How to Improve Your Child’s Social Skills
What are Social Skills?
Social skills are the key to connecting with others – speaking and understanding, using words and actions. They help kids make friends, grasp feelings, and do well in groups. In this article, we’ll explore these skills, their value, and how to help our children build them for better relationships.
Why are Social Skills Important?
The importance of social skills cannot be stressed enough, and without teaching and developing these it can be difficult for children to make friends or work well with other children at home, nursery, school, or anywhere else they come into contact with others. These social skills include being able to listen and understand, as well as being able to talk and be understood.
Conversations are two-sided and are all about taking turns. One person speaks while the other listens, and they keep swapping. You can see this turn-taking in babies when a parent talks to an infant and they babble back.
For slightly more complex conversations, language obviously has a bigger role in social skills!
As the phrase goes, practice makes perfect. There’s no better way for a child to learn and develop than through play because it’s something they can get so easily absorbed in. Here are some play ideas to get children of every age practicing their social skills
How to Develop Social Skills by Age Group
Talking to your baby can get them used to taking turns, and familiarise them with speech and language. When they smile and babble back, respond positively, in a cheerful voice, to encourage them. Singing and music are also good for listening skills.
Children of this age will be more interested in playing on their own, so will need a bit of adult guidance to play together or share.
Short stories and repetitive songs can improve their communication skills, as can role-play that encourages talking, such as playing with a toy phone.
As they start to play together, children will learn the importance of sharing and playing fair. There can be a big difference between how well children can share, but it is better to let them work it out between themselves whenever possible.
Pretend play is very popular at this age and is ideal for improving social skills. Simple turn-taking games and shared toys, e.g. large kitchen sets, and sand/water play tables, can get children playing together too.
5 to 8 Year Olds
Pretend play will still be a great way to develop social skills at this age. Children will also be able to pay attention for longer and follow instructions, so board games become more enjoyable. These are perfect for getting children playing together, and learning how to think about each other’s feelings when they win or lose.
9 to 11 Year Olds
At this age children can get more competitive, so team sports are fantastic for learning to work together or even lead a group, or be led by others. Friends are really important to children now, so activities they can do together, like arts and crafts, are also a good way to encourage social skills.
Social skills are the building blocks of meaningful connections. From infancy to early adolescence, these abilities shape a child’s capacity to communicate, share, and empathize. Teaching children to listen, speak, and engage with their peers not only fosters better relationships but also equips them with essential life tools. Through play, conversations, and group activities, we can nurture their social skills, paving the way for successful interactions now and in the future.