How Do I Help My Child Develop Social Skills?

Let’s face it, we know it can be hard to encourage your child to develop social skills at a young age. 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.

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. 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? I’m here to give you some little tips and tricks about how best to combat these, potentially awkward, moments.

Firstly, be realistic in your expectations. You can’t expect a one year old to 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 this link for a quick peek at what you should be expecting when: Social Skills Check List.

I think it’s really important to give you some nice little practical ideas on what to do with your child at different ages! So here goes:

Birth to 11 Months:

  • Encourage me to copy movements you make with your face. Open and shut your mouth or eyes. You might think you look really silly, but I will love this game!

  • Give me a toy to hold or sing to me while you’re changing my nappy.

  • Tickle my feet.

  • Let me hear your voice if I’m feeling grumpy or sad. This will help me to self-regulate.

8 to 20 Months:

  • Show me photos of people who are special to me. Let me meet these people and tell me all about them.

  • Show me what I look like in a mirror. Point to all the different parts of my face and tell me what they’re called.

  • Give me my special comforter or toy when I’m feeling sad.

16 – 26 Months:

  • Play copying games with me. For example, when I bang my drumstick, you do it too.

  • Show me photos and videos of me doing things and talk about them.

  • Use my dolls to show me how to look after a baby or use my car to go on a small journey. Use your imagination and tell me what you’re doing.

  • Help me to share food and drinks between different people.

22-36 Months:

  • Make dens out of blankets and let me and my friends play in them.

  • Put different things in a box, such as glue and pens, and let me choose what I want to use when I make a picture.

  • Talk to me about the order I should do things like, “First we will brush your teeth. Then, wash your face.”

30 – 50 Months:

  • Encourage me to do some junk modelling with cardboard boxes and plastic bottles.

  • Let me help you match our socks together.

  • Encourage me to play dress up and role-play.

  • Explain to me that I cannot do inappropriate things like run around the supermarket or scream at the top of my voice.

40-60 Months:

  • Ask me questions about different things when we’re out and about.

  • Let me tell you how I can help when you’re doing something.

  • Tell me about how to keep safe such as holding scissors or crossing the road.

  • Take me out and let me experience lots of different things.

What To Expect When If in doubt, talk it out! Allow your child to ask questions, even if they get a little bit annoying after a while. Take them out into the big wide world as much as possible, these experiences are going to teach them so many things. The last, and possibly most important, thing I can share with you 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.Thanks for reading this! I hope it helped you understand a bit more about social skills and that it’s not rocket science! 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?

Read the other blogs in this series:

  • Language-Rich Environments – Here.

  • How do I encourage my child? – Here.

  • How Can I Help My Child’s Physical Development? – Here.


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