put them away for a later time. Have fewer available so that opportunity for numerous play schemes can develop. If a new toy is acquired, another toy should be worn out and given away. Limit the number of toys so that they are appreciated by the development of various play schemes.  Trying out Moore’s strategy has worked like magic for my children. After hiding a toolbox, for several months, my son has enjoyed fixing things with his dad, is learning names of tools, and is wanting to know what jobs he can do with his tools. Maybe one day he can pretend to build a house with them.

Play schemes can be limited when given too many toys. In the case of Florence who has everything from 50 dolls, 100 dress up outfits, thousands of storybooks,  kitchen sets, dollhouses, – you name it she has it.
Are they played with over the course of the week? I suspect not. Why? Because the thrill has worn off after one or two times. Her desire is to for something else not to develop a new fun play scheme with what she already has.
Awhile ago, I bought my daughter a dollhouse. It was a simple one but cute. It has a few pieces of furniture of family of dolls, an outside, and five rooms. Within this ONE dollhouse, there are endless play schemes. So far with one dollhouse, she has had the girls go to sleep, eat their breakfast, jump in the pool outside, clean up the house, and play hide and seek. The learning and the playing with the dollhouse alone can be used for years to come. As I observe my daughter play with her dollhouse and develop new play schemes, there is evidence of appreciation.

At this young age, being egocentric is of of a child’s nature. ‘Me first, It’s my turn, I want that, forgetting to say please and thank you, all of these things are common. But when the child is allowed and taught to act so, it becomes validated. It spills into play. Play involves turn taking and cooperation. If a child is focused on when it is THEIR turn – they may find themselves alone at play. This is an evaluated benchmark on the early childhood report card. Does the child take turns? Does the child have patience to see what will happen when another contributes to the play scheme? Is a change going to upset them or can they cope with a change brought on upon the other?

Julia Moore suggests for the autistic child several activities that would create an awareness and an appreciation for others. These solutions help nurture the turn taking skills. She suggests that while the child is taking a turn, have them wear something or  hold something. In my daughter’s class the name is announced- “It’s Joe’s turn” then a comment about the turn- “Good job Joe”. Turn taking is essential in play for positive social interaction. I believe coaching in this area is always needed for any child.

There are many social graces that are involved in play. One invites a child to play with eye contact.: “Heidi, do you want to play horses with me?” The other receiver responds “Yes, I would like to play, that would be fun Heidi.” During the play session there is conversation, “Let’s make our horses race in the field” …. “Mine is tired and needs a drink” “What kind of horse do you like Heidi?”   …..”Well, I like Morgans they are so pretty.” etc

My daughter is learning to do all of this. She is getting better and better. She is still learning as at times the initial invitation to play is weak. But some graces are strong and continue to be strong. I have concern when she greets a friend and invites them to play and the playmate gives a “deer in the lights” look. Parents need to rehearse this language and social cues with their children to instill confidence during the interaction. Role playing or using a couple of puppets to act it out. Children need to be instilled with the language of play which is not just a random conversation. There are meaningful words and non verbals which are helpful.

What is disturbing to me is when my daughter sees a friend makes eye contact and says “Hi”. She may even invite them to join her in a certain activity. The response is often a cold stare and then a running away.
What should happen if kids are coached, is eye contact and a response- “No thanks not today see you later bye” with a wave. Or if the answer is “Okay sure.” then the conversation involves turn taking, sharing of ideas, and problem solving. The non verbals involve eye contact, gestures, and proximity.

I do observe perfect play happening which is encouraging that the Social Snob Syndrome can be cured. Parents and teachers alike have a role in play. I have a lot of work to do and continue to enjoy the learning. Thanks for reading. To God, be the Glory.

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