Along with Reading, Writing and ‘rithmetic there is a new R: social and emotional skills. For young children, social and emotional skills are a big part of kindergarten readiness that has been overshadowed by academics. In the words of writer Mike McKay, “…the brain can’t learn, the mind can’t engage and the person can’t reach full potential without…reasonable functioning.”
Now, when it comes to little kids “reasonable” is sort of wishful thinking. Nevertheless, we can support children as they learn some basic social skills that will help them at daycare, preschool, kindergarten and beyond. Some basic social and emotional skills appropriate for young kids are sharing, taking turns, and learning to wait.
Although it doesn’t seem like it at first, being able to wait is a skill. Did you know that waiting needs self-regulation and impulse control? At any age and stage, both kids and grownups have to be able to wait. Being able to wait is so important that children who can cope with waiting when they are young, have higher test scores at graduation. In case you want to know, the term for this is “Strategic Allocation of Attention”. For some kids it might be easier than for others, but all of them can develop some strategies and skills so they can handle the challenge of waiting.
One strategy that helps for waiting is to talk about it and have fun. Are there some cookies in the oven and a child waiting until they are done? Ask the cookies if they are ready yet. In a different voice, be the cookies that answer “Nope, we’re not ready yet. We need to cook some more so we’ll be yummy in your tummy.” Some other activities that help waiting are singing songs, telling stories, having a basket of special books or toys to play with, or playing I Spy. We need to let kids know that we see them waiting. We all like to have our efforts acknowledged no matter our age.
The day will likely have some times when kids need to wait. For a play-of-the-day, can you and your child turn that waiting into something fun?