Social Development in the Preschool Years
As three-, four-, and five-year-olds grow, they become increasingly more social beings. By three, children’s physical development has allowed them to move around independently and they are curious about their environment and the people in it. Cognitive skills are developing and children are able to recognize people who are familiar and people who are not.
Three-year-olds show growing interest in other children and adults, but often prefer being with one adult or playing alone in close proximity to other children. Four- and five-year-olds are becoming social beings and often prefer the company of other children to that of adults. Children will begin to express their preference for playing with some children over others. Playing and getting along is an important aspect of social development for four- and five-year-olds.
Three-year-olds still are developing interest in other children but still prefer parallel play. Parallel play is the act of playing near or next to other children, often engaged in the same activity or playing with the same toy, but not involving the other child in play or relying on the other child to play. Because three-year-olds can be very egocentric, they have difficulty taking another person’s perspective. They can have a difficult time cooperating and sharing with others. Playing and getting along with someone requires that you have the ability to take another person’s point of view. For example, three-year-old Caroline, returning from the playground, wants the toy stuffed cow that she was playing with before she went outside. Her classmate Emily is playing with it now. Caroline walks up to Emily and snatches the cow, saying “I was playing with this first. This is my cow.” Both Emily and Caroline begin to cry but neither will let go of the cow.
Three-year-olds are becoming increasingly more sensitive to their impact on others’ feelings and emotions. When they see another person crying, they often begin to cry. They also attribute the crying to something that they did. Three-year-olds also are learning how to negotiate themselves in social situations. They will frequently spend time carefully watching and observing other children as if they are trying to figure out how social interactions work and how they fit into a situation.
© ______ 2006, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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