Help your child to play well with others.

Prosocial Skills for Kids

by Erica Loop

If you have mommy-fears that your precious little one will go through life refusing to share just about anything and hitting anyone who tries to suggest otherwise, you have little reason to worry. While toddlers aren't exactly known for their stellar social skills, as your child moves into the preschool years she will begin to develop prosocial behaviors -- positive and expected or acceptable behaviors toward others.

Social Development in Toddlers

Before judging if your little one's social skills are prosocial or not, understanding what is -- and isn't -- expected of toddlers is key. Toddlers are less than mature when it comes to social development. While they are much more interactive than infants, toddlers aren't quite ready to engage in full on peer-peer play, and typically prefer parallel play situations. This means that your toddler may sit next to his BFF Joey in the sandbox, but most likely won't interact in any sort of give and take play style.

Social Development in Preschoolers

As your child moves into the preschool years her social development is becoming more mature in nature. Instead of just playing next to friends, your preschooler will enjoy involving herself in group situations such as games or pretend play scenarios. Delving deeper into a true social life, preschoolers may also begin to choose friends based on interests or similar likes. For example, your child may choose to spend the majority of her "school" day with Janey because they both love Dora, the color blue and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Expected Behaviors

While your young child may engage in a vast array of social behaviors, there are some that you may expect from him regularly. These include polite and sociable actions such as responding nicely to simple questions and using appropriate words such as, "Please" or, "No thank you." Additionally, prosocial skills for young children include behaviors such as sharing and taking turns. These skills are often challenging for young toddlers who are still in the beginning stages of social development, but do get easier for the child as he moves into the preschool years. With a growing sense of self-control and an increased ability to use language effectively the young child can show more prosocial behaviors.

Teaching Prosocial Skills

Prosocial behavior doesn't happen by itself. The attitude that your little one will just learn social niceties by herself won't get you, or your child, far. If you notice that your child is struggling, or simply just doesn't understand, prosocial behaviors, you can help her out with a lesson or two on how to act. Model appropriate ways of acting or catch her in the act and correct her behavior with simple words. For example, if your child refuses to share her toy truck with her playdate friend tell her, "Josh will get sad if he doesn't get a turn too."

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

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