The Playdate Kids Gazette

This blog is dedicated to all of the Playdate Kids Club Members. We will offer fun to read articles, tips for parents, ideas for arts and crafts projects and more!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How to Make Your Child Social between the Ages of 3 and 6

Imagine that it is the first day of preschool for your precious three year old child. You have been so protective of him up until this day -- and you feel like you are casting him off into a totally different world, a world with children who you are hoping will be accepting of him. The fear of how your child will participate in preschool, make friends, and become a thriving young person throughout elementary and high school is prevalent in every parents mind. Is there anything you can do to help your child make friends – and how important is it? Studies have shown that helping your child develop their social skills is just as important as teaching them cognitive skills, such as math, reading, and writing. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can encourage this social growth.

First, parents need to understand that when a child begins preschool, playing alone is seen as a completely normal behavior. It is a big adjustment when a child leaves the home for their first school experience, and they do through a learning process of finding out who they are, who the children around them are, and where they fit in. It is the job of the parent to constantly let them know that they are accepted, and how to make others feel accepted as well. Also, recognize that all children develop their social skills at different rates. Pushing your child or being too stressed out about the situation can damage their development. The key to success when your child is developing their social skills is to proceed with gentle coaching and encouragement. By remaining positive, you give your child confidence, and help give them a sense of who they are.

So what can you do as a parent to socialize your child?

Give them the opportunity to play with their peers. Playdates are one of the most effective ways to encourage your child to make friends. Parents usually arrange them for preschool aged children, all the way up to elementary school. There are several ways a parent can go about planning these. First, you can enroll your child in a playgroup that meets regularly. This gives them the benefit of playing with the same group of children, therefore encouraging relationships to be built, and giving them the opportunity to learn how to get along with other. You can also arrange playdates with kids from your child’s school. When you take your child out of the school setting, which can be intimidating, and put them into a more intimate, one-on-one setting, they are more likely to feel comfortable and be successful in social interactions. Keep playdates small, and short, about one or two hours at most. Playdates teach your children about teamwork, fair play, partnership, cooperation, waiting their turn, and courtesy for each others feelings.

Parents can play with their children as well to encourage their social growth. Lots of parents may overlook this effective tool, thinking that children need to play with other children, and not adults. The fact is – children watch their parents and they way that they interact with others and imitate them. Playing board games, doing puzzles, playing hide and seek, coloring, using building blocks, and other various activities teach your children social “rules” without seeming harsh or criticizing. Your body language in these interactions gives children a great example to use when they are playing with their friends. By smiling a lot, using positive conversation, and encouraging them, they take note of this and can use it in social situations outside of the home.

Sports and other extracurricular activities is a way that your child can interact with other kids, and create a bond through a common interest. If you choose to go this route however, it is highly important that you focus the activity on participation, teamwork, enjoyment, and satisfaction of doing a good job. Parents can often times put pressure on their child to win, and the sense of failure or anxiety to win is something that can affect your child’s development.

Talking to your child is another great way to gain insight about how they are feeling about school, and their friends. By asking them who they played with at school, when they played with them, why they played with them, what they did, and if they will play with that person again helps your child express their feelings. This is beneficial for your child, and lets you know how they are doing socially. It is important to remember that when talking to your child, make it a conversation, not a lecture. You can also find out what they really liked about school, and focus on the positive interactions they have there to give them confidence while they are there.

Keeping in contact with your child’s teacher is extremely important and an effective tool that a parent can use while encouraging their child to make friends. Teachers are present during your child’s play time while away they are away from you, and they can monitor how your child is progressing, or what they need to improve on. If your child is struggling, you can always ask their teacher to facilitate interactions between other children, gently encourage kids to play with your child, and show them the rules about play.

All of the ideas given are a great way to encourage your child to make friends, and be successful in social situations. Keep in mind that all children are different, but with loving and gentle support from a parent, the presence of good role models, and patience, your child can have success with making friends and creating relationships at a very young age.

by Jordyn Borczon
M. Loring Communications