One of the most important functions of early childhood education programs is to help the learners develop essential social skills, as this will contribute to the improvement of communication, regulation of emotions and general learning activities. The early childhood learners should also be trained to know how to interact with others in meaningful and positive ways (Ginsburg, 2016). Some of the important social skill activities that jumpstart the process of developing social abilities include pretending play and the use of craft projects. Some of the attributes that children start to develop during childhood education such as abilities, values, and self-concept are believed to define them (Gormley Jr., Phillips, Newmark, Welti & Adelstein, 2011). As soon as children reach the age of three, they have already developed the categorical self, which is termed as the concrete way of viewing one's self (Ginsburg, 2016). For instance, at that age, children can categorically differentiate between children and adults, which age as well as gender, which is "boy and girl." Other attributes that children start to develop at that age also include "shot or tall," which constitutes physical characteristics and value, for instance, "good or bad." The reason it is important to help preschoolers develop social skills is that they may not comprehend some attributes such as opposing characteristics in people. For instance, many preschoolers between the age of three and five may not understand that a person may be both good and bad. Some of the activities I suggest for educators to help them engage learners in the development of their social skills include the use of games in which the learners corporate in groups, the use of rhythm and music making games as well as engaging the learners in the reading of facial expressions.
First, I suggest the use of games that help the learners to interact with others effectively.the use of games is one of the most important ways of developing social skills in early childhood education programs for instance; turn-taking games for preschoolers help the learners to develop the skills for spontaneous acts of kindness. It is imperative to note that children are more capable of sharing in their play with people they are familiar with than they are with people they consider strangers. Teaching children to associate with strangers is one of the ways that they are trained to develop their social skills. In my view, to achieve this, educators can engage the learners in playful acts of reciprocity. When such games are played with strangers, the learners can easily engage with them (Barragan & Dweck, 2014). For instance, a child can be made to engage with others in the classroom by taking turns in pressing a button on a toy. If the toy used produces a sound when the button is pressed, the learner may first take an interest in the sound produced, and then in the person, he or she is coordinating with in producing that sound. Based on the type of the doll, the educators can effectively enhance social skills using this game on both male and female learners (Ginsburg, 2016). Educators can use dolls that are more appealing to male learners such as tractors and those that are more appealing to female learners such as baby dolls appropriately. Another important game is rolling of a ball back and forth. This may work for all gender; however, ball rolling is mostly associated with male learners. I think this is an important activity for developing the social skills in learners as it has been tested in practice. For instance, Carol Dweck and Rodolf Barragan tested the simple tactic on one and two-year-old babies (Barragan & Dweck, 2014). They concluded that shared games could improve social skills in early childhood learners, as the children seemed to flip a switch. The babies easily responded to their new playmates without caring that they were strangers to one another.
Secondly, I suggest games that involve Rhythm and music making, as they are also important in developing social skills among preschoolers. I think these are important activities as children are mostly inclined to help other people. In my view, by encouraging this impulse among young learners, they can easily develop social skills. Some activities that children must achieve by engaging others such as music-making and joint singing compel the learners to opt for partners or groups that will make the activities enjoyable and successful. In such cases, the learners will naturally develop a liking for the partners and learn to cooperate with strangers in achieving their individual goals. By letting the learners sing in groups and take part in music making, they develop supportive behaviors as well as skills that enable them to work in corporation with others (Ginsburg, 2016). For instance, many educators, in making the learners corporate in groups, have used a game known as "waking up the frogs". In this game, the educators group the learners who do not know each other them devise a pond. The pond can be made by spreading a blue sheet on the ground, placing toy frogs, and a couple of "lily pads" on the sheet to make it look like a pond. The educators then provide the learners with simple musical instruments such as maracas and instruct them to use and sing as they match around the pond to wake up the sleeping frogs. Since the game cannot be enjoyable if the learners are doing it individually, they will easily learn to cope with the strangers to make it enjoyable. Researchers such as Kirschner and Tomasello, who involved 4-year-olds as well as the spontaneous willingness among the learners to help other kids (Kirschner & Tomasello, 2010), tested this strategy. The two versions of the game the one with musical instruments and the one with no musical instruments yielded different results. For instance, the music makers expressed more likelihood of helping each other (Kirschner & Tomasello, 2010). On the other hand, the version without music instruments exposed a less likelihood among the learners to help out a struggling peer.
Lastly, I suggest reading and interpreting faces as other important activities that educators can use effectively in helping the learners to develop their social skills. This skill can be used at home by involving the parents of the learners as well as in school (McCabe, 2012). The educators can use the activities both in the classroom and in the playing fields to help the learners understand each other's emotions. One of the reasons I think this strategy is effective is because it trains learners on understanding emotions through facial expressions. A confusion usually arise when kids try in to interpret the emotions of others by observing their facial expressions. For instance, at times, kids confuse disappointment for anger, as they do not understand what a particular look expresses. One of the activities that educators can use is emotional charades; in this, the educators can use emotions instead of using animals, typical words, or movie titles. The use of emotions is more practical for the learners as compared to the use of pictures and words. The educators can write words representing various emotional expressions, cut them and display the learners to make out such expressions (McCabe, 2012). Alternatively, the educators can use pictures and tell the learners to make similar faces. That way, the learners become actively involved in learning the various facial expressions. Again, the use of face games can also engage learners in understanding the various facial expressions. The educator can do this by performing certain activities such as holding the nose and sticking out the tongue for the learners to imitate. When children learn facial expression they can easily get along with other children they do not know as their judgment of character and emotions will be based on the faces that their playmates make out (McCabe, 2012). When the learners can effectively understand the facial expression, they can know if they are doing things that their playmates do not like and they stop that way interaction becomes positive and beneficial to all of them.
In summary, designing early childhood programs to instill confidence and feeling of self-worth contribute to developing positive social skills in learners. Some of the important aspects of self-esteem that educators need to understand when developing social skills among learners include improving school abilities, encouraging positive relationships and friendships, and supporting abilities in outdoor activities such as athletics. Some of the activities that learners can be engaged in to improve their social skills include interactive games and learning of facial expressions. Interactive games present the learners with the opportunities of engaging others to make their activities successful. Early childhood education is considered the most important level of education for learners as they set the foundation that will help them succeed in the other advanced levels of education. If learners do not develop some of the important skills such as social skills when they are undergoing their preschool, they may become a poor judge of characters, poor team players, and ineffective actors in group assignments and projects. It is therefore impotent that early childhood education involves the most effective strategies for developing social and personal development skills for young learners.
Barragan, R., & Dweck, C. (2014). Rethinking natural altruism: Simple reciprocal interactions trigger children's benevolence: Fig. 1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(48), 17071-17074. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1419408111
Ginsburg, J. (2016). Four Simple Steps to Social Skills Success. ASHA Leader, 21(5), 30. doi: 10.1044/leader.miw.21052016.30
Gormley Jr., W., Phillips, D., Newmark, K., Welti, K., & Adelstein, S. (2011). Social-Emotional Effects of Early Childhood Education Programs in Tulsa. Child Development, 82(6), 2095-2109. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01648.x
Kirschner, S., & Tomasello, M. (2010). Joint music making promotes prosocial behavior in 4-year-old children. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(5), 354-364. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2010.04.004
McCabe, A. (2012). Games and Activities for Exploring Feelings with Children. Social Work Education, 31(5), 679-680. doi: 10.1080/02615479.2011.650496
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