School Readiness & Social Skills for Kids

The development of social skills can have a significant impact on a child’s success in school. Learn how you can foster these skills at home first.

What is School Readiness?

According to the National School Readiness Study, there are five important factors that influence school readiness. These include motor skills, cognition and general knowledge, language and literacy, social-emotional interactions, and approach to learning.

So often the emphasis of school readiness becomes too narrowly focused on what children learn, rather than how they learn. But when asked, teachers emphasize the importance of social skills on children’s success in school—especially those that allow children to positively interact with peers, comfortably separate from their parents, and have curiosity and an interest in learning.

Why Are Social Skills Important?

School readiness is a part of your child’s daily life; it is not merely a to-do list in preparation for the “next step.” The larger goal of school readiness is to build a strong foundation of skills and a long-term love of learning. The World Economic Forum confirms that early social skills carry over into career success. Tomorrow’s work force must be able to collaborate, communicate, and solve problems in an ever-changing world. In other words, social skill competency is an integral piece to success in school and in life.

Social skills can be easily fostered in a variety of settings—at school, home, and on the playground. Most often the experiences emerge organically, but other times children benefit from the guidance of an adult. Learn how you can help your children build these necessary social skills at home.

How to Practice Social Skills at Home

Read with your child often. When doing so, focus on the characters in the story and encourage your child to practice taking on new perspectives. Ask your child questions such as, “What do you think she was thinking?” “How would you have tried to help her?” and “What do you think made her feel better?” This perspective taking helps your child learn to work with others.

Provide opportunities for open-ended, child-directed play. When children play, they decide what materials to use, what to do, and when to stop or change to a different activity. They naturally try out roles, experiment with cause and effect, test conclusions, and practice getting along with others.

Researchers have shown that high-quality play experiences not only enhance cognitive and academic skills, but also build social skills as children work together. Ample play experiences can even build memory and language. Additionally, play helps your child learn to work in a group, make friends, and practice resolving problems with communication rather than aggression.

Most often, your child can work with other children to negotiate a solution to a problem. However, sometimes opportunities may emerge for you to offer some gentle guidance. Keep in mind that your child probably just needs a small suggestion on how to proceed, but not for you to solve the problem for them. This soft encouragement helps build their social competency.

Play games. Board games such as Candy Land, Sorry, Yahtzee and Backgammon naturally encourage children to follow directions, focus attention, take turns with others and exert self-control while waiting their turn. These are all social skills that translate directly into school success.

While there are many daily opportunities to foster social skills, this area of development is never a fait accompli. Children and adults are continually growing, learning, and improving upon who they are. We all have moments where we stumble and need a little guidance or support of others. Keep this in mind and accept that some days your child may need more assistance in this area, while on other days they may even offer you a bit of insight into your own social skill development.

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Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

March 1, 2021

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