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10 Ways We Can Help Children to Develop Social Skills

10 Ways We Can Help Children to Develop Social Skills

As parents or educators our mission is to help little people grow up. Part of this means trying our best to help children learn and develop properly. 

Of course, the development of social, emotional and cognitive skills is an essential aspect of human life. Well-developed social and emotional skills are equivalent to good mental health in early years; a symbol of the ability to form and maintain positive relationships and to experience, manage and express emotions. 

So, which social and emotional skills should we nurture in our little ones?


1. Listening to others 

Encouraging listening is essential for problem solving and maintaining friendships and relationships. This can also include looking others in the eyes and thinking before speaking.


2. Meeting new people 

When meeting new people, it can be beneficial for children to learn how to introduce themselves, including focusing on: 

  • Deciding whether or not a self-introduction is warranted and if they want to introduce themselves

  • Choosing the appropriate time to introduce themselves

  • Saying his or her name and waiting for the other to do the same (or asking for the other person’s name)

  • Telling someone they have just met something that may help them relate to one another (similar interests) or asking appropriate questions


3. Starting and ending a conversation

Young children often tend to leave conversations, games and other social interactions unfinished.  It can therefore be beneficial for children to learn the right time to start a conversation and how to do it properly. You could focus on: 

  • how and when to start talking and how to attract others’ interest while in a group

  • speaking in a friendly manner, asking questions and listening to responses

  • sensing whether a conversation should end and when the right time is

  • ending the conversation in a friendly manner


4. Following instructions

Young children often have short attention spans, but for proper social and emotional development, following instructions is very important. Encourage your child to focus on: 

  • listening to what it is told to him/her from the very beginning

  • asking questions to clarify any queries

  • repeating instructions to check them if necessary

  • recognising the order of the instructions


5. Sharing

Young children are also impulsive and feel the need for instant gratification. For this reason they may experience difficulties in sharing. Sharing is a learning process. Try to help your child: 

  • to acknowledge that sharing is important to maintain a friendship

  • to decide if they have anything to share with the others

  • to decide a suitable moment to share and the person they want to share with

  • understand that they should not always expect something in return


6. Understanding body language 

Body language  is another key element of social interaction and transmits a lot of information. You may wish to work with your child on: 

  • facing the person they are addressing and trying to identify the feelings he/she expresses

  • noticing posture and body position and the feelings they are associated with


7. Working with others 

The childhood equivalent of teamwork is often playing games with set rules: a starting point in social interaction. Ideally, children: 

  • understand the rules of the game and know them before starting to play

  • ask questions if they have doubts

  • decide who they want to play with and who can play with them, who will begin etc.

  • wait their turn

  • end the game on good terms


8. Offering help

Helping others is one of the best ways to make friends. Encourage your charge to: 

  • decide if somebody needs help and if that person wants to be helped

  • estimate what sort of help they can give and choose a suitable moment to offer it

  • respect the other person’s decision if they don't want help


9. Using good manners 

The use of manners can be a telling sign of a child’s level of social and emotional development. Help your child to: 

  • decide if somebody did something for them and whether thanking is appropriate

  • choose the right and the best way to thank someone and a reason if required

  • be aware when somebody pays them a compliment, accept it and thank them

  • evaluate others’ behavior, choose a proper way and a suitable moment to pay a compliment without waiting for something in return


10. Use of empathy

This means understanding what others feel in order to be good friends. Try to help your charge to: 

  • listen to and observe what others say and do

  • be aware of what other people may feel

  • understand that every behaviour has an explanation and that actions have consequences

  • be aware of others’ feelings when they do or say something 

For children to understand who they are, what emotions they are experiencing and what others expect from them can be a long process. These concepts are a base for social and emotional wellbeing and they help children develop trust in themselves, feel empathy, the ability to form meaningful and long lasting relationships with their peers, but also to value themselves and those around them. 

Children learn these strategies either at home, at nursery/school or during educational activities that take place outside school through games, stories or social interactions. In Words Make Sense activities, they can learn about emotions and social skills through reading stories, poems, songs, picture reading, talks or games. These activities, based on studies in psychology and learning, are designed for young children aged 18 months - 4 years and help them socialise with others and discover their own potential so they can develop a positive self-image.


Lavinia Stupariu, Psychologist, 

Creator of Words Make Sense activities