Wondering why your child is so excited to head out of the house for a playdate? Children thrive off the company of their peers. They seek out friends because preschoolers are inherently social creatures.
Kids are intrigued by other children, quick to observe the behaviour of others’ and adopt social norms in the environment around them. While good social skills enable children to improve their relationships with their peers, the benefits go far beyond!
The Benefits of Social Skills
Social skills are important elements in helping kids succeed socially, personally, emotionally, and even academically. These set of skills enable children to chime into conversations, work together with their peers, develop lasting friendships, ask for help when they need one, and much more.
Studies have shown how childhood friendships are beneficial for kids’ mental health and social and emotional skills in their kindergarten years are the biggest predictor of success in adulthood. Likewise, not having the ability to socialise with others may compound on their problems, as they aren’t able to talk it out.
Curious about why some children cry on their first day of preschool while others don’t?
Socialising helps children be more confident individuals and that makes them less anxious when they are separated from their parents. This means they fuss less when they have to go to child care and be away from their parents.
If you’ve observed how your child tends to prefer playing on their own, it is a sign that adults should step in to help equip kids with social skills. Social competencies require continuous refinement as children develop, learn, grow, and try to make sense of the world around them. Although sometimes having the alone time is comforting and productive, young kids would benefit from having these skills instilled from an early age, so that they will have the foundations they require as adults.
5 Important Social Skills for Young Children
Sociability is something that can be taught and while heading to a preschool helps kids act upon and learn these skills much more efficiently, it would be great for parents to be exposed to these important social competencies.
“I only have one bag of cookies, Chiara, could you share them with your brother?”
Children who have siblings at home are already familiar with the concept of sharing. A willingness to share a toy or a snack can go a very long way to help kids keep and make friends. Studies have also shown that sharing helps boost kids’ self-esteem.
“That’s great Chiara, your brother is smiling so happily because you shared your cookies with him! That’s a nice thing to do!”
Generally, young children who feel good about themselves are more likely to share; and as they share, it in turn makes them feel great about themselves as they receive positive feedback from the adults around them.
But what happens if they are the only child? Opportunities to share don’t come by that often…
How To Learn To Share?
This is when they can get them to practise sharing with you or your spouse.
“Edmund, Mummy only has one apple, I’m going to give it to you.” Daddy can then come along and ask, “Edmund, Daddy really wants to have a bite of an apple, can you share it with me?”
When Edmund has successfully shared the apple, you can then praise him and regularly point out how that makes others’ feel. “Wow, Daddy is so happy that you shared your juicy red apple with him!”
Listening is not just about being quiet, it actually means absorbing and comprehending what someone else is saying. Listening is also a crucial component of healthy communication and essential for actual learning in school.
In today’s digital age, listening is becoming increasingly difficult as a skill to master because there are simply so much distractions from one’s phone, to the television, and more.
How To Learn To Listen?
Reading with your child is a great way to teach listening skills. Rather than speeding through that bedtime story, reading involves communicating with children and asking them thoughtful questions about the scenarios, characters, and stories in the book. While reading, you could also pause and ask them what they have remembered about the story so far. This allows you to encourage them to listen intently as they will need to reiterate what they remember. It is okay if they don’t remember everything, help them fill in the gaps and applaud them for their effort!
Another great way to encourage good listening skills is to remind children not to interrupt others when they are talking. Interrupting others mean that they are not listening attentively and should be discouraged.
3. Maintaining Eye Contact
Another important component of communication is to make eye contact. Shy children who love to stare at the floor are not all that shy! They just need to be guided and encouraged. Not looking at the person when communicating would mean that they will miss reading important non-verbal cues, such as if the person appears restless and bored about what you are talking about. Having eye contact also helps them to pick up non-verbal communication cues, which are highly essential social skills in school and even in the workplace. It may even turn people away as they feel disconnected when talking to someone who doesn’t give them that eye contact.
How To Learn To Maintain Eye Contact?
