Tag Archives: 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

Shaping Preschoolers’ Geometry Skills

Shaping Preschoolers’ Geometry Skills

Written by: Clarissa Alfes

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) has become a hot topic among early educators and families in more recent years. Many adults are wondering how to support children’s learning and excitement for STEM. Research suggests that engaging with geometry and spatial activities is a good starting point!

What is early geometry
Early geometry, also called ‘spatial sense,’ is an understanding of space and shape. Spatial sense includes knowing spatial objects such as shapes and lines, their relationships and positions in the spatial world (e.g., “next to,” “shorter,” “corner,” “left”) and transforming the objects in space (e.g., manipulating blocks or rotating shapes in your mind.) Spatial abilities are foundational for STEM and inquiry-based learning and are one of the key areas of early math development that families can work on at home.

Play with Toys
Playing with certain toys builds young children’s early math skills. Toys such as puzzles, blocks and shape tangrams provide an opportunity for children to explore and learn through play. This play has been linked to stronger geometry and spatial skills in young children. Toys for play-based spatial learning are:
1. Puzzles. Talk with your child about the edges and curves on the puzzle pieces and about the shapes of the pieces as you work toward completing the picture. 
2. Blocks, Legos & Lincoln Logs. Ask your child to build structures using descriptions such as a “tall tower” and to recreate structures based on blueprints or models you build.
3. Tangrams. Support children to get creative in fitting shapes together and forming images. Challenge them to see how many different scenes and shapes they can create with the same tangrams.
4. Magna-Tiles. Have your child match designs that you construct and create patterns in the tiles. Support them in building 2D and 3D shapes while you label shapes, sizes and provide directions such as “on top of.”
5. Many others!
Bonus: try giving your child a problem to solve or creating a story that goes along with the spatial play. Evidence shows that adding storytelling to block-play makes the play more effective for early spatial learning (and language skills too!)

Spatial talk in everyday activities
Early geometry skills can be shaped through spatial “math talk,” when adults narrate during play and everyday interactions. Caregivers can name shapes they see in objects, use location words and gestures such as “below” or “left” and describe features of objects such as “curvy” or “short” during play and everyday activities. Activities to try with your child include:
1. Going on a shape hunt in the car, house or grocery store.Name shapes, sizes and features of objects you see in the environment (e.g., stop sign, cereal box) and ask your child to do the same.
2. Drawing, origami and painting during art time. Follow step-by-step directions of animal origami to create 3D forms together and spend arts and crafts time drawing shapes, lines and grids while narrating how they relate to each other. 
3. Playing maze games and Tetris. Have your child race to solve games in the quickest way possible then see if they can solve the visual-spatial games in other ways too. Encourage your child to explain how they solved the problems and to use their own ‘spatial math talk.’
4. Following and drawing maps. Read maps with your child to complete a scavenger hunt, talking about directions while you walk between locations. Suggest drawing maps to familiar places from memory, including discussing landmarks and distances.

Museum Store
Imagine’s Museum Store is stocked with educational games and toys, many of which help develop math skills. The Museum Store is open during regular Museum hours and Museum members receive 10% off of purchases. You can stop in and shop without paying Museum admission. Our friendly staff are always happy to help you find the perfect gift.