Preschool Readiness: 5 Ways to Build Social Skills
Teachers share with us all the time that in addition to learning ABCs and 123s, helping little ones develop healthy social skills in preschool is a big contributor to becoming successful students as the elementary school years unfold. Parents play a key role in helping their children build early social and sharing skills at home each and every day.
In preschool, children will learn how to share and cooperate, to work together and take turns, to participate in group activities, to follow simple directions, and to communicate wants and needs. Knowing how to do these things builds self-esteem and confidence and helps children thrive in group settings – both in school and out.
Here are 5 simple ways you can help to develop and strengthen your child's social skills outside the classroom:
1. Arrange play dates, and go to play groups and to the playground. Giving kids the opportunity to engage with other children frequently will provide them with lots of opportunities to take turns, share, and play together.
2. Give your preschooler simple responsibilities like helping you to set the table for dinner or simple cleaning and tidying. These activities are also very empowering for little ones and help build their confidence.
3. At home, be consistent about simple rules your child must follow, such as making the bed or putting her toys away.
4. Model appropriate social interaction and politeness, help them to remember "please" and "thank you" in appropriate moments/settings, and model behavior and language that shows them how to share, wait their turn, and work with others. Playing board games together and taking turns talking about your day at dinner time are two great ways to begin teaching little ones how to take turns.
5. Help your child learn how to express his emotions, understand them, and learn self-control. In preschool, your little one will rely on his own words and actions to express his needs to his teachers and classmates on a daily basis and sometimes emotions can be big and scary. Help your child realize and understand his own emotions – feeling sad, mad, happy, excited -- and talk to him about what makes him feel that way. Provide him with ideas on how to best communicate those feelings with others. In addition to you modeling healthy ways to express emotions at home, reading books together about characters who are learning about their emotions and talking with your child about the characters' actions is another great way to help your little one begin to understand his own emotions. Ask questions like, "What did the character do to help her communicate how she was feeling?" or "Why do you think she felt angry/sad/upset?" and " What would you do/say if you felt this way?"
Some favorite stories that speak to feelings and emotions and are perfect for preschoolers include:
- When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang
- Sometimes I'm Bombaloo by Rachel Vail
- Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
- The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too! by Mo Willems
- My Friend Is Sad (an Elephant and Piggie book) by Mo Willems
- The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
- How Do Dinosaurs Say I'M MAD! by Jane Yolen
How do you help your little one learn to share, cooperate, communicate, and participate? We'd love to know.
Share your ideas with us on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page and let's continue the conversation!