Category Archives: Milestones & Learning

Social Skills

Social Skills

Written by: Joshua Blazen

When you enrolled your child in preschool or kindergarten, you may have wondered, “Will my child learn reading, writing and math at their new school?” But did you wonder how your child would learn social skills at school? In recent years, teaching social skills has become more of a focus for schools. To guide schools in supporting social skills for children from birth through 3rd grade, Washington State developed Early Learning and Development Guidelines. According to this resource, key social skills milestones include:

Young infants (birth – 11 months): smiling at others, noticing and copying others’ facial expressions, using noises and facial expressions to interact with others

Older infants (9 months – 18 months): following others’ gazes or pointing, laughing when others laugh, recognizing others and remembering their names

Toddlers (16 months- 3 years): playing turn-taking games, observing and imitating other children’s play, playing side-by-side with others

Early preschool (3-4 years): sharing and taking turns, playing pretend, reacting to others’ feelings, playing in groups with other children

Late preschool (4-5 years): connecting emotions to facial expressions, inviting other children to join activities, switching between an “indoor and outdoor voice”

Kindergarten: accepting new trusted adults (bus driver, teacher, etc.), respecting others’ personal space, resolving some conflicts without adult help 

1st grade: thinking about how their actions impact others, brainstorming and problem solving with others

2nd grade: noticing unfair situations, showing compassion and respect to others

3rd grade: noticing others’ differences in skills and abilities, resolving conflicts without adult help, recognizing that others have different opinions


Why are social skills important
Research has shown that helping young children build their social skills can lead to a decrease in behavior problems such as bullying, hitting and defiance. 
• Children are more likely to succeed in school when they can form friendships, get along with others and communicate their wants and feelings. 

How can I support my child’s social skills at home
• Have conversations
The best way to help your child to build social skills is talking to them! When you talk to your child, they learn the skills they need to have a back-and-forth conversation, such as listening, asking questions and waiting for a response. When your child is talking, give them eye contact and acknowledge what they say with a smile or a nod. Children learn how nonverbal communication contributes to conversation by watching us! 

• Let your child take the lead
When setting up playdates or planning activities for your child, leave some time for unstructured play when your child can take the lead. When children have the opportunity to explore their environment on their own terms, and set rules and expectations, they build confidence to brave new social situations.  

• Coach your child through social interactions
As adults, we often find ourselves speaking for our children by answering questions for them or solving conflicts between them and other children. Instead, we can help children find their voice by coaching them through these situations. When your child has a conflict with another child, encourage them to speak directly to the other child rather than to you. When your child asks you a question about another child, encourage them to ask that child directly instead of you. Some children will need more support than others before they start using these skills on their own, but practice makes perfect! 

• Talk about feelings
It’s important to teach and encourage your child to talk about their own feelings, and also to think about the feelings of others. When you see other children on TV, in books and in the community, you can teach your child to think about others’ feelings by making observations such as, “That child dropped their candy, and now they look sad” or asking questions such as, “How do you think that child feels right now?” Children who have better awareness of others’ feelings tend to have an easier time navigating social situations!

Additional Resources
Social skills resources for parents of children birth to age 3:
https://www.zerotothree.org/resources?

Social-Emotional Health and School Readiness: A Guide for Parents with Children Birth to Age 5 https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/social_emotional_282200_7.pdf

Do you have concerns about your child’s social skills? We have local social skills groups and resources: https://www.wallysplaygroups.com/LINKSOTHERRESOURCES.en.html

Internet Safety for Kids

Internet Safety for Kids

Written by: Hannah de Vries

The internet has opened a whole new world of exploration for kids. Although the internet is a great resource for finding information, playing games and connecting with family and friends, it is important to be aware of potential dangers and to keep children safe while they browse. 

On the internet, children may come across inappropriate content such as graphic or upsetting images and videos. A child may be persuaded to share personal information with strangers or provide contact details after clicking on pop-up messages. They may also be subjected to cyberbullying as a victim or acting in ways that may hurt others. Additionally, given children’s young age and limited life experience, the “online” world and the real world often blend together, blurring the lines of reality.

