To help children develop prosocial behaviors and other foundational skills, early childhood educators can take the following steps:
- Build relationships – Children learn best when they feel safe and supported. In other words, children will feel more confident to take risks when they trust their caregivers and understand that the adults in their lives are caring sources of support. Work to establish strong teacher-child, child-child, parent-child, parent-teacher relationships in your learning environment.
- Modeling – Be sure to model the prosocial behaviors that you want to see. Demonstrate through your behaviors the appropriate way to respond to frustration and other challenges that arise throughout the day. Model turn-taking conversations, giving compliments, helping others, and using manners as a way to promote these acts in your environment.
- Language – Teach children the vocabulary related to prosocial behaviors. Use the words patience, generosity, responsibility, caring, and friendship. Have discussions about these words and what they mean. Talk about what these behaviors look like in day-to-day life.
- Intentional activities – Plan activities that require children to practice cooperation, collaboration, and problem-solving. Use roleplaying as a tool to guide children through different scenarios that commonly occur in early learning environments.
- Intentional grouping – Implement more small group activities. This will allow you to focus on children’s individual needs better than when you have a large group to manage. Be mindful of how you group children for these activities. Children can learn a lot from watching and interacting with their peers.
- Planning – Help children create a list of actions they can take when situations arise in the classroom. For example, work together to come up with a list of options children can use when they want a turn with a toy or when they see someone who looks sad. You could illustrate these plans and create class books to add to your library.
- Coaching – When events occur in the classroom, be observant of the skills that children use. Remind them of the options they have. Prompt them to get the class book they wrote and review their options. Ask questions that help guide children toward possible, positive solutions.
- Acknowledging – As a form of positive reinforcement, be sure to recognize children for engaging in prosocial behaviors. Recognition can be private or public, depending on the child and the situation. Consider spotlighting a child during lunchtime and telling the other children what you observed. Ask the child if they are willing to talk about the situation and share their experience with the group before making the announcement.
Let children play – Some lessons are learned naturally, meaning that children need time to practice their prosocial behaviors in social situations. Plan periods of uninterrupted time for children to play together in learning centers and on the playground. Situations will arise and be solved without your intervention. For this to occur, you need to provide all of the tools outlined on this list and give children lots of time to practice.
For the main article Promoting Prosocial Behaviors, CLICK HERE
For the article What are Prosocial Behaviors?, CLICK HERE
For the article Skills that Lead to Prosocial Behaviors, CLICK HERE
For the article Director’s Corner, CLICK HERE