Social development is crucial to the healthy growth of children. Listening without interruption, forming a line at a service counter, and speaking when spoken to are all social habits that you may assume come naturally but must be taught at young ages. Navigating social situations requires learned skills that must be developed early in life. While much of our ability to operate successfully in our society comes from observation and experimentation, taking a proactive approach in teaching social development skills to young children increases their abilities to integrate into social settings successfully.
While many ways to teach social development skills to youth exist, there are several methods you can use that don't require much effort. Below are five approaches to boost your preschoolers' social development.
1) Provide Time For Imaginative Play
Imaginative play is a vital part of early development in children. While tried-and-true games like playing house and pretending to run a restaurant are fun, they can also teach children essential social skills. Children need time to create imaginative play scenes and assign roles such as cooks, servers, etc. During this time, negotiation skills are formed, and potential conflicts can be resolved.
If a parent or teacher observes this imaginative play, they can collaborate with the children to problem solve, increasing the potential for honing social skills.
2) Create Opportunity For Unstructured Play
Supervising and observing imaginative play is essential to helping children navigate social interactions. However, creating the opportunity for unstructured play is also vital to a preschooler's development of social skills. Giving children time daily to play without adults hovering over them is critical for their personal and social development.
Create space for your children to participate in activities where they can think for themselves, solve problems, and interact with peers on their terms. Social skills naturally develop in children when they can navigate situations by themselves through trial and error.
3) Encourage Positive Communication For Real-Time Emotions
Children have a range of abilities regarding recognizing emotions and empathizing with others. Some children may have limited experience with observing positive problem-solving skills, and others may struggle to express their feelings constructively. Teachers and caregivers who intentionally model awareness of emotions and express empathy help children learn appropriate recognition and response to similar interactions with peers. Take the time to help children see others' feelings and learn how to react appropriately.
4) Respect Personality Differences
Openly identifying real-time emotions and communication is essential to early social skills development in children. It is also vital to remember that children have different personalities and temperaments that should be respected. When working with preschool-age children, getting to know each child and their character is essential to help them successfully navigate social situations. Knowing if children are introverted or extroverted helps guide play and activities constructively that strengthen communication and social development skills.
5) Discuss Stories And Experiences Together
Storytelling is more than entertainment; it is a primal human activity that bonds people through shared experiences. You strengthen listening skills and encourage respectful communication when you engage as a family or classroom in reading books, watching films, and telling stories. Consider ways to engage children in activities that include sharing an experience or story, then afterward discuss the characters' actions and how they managed problems or made choices.