All children grow and change at their own pace through a set of Developmental Domains: social, physical, language, intellectual, creative and emotional (it can be helpful to use the acronym “SPLICE” to remember them). In April, we explored the social domain: what social development is, how it develops in the early years, and how caregivers can nurture children to enhance their development in this area.
It is hard to imagine, but social development, or the ability to build and maintain healthy relationships with others, begins at birth. Your first kisses, touches and words impact the secure attachments, bonds, and social relationships that are built and maintained throughout your child’s life. This makes sense since we know that 90% of the connections in the brain are developed by age five. During the month of April, we will be examining the social domain-how it develops and how it is impacted through interactions and experiences. We will be exploring topics such as:
Serve and return’ interactions in the early years build the foundation for social development through the formation of healthy and secure attachments–allowing children to develop trust in their environment and the other people they share spaces with. These interactions also allow children to build a positive self-image.
Social interaction focuses on the responsive and trusting relationships built between the child, their parents/caregivers, other family members, and their peers.
Play provides opportunities for children to make social connections with others, allowing them to expand their learning, build confidence in their abilities, and grow in other areas such as in their use of language.
Social Behaviors and Cues:
The way we engage with others is based on our interpretation of verbal and non-verbal cues such as tone of voice, facial expressions and overall body language. Human communication is mostly non-verbal: only 7% of our communication focuses on words, 38% focuses on the vocal quality and tone of our words and 55% is on non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expressions.
Social awareness is the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
Caregivers can model social behaviour and actively guide children through their interactions with others. They can also provide opportunities for their children to be around their peers.
Isolation and technology
Human beings require connection with others and when this connection is absent, social isolation (a lack of connectedness and relationships) occurs and various cognitive functions are impacted such as planning, higher level thought, and ability to interact with others.
While technology can be a useful tool used to maintain connection and attachment with others, it should not be a replacement for face-to-face social interactions. Parents/caregivers should monitor the amount of time spent using technology or screen time (amount of time spent in front of electronic devices for entertainment).
Prolonged screen time impacts our ability to engage in social interactions which is critical in building our capacity to develop social awareness, communicate well with others and sustain healthy relationships.
Sharing and turn taking
Sharing and turn taking are essential to social development, and both are voluntary. Sharing is when a child decides to give part of something they have without expecting to get it back (e.g., a snack). Turn taking happens when a child is ready to move on from a toy or activity and let someone else play.
Stages of social development
Children progress through stages in their social development – from the time they build trust and secure attachments during infancy, building independence as toddlers, to gaining more autonomy and control over their choices from three years and onwards.
Social development happens through the various stages of play - progressing from unoccupied to cooperative play.
Social development involves progress in a child’s ability to:
Take turns (using things alternately with others);
Empathize with others (the ability to put themselves into someone else’s shoes)
Negotiate (reach an agreement or compromise with others);
Cooperate with others (the ability to work with others toward a common goal); and
Accept differences (understand that people and things may not be the same all the time)
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