Social development and what I didn’t know I didn’t know

I thought I knew some things about social development. And I guess I did. But while working on the most recent KidsMatter Early Childhood webinar Social Learning: more than taking turns and making friends I discovered that there are lots of things about social learning I don’t know. And now I am curious, interested and motivated to find out more.

To share…or what to share…is that my question?

Sharing was one of the many things I learnt about. Sometimes we learn things that change us in ways that mean we can’t go back – we are transformed. I believed for a long time that expecting children to share wasn’t appropriate. When a toddler shouted “mine” grabbing the truck I would support her. I would never ask my own children to share their toys with visiting children. My view of sharing was often different from others and I have had many discussions with other educators, parents and my dad about sharing.

I believe that supporting children to wait and manage their feelings of frustration is important and I value and encourage kindness and generosity – just not sharing. But I’d never stopped to think that sharing is not just about things. I share all the time.  I share stories, I share space, I share meals, I share laughter, and I share ideas and opinions.  And I expect others to share with me.

I didn’t know I didn’t know this. Now I do.

What’s different now?

I have always been a people watcher; attuned to how people are interacting with each other. It’s a disposition that supports my work as an early childhood educator and KidsMatter facilitator. I tune in to the social cues of others and use this to respond sensitively. I always try and see the situation from another’s perspective, although I don’t always get it right!

Since the webinar I now notice, recognise and respond to social learning differently.

    Now when I watch others I see social connections and cues people share with fresh eyes. I see the social behaviours of joining, communicating, co-operating and seeking help. I am also more aware of them in myself.
    I have found by focusing more closely on social learning I have a clearer understanding of the intentions of others – the ideas, the theories and direction they have in mind. I see beyond the basic need for connection to more subtle social needs and skills that allow these connections to be effective and prosocial.
    Responding with intention is essential. Identifying and understanding the key social skills of joining, communicating, co-operating and help seeking has provided me with a roadmap and focus for supporting social development. I can use these key skills to talk with families and children, to shape the curriculum and plan for individual and group learning and I can use these concepts to make social learning visible to children and their families.

Sara Richardson, KidsMatter Early Childhood Facilitator SA

This article was first published on Shared Thinking. Read the original article here.

KidsMatter Early Childhood

KidsMatter is a mental health and wellbeing initiative for children. KidsMatter Early Childhood works with early childhood education and care services to support the mental health and wellbeing of young children, their families and early childhood educators using a promotion, prevention and early intervention framework. Visit the website by clicking here.

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