To combat these online challenges, parents can use a variety of strategies to help ensure child safety while using the internet:

Create a family media plan. A family media plan can help families navigate the digital world. Your plan can include details for screen-free areas and times, family expectations about children’s media experiences and programs and apps that are okay for your child to use. It’s best to create the family plan with your child and ask for their suggestions.
Use child-friendly search engines.
Kiddle is a safe, visual search engine for kids powered by Google. Other examples include KidtopiaGoGooligansKidRex
• Check that games, websites and T.V. programs are appropriate for your child. Look at the reviews on common sense media
Be a good role model. Limit your own media use and follow the rules on your family media plan. 
Use your devices’ safety features. Block in-app purchases and disable one-click payment options on your devices. Use parental controls and safe search settings on browsers, apps, etc. Make sure to check your privacy settings and location services as well. These features can typically be found under “settings” on your device. 
Use the internet with your child and make sure you are close by while your child is online. Show interest in what your child is doing by exploring the sites with them and asking them to show you how to play their online game. 
Educate your child. It is important for you to help your child identify unsuitable material. Name what to look for. For example, “Let me know if you see a site with scary pictures or bad words.” Also, help your child understand that they should not communicate with people online that they don’t know in person, especially in social virtual games. 
Build your child’s digital literacy by encouraging your child to question things they find on the internet. Help them recognize that not all content found online is true. 
Bookmark fun, safe and educational sites for your child for easy and approved access.

It is equally important for you and your child to trust each other. Maintain calm and open conversations about internet use. If your child feels trusted, they are more likely to talk to you about what they do online and the content they see. Try to talk openly rather than using surveillance apps. Remember, children will make mistakes using media and that is okay! Manage your child’s mistakes with empathy and use each mistake as a moment for teaching. 

The internet can be wonderful for kids, but similar to other environments, it comes with risks. Help your children understand the dangers and use these tools to keep them safe online. 

Promoting Cultural Development and Understanding in Children

Celebrate Our World – Country: Ethiopia

Promoting Cultural Development and Understanding in Children

Written by: Rachele Gentry

Children are curious. Why? What? How? The questions sometimes seem never-ending. Curiosity is vital, but what about the curious questions that provoke an awkward encounter? “Mom, why does that girl look that way?” Teaching and talking about diversity early on can provide children with answers to these questions, without the awkward encounters. 

What is Culture and Race?
Culture refers to the unique characteristics of a specific group: language, religion, food, social norms, music and arts. While culture generally stems from ethnicity, where one’s family originates, race is associated with biology, or one’s physical characteristics.  

Cultural Awareness of Others
Around six months of age, babies show preference for people of the same race. Although biases may begin at an early age, research shows that when children, as young as pre-school, learn about and interact with people of diverse cultures, rates of implicit racial biases decrease. There are several ways to promote racial harmony and decrease implicit racial biases for young children. The most important thing is to be positive and do not shame your child for asking tough questions. Children are never too young to talk about race. 

Modeling
• Children learn a vast majority through watching others, especially their parents
• Model an accepting attitude towards all people
• Have conversations about why people look, dress or speak differently in a positive manner

Promote Interracial Friendships
• Be aware of who your child’s friends are and ensure that they can spend time with all their friends, regardless of race

Extracurricular Activities
• Not all schools are diverse. A wonderful way to expose your child to diversity is to enroll them in sports, drama or other clubs that allow children from different neighborhoods to interact. 

Attend Cultural Events 
• Communities often have several cultural events throughout the year that are open to, and typically free, to everyone. 
Seattle Center has a diverse range of cultural event including festivals celebrating cultures such as: Brazilian, Arab, Tibetan and Hawaiian.

Expose Children to Diverse Characters
• Representation is important! Read books with racially and ethnically diverse characters
• Ensure that the books are culturally responsive and positive; the characters should be doing everyday things!

Imagine Children’s Museum Celebrate Our World
Imagine’s Art Studio celebrates a different country or culture the first Saturday of every month. Visit  https://www.imaginecm.org/programs-camps-events/celebrate-our-world/to learn more. 

“It is time for parents to teach young people that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” – Maya Angelou