Learn about the social milestones your child should have at different ages and the activities that can help enhance social development.
Not all kids need help with the same social skills, and what your child needs practice with could vary, depending on her age. “It’s important to know the normal developmental skills appropriate for different age groups so you can determine where the help is needed,” says Susan Diamond, M.A., a speech-language pathologist and author of Social Rules for Kids. The proper social skills that need to be taught can be divided into three stages: determining the social skills that need development, figuring out ways to teach the skills, and reinforcing lessons with the right resources. We’ll take you through all three stages and offer examples on how a child struggling with general shyness and social anxiety can become a friendly kid who’s comfortable and ready to handle any social situations.
Determining the Stages of Social Development
In general, kids will have developed certain social skills and social cues by these ages:
2- to 3-year-olds: able to seek attention from others, initiate social contact with others both verbally (saying “Hi” and “Bye”) and physically, look at a person who’s talking, have the ability to take turns talking, and laugh at silly objects and events.
3- to 4-year-olds: are able to take turns when playing games, treat a doll or stuffed animal as though it’s alive, and initiate verbal communication with actual words.
4- to 5-year-olds: are able to show more cooperation with children, use direct requests (like “Stop”), are more prone to tattling, and pretend to be Mom or Dad in fantasy play.
5- to 6-year-olds: are able to please their friends, say “I’m sorry,” “Please,” and “Thank you,” understand bad words and potty language, are more strategic in bargaining, play competitive games, and understand fair play and good sportsmanship.
6- to 7-year-olds: are able to empathize with others (like crying at sad things), are prone to sharing, use posture and gestures, wait for turns and are better losers and less likely to place blame, joke more and listen to others tell their points of view, and maintain and shift/end topics appropriately. At this age, however, they still can’t understand the clear difference between right and wrong, and may not take direction well.