Question

Childhood Behaviour

My girl seems a bit too shy and doesn’t play with other kids. How can I help her improve her social skills?

What the Expert Says

By Pooja Vishindas

Chief Curriculum Officer at Nurture Education Group

Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood Education, University of South Australia

Over 16 years of experience in Early Childhood Education

It is crucial to know the typical developmental social skills and social cues appropriate for different age groups so you can determine where and how to help your child.

For children between 2-3 years old

  • Seek attention from others
  • Initiate social contact with others both verbally (saying “Hi”) and physically
  • Maintain eye contact with a person who’s talking
  • Have the ability to take turns talking
  • Laugh at silly objects and events

For children between 5-6 years old

  • Able to participate in competitive games
  • Display good sportsmanship
  • Able to empathise with others (like crying at sad things)
  • Share and turn-taking

Focus on What She has Done Well

As a parent, start by not emphasising on the child’s struggle with social skills, for example, by asking “Why are you so shy?” or “Why can’t you play with him/her?” etc. These questions already set a major tone of discouragement. Focusing on what the child has done well is far more important than what she has not, and spot your child’s small milestone of her social skills development.

Be the Role Model

Demonstrate positive social skills to your child by playing with her daily. Take opportune moments to explain what it means to wait, take turns, being an attentive listener, maintaining eye contact, displaying appropriate social etiquette etc. Introduce your child the proper way to start a conversation, get someone’s attention, or join a group of kids who are already playing together. If it’s necessary, work with your child to write a script to help reduce stress.

Encourage your child to talk about her feelings and address any negative feelings that she experienced immediately. Read books about positive social skills to children, e.g. “Be Polite and Kind” by Cheri J. Meiners, “Terry Perkins and his upside-down frown” by Felix Massie etc. Give your child time to develop the positive social skills and provide encouragement and support at all times.

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