From infancy to toddlerhood, you have the unique opportunity to provide your children with experiences that will enhance their social skills as they grow. Making eye contact, taking turns, and identifying emotions are the first steps for building friendships. Here are some ways you can promote these skills in your little ones:
- Playing games like Peek-A-Boo when you put them in their car seat, when you are getting them dressed, etc.
- Making sure that you and your child look into each other’s eyes after a tickle or a squeeze
- Bring a desired object up to your face while talking and describing it
- Making eye contact while feeding your child a bottle, snack, or special treat is a great way to connect with them
- When your child coos, babbles, or talks to you, get down on their level and respond with either a similar sound or an answer. This is conversational turn-taking and we all know how important that is when developing and maintaining friendships!
- Teach your child phrases such as “my turn” and “you turn” while rolling or kicking a ball back and forth or while taking turns with a toy. If a friend asks for a toy, you can teach them to say “in two minutes” if they don’t feel like sharing right away.
- For infants, label and describe their emotions (e.g. “Oh, you’re feeling sad because you want me to hold you” or “You are so happy when I give you kisses.”)
- Look in the mirror with your toddler and make happy, sad, angry and tired faces. When you look at books, comment on how the characters are feeling and why.
Explaining Hearing Loss to Little Friends
Little friends tend to be curious and won’t hesitate to ask, “What are those things on his/her ears?” Instead of going into a lesson on hearing loss and your child’s device(s), keep it simple: “Those are his/her [hearing aids, cochlear implants, BAHA] and they help him/her hear you.” This simple answer will usually satisfy a young child and other than reminding them not to touch your child’s device(s)…you should be good to go.