The Social Playground: Helping Your Child Thrive Socially
21 June 2023
Learning social skills will be fundamental for your child. For some, it comes easy and naturally, while for others, it takes practice and time – every toddler is different! As soon as toddlers begin to communicate with other people, they should start to develop social skills, such as social cues, how to have a conversation, manners, appropriate language for the particular context, and how to form relationships.
Many toddlers will be able to figure out most of this on their own, however, as parents you may need to give them a bit of support and encouragement. Starting the development of these skills early will help your toddler find their place in the world and will encourage them to enjoy daycare and school. Here are some ideas to help develop your little one’s social skills and why they’re important.
Arrange Play Dates For Your Child
Play dates are fun! As a parent, you can meet other parents at daycare and school drop offs, and it is highly likely they will be wanting their child to have play dates too. Take this time to organise them for your toddler, as it will help them form stronger friendships with other toddlers that are the same or similar age. When you tell your child their new friend is coming over for a play date, watch how excited they become! This will also give you the chance to observe your toddler’s social skills, and you will then be able to guide them. There are many different play dates you could plan:
- Visit to your home
- Send your child to their friend’s home (ensure you know the parent well before this)
- Trip to a park or playground
- Some type of local entertainment facility
- Coffee date with the other toddler’s parent: this is great because it allows both you and your toddler to socialise
Teach Them How To Share With Others
Sharing- it’s not everyone’s strong suit. Some toddlers have no issues sharing, but for others, well… it can be a struggle. Whether it is about sharing toys or food, it is a very good characteristic all toddlers should aim to improve on. Parents should encourage their children to share with their siblings, friends and themselves as it creates healthy and positive social habits.
Ultimately, sharing is a fundamental human aspect, and toddlers should be taught and encouraged to share right from when they first starting interacting with others. Having the ability to share is the foundation for other traits; such as being respectful, empathetic and kind, and having good manners.
So how do you, as a parent, encourage sharing?
- Suggest they take turns playing with a particular toy
- If your toddler is eating a treat, suggest they offer their friend some
- Be a role model and share your own snacks or other items with them
If your toddler does not agree to share, you could take away the toy or treat and explain that they must share if they want it. You should also explain to your toddler why sharing is important and justify how it would make their friend feel. Communicating the purpose for sharing to your toddler will help them to realise the effect it will have on their friend and should create a feeling of empathy.
Show Them How To Be Respectful And Have Good Manners
Nobody wants to be friends with someone who is rude or mean to them, are we right? People usually want to surround themselves with those who make them feel valued and happy. Toddlers should be taught how to use their manners as soon as they starting communicating. This will take a lot of reinforcing and encouraging from parents, but it will be very valuable to them when they begin to form relationships.
It is helpful to teach your child respect and manners at home before they begin attending school. This will have so many benefits for your toddler! They will be able to form so many more relationships with other students and teachers, and it will allow the teachers to focus more on educating the students about school, rather than manners.
One of the most crucial characteristics a toddler should learn is respect. Respect goes hand in hand with having manners, and will be super important for when your toddler begins to make friendships. As parents, this is how you can encourage your toddler to use manners and be respectful:
- Use prompts such as “what do you say” when they are given something
- Teaching them what words should and shouldn’t be used (eliminating bad words and encouraging please and thank you)
- Correcting them when they use harsh tones and asking them to repeat what they said in a kind, more respect way
We understand it can be exhausting, but persistence is key! Soon it will become your child’s first nature and they will find socialising so much easier.
Help Develop Their Understanding Of Social Cues
As your child learns different ways everyone communicates, they will begin to pick up social cues, but this will take time. You child will firstly understand emotion through tones and body language. For example, as a parent, when you’re a little cranky about something, you may use a harsher tone than what you usually would. Your toddler should understand they have done something wrong by your tone and body language rather than your words.
As they meet more people, they will begin to understand that everyone is different and communicates in different ways. They will begin to understand when someone, such as a friend, is upset and they will be able to apply their learnt social skills to support them or cheer them up. They will develop empathy for others and learn how they should react to someone being upset.
Most of this will come naturally to your child the more they meet and interact with others, however they may need some guidance to begin with! Toddlers first experience social interactions at home. This means parents and older siblings should demonstrate positive and helpful behaviour.
Toddlers begin to learn social skills at home from the moment they begin observing, to then communicating. As parents, you can support your child by encouraging them to make friends and have positive relationships with everyone in their life. These are skills they will learn and use for their entire lives, so keeping a close eye on how your toddler socialises is so important!