Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Teaching Tuesday

Engaging your child's social skills

Why are social skills just an important part of your child's school readiness and how do we begin to develop them?  This problem was addressed in a recent episode of A Place of Our Own, a great resource for parents and teachers alike.  These are just a few highlights from that discussion.

Why are social skills important:
  They begin to help child in interacting appropriately in their environment.  Appropriate social skills will not only help them in school, but also later on in life as they interact with employers, family, and society at large.

What social skills are we looking for in preschoolers:
  • Sharing
  • Taking turns
  • Expressing feelings and concerns
  • "Hearing" other's feelings and concerns
  • Cooperation
  • Problem Solving
While these areas will certainly not be mastered by kindergarten, they should be explored at an early age.  

So how can be begin to develop these all important social skills in our child:
  • Providing for opportunities to play with other kids
  • Teaching them appropriate communication skills
  • Modeling play with adults
  • Helping them build their confidence
Let's brainstorm!  What are some great ways to expand your child's social network?
  • Play dates: These work great for me as they provide me with an opportunity to get out of the house as well as develop my child's social time.  They can be hosted in someones home, at a local park or aquatic center, or at an indoor play place, to name a few.  They provide the opportunity for parents to receive feedback on parenting questions as well as allow the children to interact and learn from each other.  Some things to consider: the parenting style of other parents, the ages of the other children, and your child's temperament.  Shyer children may wish to be in smaller groups while you may wish to have your child to interact with older, or conversely younger, children.
  • Sport activities: Many parks and rec. organizations will offer activities for children starting as young as 3-4 years old.  These allow your child to develop a skill as well as taking direction from another adult as well as interact with other children of the same age.  Check out your local YMCA.
  • Church and religious activities: Whether your church provides a mom's group or simply a Sunday School class, your child will have the opportunity to interact with other sharing similar religious beliefs in a safe environment.  
  • Library story times: Many local libraries will provide a story hour during the week specifically geared toward younger children.  Our has three: baby, toddler, and preschool.  Each has age-appropriate stories and activities as well as a time for the child to complete a craft and time for the parents to interact as well.  These crafts may involve problem solving, creativity, and cooperation.
So how do you provide social context for your child to flex their social skill muscles?  Leave us some ideas and encouragement.

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