Essential Skills: Helping children develop social skills
Social skills are learned from an early age. As parents and caregivers, we have a direct impact on helping children figure out how to best discover their own way to interact with others.
The first few formative years are a hugely important developmental period. Every child is an individual and there are many things we can do to assist them along the journey towards developing their own unique manner of social interactions.
1. Be a great role model
Children absorb everything that goes on around them. They will watch and learn from how you interact with everyone. It can be a challenge to ensure that all your interactions with others are positive ones when your child is around – we’re all human. Making a conscious effort to show empathy to others, asking questions and actively listening to the answers these evoke is a big driver of how a curiously watching child determines is an appropriate way to interact.
2. Use play – it’s a vital tool in the development process
Never underestimate the power of play when it comes to child development. This is a pivotal method that’s key to improving so many skills – and social competence is one of them. Playtime helps develop interests and sharing these times with others instigates learning to take turns, cooperation and how to play appropriately with a variety of toys and objects.
3. Tell stories
Story telling has so many guises. Not only is it a wonderful method to bond with your child, it’s also a great way to approach those social skills that are more difficult to understand, or that an individual is struggling with. Stories don’t need to be overly complicated. They just need to describe a specific social situation with the suggestion of an appropriate response.
4. Encourage non-verbal communication
It’s easy to introduce this at a really early age through games such as ‘peek-a-boo’. Facial expressions and body language are one of the first ways a baby learns to communicate, so make sure that you use plenty of positivity during interactions. Smiley faces, open hands and arms, laughter and touch are all vital tools that constantly show your child the power of non-verbal communication. Conversely, if your child engages in inappropriate behaviour as they learn their way in the world, a sad face is a gentle method of showing that this might not be the best kind of social interaction.
5. Talk about how other people might be feeling
Not just people, you can use characters in stories, animals, toys… For example, if someone on the TV or that you come across is laughing out loud, note how happy they look. As your child grows and is able to converse, ask them how they think such a person might be feeling. Suppose your child’s toy falls face down on the floor? Ask your child if this would make it happy or sad. All it takes is a little imagination on your behalf and it can help a child with their understanding of emotion – not only of others, but of their own as well.
6. Understand that every child is different
One of human beings greatest attributes is that each of us is unique. Some are massively sociable, others not so much. It’s important not to push your child into situations where they would be incredibly uncomfortable. Be guided by their limits. Some enjoy being in large groups and will blossom as they work out ways to successfully interact. Others do better in smaller social settings. Be sure to observe your child when they socialise at a young age and help them to grow in the situations that they find most comfortable.
Above all, be aware that every child learns good social competence at their own pace. Great skills are constantly learned and improved upon – and the process doesn’t end after childhood. We all continue to hone our interactive skills throughout our lifetime.
At Nido Early School every member of our early childhood educators is passionate in their role of helping children discover their individuality as they grow. This includes learning their own unique way to navigate the complex learning curve of social skills.
Our staff are well aware of the privileged position they’re in to be entrusted by parents and caregivers to look after the most important people in their life. If this sounds like the kind of care you’d like for your child then we’d love to hear from you.
Visit www.nido.edu.au to find out more.