Encouraging Social Development in Children
Children begin to form positive relationships with adults and other children at an early age. Social development is important in helping children interact with others, and in building compassion, empathy, and respect.
Children also practice language and problem-solving skills through social interaction. In fact, children who interact most often with peers are the children who have the best-developed language skills.
Most children develop healthy social interaction skills quite naturally. They easily move from depending upon adults to creating and sustaining their own interactions with others. In doing so children learn to see things from other points of view, to make compromises and resolve conflicts, and to share, collaborate and negotiate.
The teacher's role
Children need support when learning to develop and sustain social interactions. Teachers can help encourage healthy social interaction by:
- Planning and implementing group activities that encourage children to share, take turns, and respect others.
- Creating areas within the classroom that accommodate small-group play. Small-group play can be less intimidating to children who are reluctant in social situations.
- Offering activities that children can do in pairs and assigning “buddies” so that children who have trouble initiating interactions with other children have an opportunity to participate in games and activities with a peer.
- Drawing attention to mutual interests among children. For example, “I notice you like to play with puzzles. Sue likes to play with puzzles as well. Perhaps you two can work on this puzzle together!”
- Setting up materials to encourage social play. For example, place two paintbrushes at an easel or three puzzles at the puzzle table.
- Watching for children who are having trouble finding play partners and inviting these children to join an activity. For example, “Sam, we are starting a game of lotto. Would you like to join?”
- Arranging the classroom to encourage face-to-face interactions. For example, setting chairs across the table from one another or pulling tables away from walls so children can surround the table rather than using only one side.
- Most importantly, show enthusiasm for children’s social interactions. Positive attention will encourage social skill development.
At KinderCare we understand the importance of teachers in fostering social development. To learn more about how we nurture children reach out to your local center director.