Learning to play well with others is more than fun — it’s key to early childhood development. Building strong social skills is just as fundamental as learning to read and write.
Social skills are how kids learn to interact with their peers — how to share and take turns, how to use their words to resolve conflicts. Care centers, in-home programs and schools are where kids get to develop and practice these skills as they learn to make friends and communicate positively and effectively. Read ahead to learn all about social skills for kids and help the children in your life learn how to lead happy, fulfilling lives.
Kids learn social skills through a combination of observation and direct experience. They watch how those around them interact with one another, including parents, siblings, and the other adults in their world. As they see how people they look up to typically behave, they often mimic these figures’ conduct and communication styles. Sometimes, this yields hilarious and adorable results as toddlers and preschoolers start to communicate with big words outside their normal vocabulary.
Kids also test out their budding social skills when they play with other children. As they play pretend and let their imaginations roam free, they also learn how to articulate their wants and needs with others. Playtime activities such as Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light are great group activities to teach listening and cooperation. When the game doesn’t go as planned, that’s also a great opportunity to show the kids how to cooperate and show respect.
Spending time with kids their own age is great for growing these important social skills. There’s also a lot of value in interacting with kids at different developmental stages. Mixed-age preschool programs can be a wonderful environment for kids to practice leadership skills and build their confidence. Since there’s no end date when kids suddenly master all social skills, a mixed-age program also lets older preschoolers practice patience with younger children.
Social development may be a lifelong process, but early experiences have a long and lasting impact. When kids have affirmative social experiences in early childhood, they’re more likely to carry the positive social traits they learn then into adulthood. Early childhood is when little ones develop basic social skills, such as how to make eye contact and say please and thank you. It’s also when kids learn how to regulate their emotions and calmly resolve disputes.
This all is why increasingly more child care curricula are recognizing the importance of social-emotional learning. In fact, all states with official early childhood learning standards include guidelines for social-emotional learning. It’s also become common practice to include social-emotional development in early childhood assessments. No matter a care program’s approach, some level of social-emotional learning is vital to delivering quality child care.
Leading by example is one of the best ways to help a child develop positive social skills. If kids see their caregivers asking questions politely and showing empathy to others, they’re more likely to follow. If you slip up, that’s okay — modeling how to apologize is also a great lesson in accountability. Show your child that even when we make mistakes, we can still take responsibility and show others respect.
Regular socialization with other children is key to making good social skills a regular habit. There are tons of ways to make sure kids get adequate social time, too. For starters, you can go where other kids are, such as a playground, or organize playdates. Enrolling your child in preschool or daycare is also a great way to make sure they get regular social activity.
Help your child learn how to manage their emotions and resolve conflicts peacefully. If your child is struggling to share — which is to be expected between ages 3 and 6 — have a conversation with them about it.
Talking to kids about their feelings can help give them the language they need to express themselves and process their feelings. Giving them the tools to understand their feelings is also a great way to teach them healthy ways to cope with stress. If you can help guide them toward solutions, they’ll know how to solve problems on their own in the future.
It’s good for kids to branch out and, in a safe, supervised environment, take risks every now and then. Wanting to protect your child is a perfectly understandable parental instinct, but letting them figure things out on their own makes for healthy social development.
Making independent decisions, especially in group social settings, is great for kids to build confidence. It’s also important for kids to have a range of social experiences and interact with different types of people. These new experiences can enrich your child’s social-emotional development.
The skills kids develop in early childhood set the stage for a lifetime of social success and strong friendships. Parents play a big role in teaching their kids social etiquette and emotional regulation. What they learn in early child care is also key to helping them thrive in school as their education continues.
Wonderschool offers a variety of resources to help parents support their children's social development. Our blog offers helpful tips on topics such as communication, conflict resolution, and building self-confidence.
You can also find a directory of Wonderschool programs near you where your child can learn and grow in a supportive, nurturing environment. Mi Casita Azul’s program does a fantastic job at teaching kids how to build healthy behaviors. The Director teaches with constructive techniques including redirection, anticipation, and teaching children how to resolve conflicts on their own in an appropriate manner. All of these lead to developing strong social skills, confidence and respect.
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Social skills are essential for kids to succeed in school, make friends, and live happy and fulfilling lives. Wonderschool teaches you how kids learn social skills and why early learning and development is so important for this specific set of skills.
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