How Do I Help My Child Develop Social Skills?

How Do I Help My Child Develop Social Skills?

Learn how to encourage your child’s social skills development. Helping you understand what they are and what you can do to support your child

Let’s face it, we all want our children to be hitting those developmental milestones. We want to be sure they are doing as well as they possibly can and that we are doing everything to help them get there. So what can you do to encourage your child to reach those developmental milestones for social skills? This article will hopefully set your mind at ease about how to do this successfully. This blog post is the first in a series of four about child development of key life skills.

The Complex World Of Social Interactions 

Now, I want to start by thinking about how many different things happen in a social interaction between adults. Cast your mind to the last conversation you had with your partner, or friend, someone close to you. How did you know they were interested in what you were saying? Could you tell what their emotions were from the conversation? Did you say something to them that you wouldn’t have said to someone else? Obviously, there are some things you wouldn’t dare tell your mother for example but can tell your best friend.

The aim of that exercise was to make you think about how many different aspects to social skills there are and it’s an awful lot for children to learn. Social skills cover everything from basic manners, to not turning your back on someone and walking away whilst they are speaking. So, how do you teach your little darlings that it’s not okay to talk about what mummy looks like naked at the top of their voice whilst you’re out on a shopping trip to Tesco, for example? Below are some tips and tricks about how best to combat these, potentially awkward, moments.

Start With Your Expectations If You Want To Help Develop Your Child’s Social Skills

Firstly, be realistic in your expectations. A one year old will not play co-operative games with two other children, but you would expect them to give you eye contact or laugh in response to play. Check out these links for a quick peek at what you should be expecting and with regards to social skills: Social Skills Check List and What To Expect When. Understanding developmental milestones might help reduce frustration for both you and your child. They will also be a guiding light in case you are worried your child is falling behind.

Activity Ideas To Help Your Child Develop Their Social Skills

Sometimes all we as parents need is some practical ideas on what to do with your child at different ages. So here are some activity ideas to spark your imagination.

Birth to 11 Months:
  • Encourage your little one to copy movements you make with your face. Open and shut your mouth or eyes. You might think you look really silly, but they will love this game!
  • Give them a toy to hold or sing to them while you’re changing their nappy.
  • Tickle their feet.
  • Let them hear your voice if they  are feeling grumpy or sad. This will help them to self-regulate.
8 to 20 Months:
  • Show them photos of people who are special to them. Talk to them about them and why they are special.
  • Show them what they look like in a mirror. Point to all the different parts of their face and tell them what they’re called.
  • Give them their special comforter or toy when they are feeling sad. These object will not cause them to be dependants on them, but instead will help them feel safe and help with future social and emotional development.
16 – 26 Months:
  • Play copying games with them. For example, when they bang their drumstick, you do it too.
  • Show them photos and videos of themselves doing things and talk about them.
  • Use their dolls to show them how to look after a baby or use their car to go on a small journey. Use your imagination and tell them what you’re doing.
  • Help them to share food and drinks between different people.
22-36 Months:
  • Make dens out of blankets and let them and their friends play in them.
  • Offer them a small variety of materials, such as glue and pens, and let them be creative with these tools.
  • Talk to them about the order they should do things like “First we will brush your teeth, then, wash your face.”
30 – 50 Months:
  • Encourage them to do some junk modelling with cardboard boxes and plastic bottles.
  • Let them help you match your socks together.
  • Encourage them to play dress up and role-play by offering them a variety of fabrics, hats or handbags with some pegs. You will be surprised what your small inventor comes up with.
  • Explain to them that they cannot do inappropriate things like run around the supermarket or scream at the top of my voice and tell them why. 
40-60 Months:
  • Ask them questions about different things when they are out and about.
  • Let them tell you how they can help when you’re doing something.
  • Tell them about how to keep safe such as holding scissors or crossing the road.

Be A Role Model To Help Your Child Develop Social Skills

Finally, allow your child to ask questions, even if they get a little much after a while. Take them out into the big wide world as much as possible. These experiences are going to teach them about real life interactions. The last, and possibly most important thing you can do, is to model the behaviour you want them to see. Your child isn’t going to grow up to be polite and kind if you don’t show them how to be. Social skills are complex and will take years to master, but you’re probably doing a lot of this stuff anyway. Stay tuned for the next in the series – “How Do I Encourage My Child’s Emotional Development?“.

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