Lucy Prew, Education and Curriculum Director at Maggie & Rose, shares her top tips to refresh children’s social skills after a year of social distancing and lockdowns.
Following the news reported by the BBC that children’s language and communication skills have been affected by the year of lockdowns, Lucy Prew, the Education and Curriculum Director at Maggie & Rose family clubs, has highlighted the importance of brushing up on your children’s social skills.
“With the reopening of schools and the start of a new term, it’s a great time to think about refreshing your child’s social skills, says Lucy. “After the best part of a year learning and playing in isolation, it’s expected that children’s ability to communicate, understand and empathise with peers will have been affected. For parents that might be concerned, there are a number of simple and practical solutions that will help your little ones develop this basic but vital skill.”
The research carried out by the Education Endowment Foundation saw Data from 50,000 pupils and a survey of schools across England to reveal an increased number of four- and five-year-olds needing help with language learning, which in turn could lead to long-term effects on learning. The study suggests that the necessary measures taken to combat the pandemic have deprived younger children of social contact and experiences essential for increasing vocabulary.
Pre-school aged children have lacked the social interaction with the likes of grandparents and their contemporaries and have been less exposed to everyday conversations. To combat this, Lucy suggests helping children to recognise emotions, through simple activities like asking them to pull faces in the mirror to demonstrate how they feel inside or identifying, naming and validating emotions in real life situations, gives them a greater ability to regulate their own emotions and recognise and react to other people’s emotions too.
Here are some top tips to help refresh your children’s social skills and help them adjust to a more social way of living.
Top Tips to Boost Your Child’s Social Skills After Lockdown
Avoid Over Scheduling
After such a long period within our own four walls, it can be tempting to over-compensate. Over-scheduling can overwhelm and overtire! Don’t be pressured to do it all at once, introduce new experiences as and when they become allowed and the opportunities to reconnect with friends arise.
Talk as much as Possible at Home
Keep those communication skills developing by chatting to your little ones, especially when you’re not wearing a face covering, and getting them to say hello and interact with people they may encounter in daily life – the postman, a window cleaner, a shop assistant.
Make Good use of Screen Time
A little screen-time can be a useful way to help children notice and understand how social interactions work. Video calls are now part of our daily lives and can be used to help very young children identify facial expression – ‘look at Grandad’s big smile on the screen – can you smile back?’. These calls can also help children practice turn-taking in a conversation. Learning can also be found in their favourite TV programmes – point out elements such as accents, use of body language, or hand gestures as you watch together.
Read and Play
Reading and playing are fundamental to developing language, listening and social skills. Introducing a theme to playtime activities – for example ‘school’ – and books, toys, or when eating or cooking together can extend vocabulary and create opportunities to help little ones understand different perceptions and viewpoints, as well as building their confidence, interest and understanding of different social settings.