Socialization is a key factor in the positive development of kids. When they learn these skills, they start to develop their sense of self and also start to learn what it means to have relationships with other people. How we interact with others affects everything in life. What kids learn, and how early, will have a lasting effect and stick with them their whole lives.
As a caregiver, babysitters and nannies spend a lot of time with kids during their critical developmental stages. In addition to working with what parents think is best, there are things that you can do to help with their kids’ socialization skills.
Pay Attention To Their Interests
This is a simple thing that sitters can do—especially with younger kids. Pay attention to what they’re interested in. Engaging them in topics they like will help them start to practice having fuller and deeper conversations. While it’s also important to learn how to talk about things they aren’t immediately interested in, this is a great place to start with kids.
This is another simple thing that can be incorporated into your regular activities with kids. When you’re asking kids questions about what they think, what they observe, and how they feel, they’re practicing how to share their thoughts and feelings with others. Additionally, you’re setting a good example of how to interact with others by asking questions to get to know them.
New experiences or situations can be scary if kids don’t feel prepared. Roleplaying is a great activity that you can do together in anticipation of upcoming social events. Practice playground/party scenarios in which the child doesn’t know anybody.
- To join others who are playing (e.g. “Can I play too?”).
- To introduce yourself (e.g. “Hi my name is ….”).
- To politely negotiate with peers (e.g. “I don’t want that one. Could I have the blue car please?”).
If roleplaying feels awkward at first, try playing these scenarios with dolls or figurine toys. Narrating what the toys think and feel can help kids apply that to themselves.
Practice Taking Turns
Knowing when it’s our “turn” and when it’s someone else’s “turn” has many different applications throughout life. Whether it’s as simple as the line at the grocery store, or more complex like a conversation with a friend. When kids begin to practice turn-taking at a young age, it helps them apply it to all situations they encounter as they get older.
Is there something you do every day with the kids? Is there a favorite toy that the siblings fight over? Set up long-term turn-taking with regular situations like these. Set up a schedule or a system that everyone knows and agrees to. That will help set the foundation for one-off instances. “Remember how we trade off who gets the green bowl every day? We need to do the same thing here.”
Provide Opportunities To Absorb Empathy
Empathy is one of those characteristics that has to be gradually learned over time. And not in a formal lesson, but by way of caring relationships, modeling, and storytelling. The more a caregiver can help a child feel safe and secure, the more they’re going to be able to recognize that others have those needs too. When they regularly see you modeling that with them, they’ll be able to mimic what you do with others.
Be A Good Role Model
While modeling behavior is an element to everything above, there’s a specific kind of modeling that you can do with the kids you care for when it comes to socialization. Think about how you interact with friends, with people you know, and with strangers. What does it mean to connect with each of those types of people in a safe way? When you’re conscientious about what the kids see you do, it will help support how they navigate their social interactions.