As young children may not realise the importance of eye contact, you can show it to them! Try getting them to tell you about their day in school as you stare at the ground, and look everywhere else but them. You’d realised that they will pester you to listen to them and desire for eye contact. You can then give them the appropriate eye contact as they talk about their day and then ask them how they felt in both circumstances. For even younger children, a good way is to remind them gently, “where should your eyes go when someone is talking to you?”
Parents should also avoid talking to children when they are in the midst of playing and when they are not looking at you. This means that whatever you tell them will fall through deaf ears anyway, and it teaches them to pause what they are doing, and look up when someone else is talking to them.
Kids who work together with others to achieve a common goal are respectful of others, enjoy contributing, and are willing to help out.
To get along well with others, kids need to have good cooperation skills. Especially when in preschool, they need to cooperate with others as they play in the playground, taking turns, and also in the classroom as they complete projects as a team.
Cooperating also means they will need to follow directions and instructions. To help children with that, adults who give instructions need to be clear and concise. Having multiple instructions at a go will confuse little ones.
How To Learn Cooperation?
Cooperation is easily taught when completing tasks as an entire family unit. It could be simple baking, or creating a card for grandma, where everyone works together to complete the goal. Besides teaching the essential skill of cooperation, it is also a great chance for families to bond!
5. Respecting Personal Space
Some little ones like to come up close to you as they talk. They may get really close to their peers or acquaintances without knowing that the other party may not feel comfortable. Fights and quarrels may ensue when the young ones aren’t able to keep to themselves and do not realise, they are overstepping boundaries of another child.
Respecting personal space also means respecting the belongings of others and they good social skills include asking for permission or consent before borrowing the belongings of another child.
How To Learn To Respect Personal Space?
This trait is particularly great to teach in our current time. With our safe distancing measures in place, children will need to respect personal space and stay 1 metre away from their peers, or anyone for that matter. In preschools, there are markings on the floor to help guide them to play and learn in their respective spaces. Toys and materials shouldn’t be shared to minimise any form of contamination.
Beyond these, children can be taught to “keep their hands to themselves” or to “stand at an arm’s length away from people when they are talking”. Role-playing scenarios are great to teach them this social skill.
Furthermore, it is important to teach children to not let others, especially strangers, invade into their personal space. This helps to educate them and prevent them from getting into any form of harm when playing in public spaces like in the neighbourhood playground.
There are also picture books (Personal Space Camp by Julia Cook) which can help children learn about personal space.
Children Learn Social Skills In Preschools
Ultimately, picking up these social skills require lots of trial and error and children need to be exposed to different individuals, peers, and adults like their parents, grandparents, and teachers to be successfully equipped for the future world. Since the social element exists in preschools and child care settings, it is through these early experiences where children, practise, adapt and learn.
At Mulberry Learning, besides preparing them for Primary school, our proprietary curriculum which infuses the Habits of MindTM framework help children gain social skills by learning how to think interdependently. Beyond the social skills mentioned previously which are infused into everyday scenarios in our early learning centres, they also get to be equipped with intelligent thinking skills which will help them be more confident when confronted with difficulities. Just as how influential individuals like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, children will inculcate positive habits to interact with diverse group of people.
Our Signature Programmes
Besides the Habits of MindTM framework, find out more about our proprietary curriculum model which promises a fun and engaging learning experience like no other. Every child will receive a comprehensive and holistic education that helps them excel in the future world.
About Mulberry Learning
Established in 2006, Mulberry Learning is an award-winning Reggio-inspired preschool with 11 locations around Singapore. Mulberry Learning is the world’s first and only preschool network certified by the USA for the Habits of MindTM framework, and its curriculum has been voted as “Singapore’s Best Holistic Learning Programme” for 3 years running by leading parenting publications.
Be it a Bilingual or Chinese Preschool, find out how Mulberry Learning’s award-winning curriculum can help prepare your child for his or her Primary years and beyond! Explore our beautifully crafted Reggio-inspired learning spaces from the comfort of your own home with our Virtual School Tours. Register Your Interest and find out how Mulberry Learning can help your little ones become a confident communicator, independent thinker, and a passionate lifelong learner.