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The Development of Social Skills: Ages 1 to 2

Questions on whether a child is too young to be independent or on the right track for developing a high proficiency in languages are always at the forefront of parents’ minds. The ability to socialise, is another aspect of a child’s overall development that requires just as much attention, as the acquisition of social skills is a milestone in and of itself.

What are Social Skills

Vital for effective interaction and communication, being socially skilful lies on a spectrum. Ranging from verbal communication to non-verbal facial expressions, it lays the foundation for basic comprehension of social cues. From displaying good manners and being considerate to being open with personal wants and needs, children should develop these skills with age.

Why are Social Skills Important for Children

The way we behave and portray ourselves in social situations is pivotal in how we are perceived by the public and maintain positive peer relationships. A study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology also indicated that having social skills and confidence made children more adept in Mathematics and reading. Although 60% of these academic achievements were attributed to genetics, the remaining 40% were due to environmental factors that both parents and teachers can manipulate.

How to Improve & Teach Social Skills to Children

If looking to build critical social intelligence, it is important to observe and attempt to make changes when the child is young – 18 months to 2 years old. According to a licensed psychologist, Heather Wittenberg, parents should start to notice social milestones when their kids reach the 1-year mark. Some of these changes include:

Age 1: Recognising familiar faces and beginning basic communication triggered by the social cues they have picked up. They are also wary of strangers, and at times excited to interact.

Age 2: This is the age where kids begin socialising and defending their territories and belongings. They will seek out interaction from others, express a range of emotions, and act defiantly to get a gist of the consequences. They will also go through mood changes, which is a sign that they are attempting to control their feelings and impulses.

To enable your child to achieve these milestones, most preschool curriculum in Singapore strives to give children the opportunity to adapt, empathise, and form meaningful bonds with others. The curriculum goals can be summarised into what is known as the four “Cs”:

1. Cooperation

The ability to offer help, share, negotiate, and take turns. These are socially acceptable behaviours that are accompanied by empathy and moral reasoning.

2. Curiosity

Nurturing a thirst for knowledge allows for growth through learning and investigating their immediate surroundings – an essential skill for life and school.

3. Communication

Freely expressing feelings and thoughts are crucial skills that prevent them from acting out.

4. Confidence

Having confidence is a life-long skill that determines how a child feels about themselves and in relationships with others.

The ability to offer help, share, negotiate, and take turns. These are socially acceptable behaviours that are accompanied by empathy and moral reasoning.

1. Relationships-Based Curriculum

Tapping onto a child’s “golden window” through rigorous reading sessions and academic activities, social and emotional intelligence, sensory, motor, and communicative skills are developed. With the establishment of a responsive relationship being the main focus of relationships-based care in early childhood, the curriculum encourages the formation of dependable relationships where kids experience security. Inculcating a sense of trust and safety boosts confidence in making mistakes, learning from them, and in turn, flourishing in social situations.

2. Learning Environment

One way to encourage socialisation is to build communities within a safe learning environment. At our Little Skool-House centres, for example, the open space in the classrooms will allow for interaction with peers. Regardless of the form of conversation, they are crucial in fostering social and emotional intelligence. Conversations between children will be monitored by our educators to ensure that there are only positive interactions.

3. Exercising Freedom of Choice

Allowing children to make their own decisions and take responsibility for their actions reap several benefits. Firstly, by allowing them to make choices, it fuels their independence and confidence, especially if the decision is received well. Bad decisions also allow them to reflect on their decision-making processes, preventing repetition in the future. Activities such as drama where active participation and interaction is required amongst peers will also improve their decision-making abilities.

As part of building a strong language foundation without rote memorisation, the Pedagogy for Enhanced Mandarin Acquisition practised at the Little Skool-House encourages progressive language usage through immersive experiences, from daily to complex conversations, and journal writing exercises. These foster self-reflection and assessment, pivotal for the mature understanding of autonomy.

Social skills are imperative for advancement through school, jobs, social situations, and life. There is much to be learnt from external influences in a social context. However, to ensure that the right skills are ingrained in kids from a young age, an effective preschool curriculum can do wonders in their early years. The Little Skool-House understands its benefit and takes on an advanced approach when educating their students – this has been proven effective over the years.

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