Young children in daycare are beginning to discover and develop social skills. A preschooler learns about social interaction when relating to his friends. Daycare providers are tasked with helping the children in their care form friendships and to cooperate with other children on a daily basis. In daycare, children also learn to do things with others to reach a common goal.
In our interview with Susan Cooper, M.Ed., early child development expert and member of Applied Scholastics International , Cooper offers the tips for teaching children to get along with peers and explains how child care providers can nurture friendship skills.
Own A Daycare: What do children in preschool understand about friendship? In other words, in what stage of development are preschool children going through?
Susan Cooper: Children in preschool generally want to play and have friends with others. However, some children are more advanced than others. This is where the guidance of the teachers or parents has to come into play. Children in preschool may possess the need to interact with other children but not understand behavior enough to execute the interactions well. An example is sharing. This is part of friendship and of social interactions with friends. Most children have to learn how to share and can’t be expected to always get it right.
Own A Daycare: What are the social skills children need to possess in order to form rewarding, mutually enjoyable friendships?
Susan Cooper: First of all, children need to learn how to communicate in its simplest terms. This begins with giving children structured times when they get to practice talking with their peers. It includes the basics, looking at your friend when you speak, making sure your friend is listening and ready, letting your friend answer you, and then acknowledging that you heard the answer or response.
Once a child has some degree of communication skills, then social skills to express your thoughts rather than lash out at a friend are practiced. This is a more situational practice than one that can be staged. Another skill that is situational is sharing. This takes practice and is best practiced with the toys and equipment owned by the center and not the child’s own possessions. That makes sharing even more difficult, even for adults.
Own A Daycare: What tips can you provide for helping preschool-age children get along with their peers?
Susan Cooper: A tip would be to stage several times during the day when children need to communicate with other children. Instead of the teacher asking questions, have a child ask a question and then relay the answer. The more times children can interact with children and learn communication skills, the better chances of other social skills building on this basic foundation.
Own A Daycare: In what ways can parents nurture their child’s friendship skills?
Susan Cooper: Parents can help nurture friendship through modeling the skills of good communication, listening, showing empathy, sharing and consideration. Children watch what their parents (and other relatives) do and copy them. That can be good and bad.
Own A Daycare: In what ways can child care providers and educators nurture childrens’ friendship skills?
Susan Cooper: Child care providers can schedule time each day for free play. This is not free for all play but an organized time each day for children to play with children. This gives them a chance to interact and practice the skills mentioned earlier. However, there must be close supervision. Children can misinterpret the skill set, so an adult needs to be there to get it back on track quickly. The child care provider should always emphasize cooperation and facilitate it.
Own A Daycare: Do you have any comments, suggestions, or resources to add?
Susan Cooper: All child care providers should also take a simple course in communication. It is not part of the many courses needed to provide child care (at least in California) and should be. Here is a non-profit resource that I am affiliated with: www.appliedscholastics.org and here is a specific page that describes a communication course that I would recommend http://www.appliedscholastics.org/bookstore/item-description.php?id=90
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