LEWISTOWN - Learning social skills is very important for young children. ZERO TO THREE: The National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families explains that "through relationships, children discover who they are and learn to understand others. When young children experience people helping, understanding and enjoying them, they approach the world with openness and enthusiasm. They grow to be responsive and caring people."
Babies are born with a drive to relate to and connect with others, and they continue to develop the social skills necessary to form strong, healthy relationships throughout their lives.
Additionally, school success depends on the social and emotional development of infants and toddlers, according to information provided by the Early Head Start National Research Center.
ZERO TO THREE provides seven characteristics of children who are best prepared to thrive in the school environment:
Confidence - A child's sense that he or she is more likely than not to succeed and that adults will be helpful.
Curiosity - The sense that discovery is positive and leads to pleasure.
Intentionality - The wish and capacity to have an effect and to act on that desire with persistence, a characteristic that is related to a sense of competence and being effective.
Self-control - The ability to alter and control one's own actions in age-appropriate ways.
Relatedness - The ability to engage with others based on the sense of being understood by others and understanding others.
Capacity to communicate - The wish and ability to exchange ideas, feelings and concepts with others, a characteristic that is related to a sense of trust in others and a sense of pleasure in engaging with others.
Cooperativeness - The ability in a group activity to balance one's own needs with those of others.
From birth, babies crave social interactions with those who care for them. During their earliest moments, babies begin to form relationships with their caregivers. The first social attachment for all children begins with their parent and primary caregiver.
The baby's main "job" during this earliest stage of social development is to develop trust. All babies provide cues about their interest in making social connections. Some of these cues include: awake, alert, not hungry, not crying and gazing. As an infant gets older, his cues will increase to include: smiles, opening mouth, raising eyebrows, turning head towards you, looking into your eyes, babbling, trying to touch you, laughter and waving arms and legs.
As parents provide a secure base for young children, the child becomes willing to explore his surroundings and socialize with others. During these times, children will begin to make social connections. Parents can encourage these connections by talking to their children about what they are seeing, hearing, feeling and doing.
It is very helpful to young children when parents and caregivers give them opportunities for socialization. Parents can help them in the process by acting as good role models for self-control and other social skills, and keeping their expectations for children in line with their developmental age and stage. Developing social skills is a process that takes time and experience. For example, learning to take turns and share are skills that children continue to develop over several years, as they continue to practice handling these challenging situations.
Interactions with other children can happen in many different ways, and many opportunities are free. Some ideas include joining parent-child classes or meeting other families with young children in your neighborhood and inviting them over to play. Or you may visit the playground, recreational centers and other places where you would find families with young children.
Socialization opportunities for parents and young children are offered through participation in Early Head Start and Healthy Families America, two programs offered by Snyder Union Mifflin Child Development. Both programs serve expectant mothers and families with children, from birth to 3 years old. The programs are free for eligible families and offer education to parents to help foster their child's development, as well as promote the parents' own goals.
The benefits of early socialization are numerous. The more experience they have interacting with peers, the more children learn about how to get along with others.
SUMCD is a private nonprofit organization that provides services to nearly 3,000 children at 24 sites in Snyder, Union, Mifflin and Northumberland counties. SUMCD is a United Way community partner.