Parent's Guide / Social Skills
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Use this site to help your child:

Children progress through stages in their social skills development.

In the usual sequence of development, children will:

Develop a sense of self and of belonging to a family
(infants and toddlers).
  • Use mirrors for your child to see him/her self.
  • Encourage your young child to talk about his/her family.
  • Ask your child his/her preferences and likes and dislikes.
  • Use your child's name often when speaking to him/her.
  • Be supportive of your child and give him/her lots of affection.
  • Do things together as a family.
Develop trust.
  • Create a warm, welcoming, nurturing environment.
  • Follow through on promises.
  • Be consistent (have a schedule, have family rules and enforce them the same way every time and the same way with each child). This helps your child learn fairness.
  • Talk about yourself and listen as your child talks about him/her self.
  • Be your child's best cheer leader.
Learn to separate from their parents.
  • If your child screams and cries when you leave, stay a few minutes and get him/her involved in an activity with their caregiver, then say goodbye and ease out the door.
  • This is hard for some parents and easy for others. If it is hard for you, try not to make your child worried or afraid by your behavior - be cheerful, say good-bye at the preschool or child care center, and go out looking happy even if you are sad inside.
  • Related ONLINE ACTIVITY: Leaving children with grandparents for a few days? Edgar and Andrew made a paper chain to know when mom and dad would return.
Watch other children play from a distance. (During steps 4 and 5, your child is learning how to play.)

Play near other children but not with them. They are doing this to observe them more closely.

Begin to engage with other children.
  • Invite another child to your home to play with your child.
  • Take them to a mother's morning out if you are a stay at home mom.
  • Take it slow. Your child will play with other children when he/she is ready. Remember your child trusts you. Do not push them into something they are not ready for.
Share and take turns.
  • Talk with your child about sharing and turn taking.
  • You take turns with your child at home.
  • Encourage your child to talk about his/her feelings when others will not share or are rough.
  • Play games that require turn-taking like games with a spinner.
  • Related ONLINE ACTIVITY: Sharing may be difficult but can be rewarding. Read Edgar's Easter Eggs.
  • With children close in age, designate Big Cheeses for specified periods of time to reduce or eliminate arguments about whose turn it is.
State opinions and desires.
  • Encourage your child to verbalize his/her needs.
  • Ask your child's opinions often.
  • After reading a story to your child, ask his/her opinion of events or characters in the story.
  • Discuss real life situations - ask your child's opinion about what should be done in those situations.
  • Related ONLINE ACTIVITY: Use the Story Starters from our Young Writers Workshop to stimulate thinking and expression of opinions.
  • Related ONLINE ACTIVITIES: Invite your child to pick a pet, select and arrange flowers, or choose a Halloween costume and discuss their likes and dislikes.
Use words to solve conflicts and develop control of emotions.
  • Encourage talking about feelings when another child pushes, is rough, or messes up a project your child is working on.
  • Use situation pictures and ask your child how he/she would solve the situation (ex. Your family is going to the store and you can spend the dollar you have or save it for the zoo next week. What will you do?)
  • Help your child remember to use their words when conflict situations arise.
  • Play games using a loud and then a quiet voice.
  • Try to be close by when there is a problem situation - do not intervene unless it becomes necessary.
  • Have a quiet area where a child can go to be alone and regain control of their emotions (by choice).
  • Have a family meeting to set up the rules of the house and all of the consequences for breaking the rules (ex. if you lean back on 2 legs of your chair, it will tip over and you may get hurt; if 2 children want the same toy and fight over it, the toy may have to go to Time Out).
  • Provide some materials like play dough or paper to tear that your child can use to take out their frustrations on when they are really upset.
  • Related ONLINE ACTIVITY: Story Starters from our Young Writers Workshop can also be used to learn problem solving.
Learn that it is okay to make a mistake.
  • When your child makes a mistake always encourage him/her to try again or to do better next time - do not belittle them.
  • When you make a mistake let your child know about it.
  • Give hugs and encouragement and notice when your child is trying hard to succeed.
  • Offer plenty of activities at which your child can succeed.
  • Be willing to listen and console if needed.
Develop confidence and self-respect.
  • Succeeding and learning that you can make a mistake and try again, build your child's self-confidence.
  • Accept your child for who he/she is and where he/she is in their development.
  • Have some tasks which are slightly difficult for your child and challenge him/her to extend their capabilities.
  • Offer new and interesting experiences which make them curious to learn more (ex. read Chicka-Chicka Boom Boom and then set out a tree form and paper mache to make a coconut tree. Find out about coconuts on the Internet).
  • Ask questions about your child's projects and show interest - this will build their pride in their own accomplishments.
  • Show your support and affection for your child.
  • Believe in your child and let him/her know it.
  • Related ONLINE ACTIVITIES: Art Is For Everyone is a simple story about self confidence. Two Brave Pixies is a story about being confident in your likes and dislikes.
Develop respect for others and feelings of empathy.
  • Talk to your child about respecting the feelings of other family members and of other people they know.
  • Show respect for the property of other people and let your child know that you expect him/her to respect other people's property, too. Children learn best through the example you set.
  • Help a friend when they need it. Your child will learn by observing you.

Books can be excellent learning tools, too.
See our lists of recommended Emotions Books, Families Books, Friends Books, and Multicultural Books.


Parent's Guide Main Page
Active Role Topics:
Language Skills Development
Listening Skills Development
Writing Skills Development
Reading Development
Social Skills Development
Thinking Skills Development
Math Concepts Development
Related Topics:
How Children Develop
How People Learn Best
Ready To Learn
15 Ways to Help Your Child
The Big Cheese
Recommended Books
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Copyright 1998, 2013, Susan Jindrich. All rights reserved.
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