Encouraging Social Development
Early social skills are important to your child’s overall development because 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 use social interactions as a way to practice language and problem-solving skills. In fact, children who interact most often with peers are the children who have the best-developed language skills. And, of course, children enjoy interacting with peers as other children are more likely to share the same interests.
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 in the following ways:
- Plan and implement group games and activities that encourage children to share, take turns, and respect others.
- Create learning centers within the classroom that accommodate small-group play. Small-group play can be less intimidating to children who are reluctant in social situations.
- Offer activities that children can do in pairs. Assign “buddies” so that children who have trouble initiating interactions with other children have an opportunity to participate in games and activities with a peer.
- Draw attention to mutual interests among children. Comment on the things children have in common and make suggestions that draw them into social play. 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!”
- Set up equipment to encourage social play. For example, place two paintbrushes at an easel or three puzzles at the puzzle table.
- Watch for children who are having trouble finding play partners. Invite these children to join an activity. For example, “Sam, we are starting a game of lotto. Would you like to join?”
- Arrange classroom equipment to encourage face-to-face interactions. For example, set chairs across the table from one another or pull tables away from walls so children can surround the table rather than using only one side.
Most importantly, show enthusiasm for your child’s social interactions. Positive attention will increase the likelihood that social interactions continue.