6 Important Social Skills to Teach Preschoolers

September 14, 2019

Social interaction with other toddlers is key to your toddler’s social development. However, interaction alone won’t lead to fully-developed social skills. In fact, it’s not even close to the first step in the process.

Before stepping foot in the preschool classroom, your child’s already acquiring social skills through observing and modeling adult behavior. On top of that, having a base of social skills will help your child make friends and succeed in the preschool environment.

Because of these reasons, it’s important that you’re teaching your child various social skills before they start preschool.

Here are some of the most important.

1. Communication

Your child needs to learn proper communication as soon as possible. These skills are essential for getting along with others not just in preschool, but throughout their whole life.

Between ages 2 and 3, your child should know how to make eye contact with people speaking to them. Teach them that eye contact is polite. Make eye contact whenever speaking with them as well for a “show, don’t tell” approach.

As they move towards Kindergarten, they should be saying their “pleases” and “thank yous”. This can take a while to instill in a child. Rather than just telling them to use their manners, be a positive role model to speed this process up. Say please, thank you, and sorry whenever the situation calls for it; your child will eventually do it too.

2. Listening

The flip side to proper communication is proper listening. Listening not only helps your child function properly in society, but it’ll help them learn too.

Part of this comes back to teaching eye contact. People generally pick up more of what someone’s saying when making eye contact.

To further develop those listening skills, play listening games like Simon Says. You could also make your own listening games; give your child simple instructions to find something around the house. Gradually increase the complexity of the instructions each time you play.

3. Emotional Expression

Children should learn what emotions are so they can express what they’re feeling verbally rather than some other method. For example, a child who feels angry that it’s not his turn to use a toy may express their emotions through hitting others or throwing things instead of stating how he feels.

Focus on the basic emotions first: happiness, sadness, and anger. As your child grows up, they’ll learn how to express more complex emotions such as grief or regret.

4. Group Work

Preschool has plenty of group activities, so your child should be prepared. Listening, communication and emotional expression are all important parts of successful group work; however, your child also needs to learn how to be part of a group.

Usually, this involves play. For example, giving children blocks can teach them how to share with others and work together to build something with the blocks.

If you more than one child, they all may develop basic group work skills just by playing with each other. Parents of an only child will have to seek out playgroups and other social opportunities for their child.

5. Caring for Others

Caring for others is a core part of getting along with others and forming relationships. They won’t get along with peers very well if they find joy in others feeling down or hurt.

Part of caring for others is conflict management. Conflicts happen, but children should learn how to deal with them the right way. Teach your child that other people have different perspectives that should be respected; also, teach them how to have a constructive disagreement with somebody and that resorting to name-calling or physical violence is wrong.

6. Non-Verbal Skills

Not everyone says exactly what they mean; teaching your child to read non-verbal cues like body language and tone of voice will help them communicate better with people and form relationships with others.

TV is a great way to teach non-verbal skills. Put on your child’s favorite show but mute the volume. Pause the show periodically and ask your child what they think the character is feeling. Show them how the character’s facial expression and body language demonstrates their feelings in the scene.

For a more fun activity, try charades. Invite the whole family, get a few notecards, and write an emotion on each card. Take turns drawing a card from the stack and acting out the emotions. Your child will learn how to express themselves non-verbally in addition to learning how to read non-verbal communication from others.

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