Some children, like my oldest, are naturally social. They skip off to preschool and barely look back.
They come home, happy, with tales of all the friends they’ve made (although for the first year she claimed to have ‘played Play Doh’ every day).
Other children, like my youngest, find it a little bit harder.
We had a tough time of settling him with a childminder; unlike my daughter he was never keen to skip out of the door and didn’t build firm bonds with the other children.
Although he’s only at preschool two days a week, and he is there alongside his sister, he is a much more introverted child than she was and when he is there he tends to stick to her side.
This is probably a natural part of being a younger sibling, however come the September term she will be starting school and so it’s important for me that he learns to settle well, therefore I’ve been looking into ways that we can encourage his social skills so that he can be happier at preschool.
Here are some ways to encourage socialising in your child, and help them do well at preschool.
1) Be a good role model
Harder said than done when you’re at the end of your wick and your child won’t stop talking nonsense, as they tend to do, but by being kind and listening to to them, your children will in turn learn to be kind and to listen.
I am sure that we have all been shouty mum from time to time. I totally admit that this is me most mornings, when trying to get them to GET THEIR BLINKING SHOES ON and they’re pushing all of my buttons, but it does make sense that children get their behaviours and learn what is acceptable from their parents. Scary stuff.
2) Practise turn taking
It can be frustrating for young children in a play setting when one child has something that they want. It can quickly lead to anger and upset. This is because part of building up social skills is learning the rules of play, which for a two year old are quite complex. These can be encouraged by playing age-appropriate turn-taking games.
We’ve tried a few out and can definitely recommend Orchard Toys, which make brilliant games for younger children.
3) Build up their confidence
Finding something that your child enjoys will help them to become more confident, even when you’re not right next to them, as well as teaching them how to follow instructions.
If they really enjoy music or sport, find a class specifically for their age group. The teachers will be trained to keep their attention. If they love to dance, then check out what is on in the local area.
4) Encourage pretend play
Give your child opportunities for imaginary play for example dressing up and acting out scenes like shops and cafes. A play kitchen is a great toy if you have space for it.
Using their imagination can help your child to understand the world and become a better problem solver; a very important social skill.
Being surrounded by other children they will slowly learn the rules of play, sharing, how to communicate and how to make friends.
Don’t forget that the teachers are all trained; it’s what they do. Most of them they will have dealt with separation anxiety or challenging social behaviours many times over.
The preschool day will be structured around teaching them key social skills; so even if it takes a while to settle, it is worth persisting.
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