Once COVID-19 came into the picture in early 2020, it seemed to immediately press pause on all social interaction events including play dates, sports practices, and in-person school days. Social distancing, home school, and social isolation became the norm for many families. And while we may have enjoyed the temporary lull in our otherwise frenetic, fast-paced lifestyles, it asked a lot of us—and our kids—at the same time.
Nowadays, if your family has the access and possibility to receive vaccine treatments, engaging with others is welcome again. With the accessibility and efficacy of vaccines, many of us can step back into the world, re-engage with friends, and give our kids the opportunities they need to grow into socially-mature adults, all while proceeding cautiously.
As a parent, you know that socialization is critical to your child’s development. You also know your job is to keep your little one safe. To help you bridge this gap, we’ve put together a helpful guide with tips on socializing kids during COVID, enhancing their social development, and fostering a healthy community as they grow.
What Are the Effects of COVID on Child Socialization?
The impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on children’s socialization can depend on a handful of different factors, including how old your child was when the pandemic began. Younger children, in particular, who didn’t have a breadth of social experiences pre-pandemic might feel overwhelmed in social situations once they’re introduced. For example, some younger children may:1
- Have trouble sharing with or listening to others
- Feel panicked about leaving their parents to go to school
- Demonstrate more attention-seeking behaviors in school
Furthermore, practicing social distancing may expose younger kids to fewer peer groups, even when they’re back in the classroom.
Why Is Socialization Important for Kids?
Socialization is critical for your little one’s growth and development. Through their interactions with others, children can learn:2
- Language skills
- How to build friendships
- Respect and empathy for others
- The importance of sharing and teamwork
All of these valuable skills are essential building blocks for young children and, because of the COVID 19 pandemic limitations, may require fresh ways of developing them.
Top Tips for Socializing Little Ones Safely During COVID
While socialization is important during periods like COVID, it’s important to recognize that it is not only limited to what our friends and families have experienced during the pandemic. For example, learning and applying socialization skills is something families that have children with disabilities have likely adapted early on. Despite the challenges of the pandemic,, your kids can still learn essential social skills while you keep them safe from the spread of COVID infection. Learning and teaching social skills for kids during COVID simply requires some planning, trust, and communication.
Some of our favorite pandemic-friendly socialization tips include:
- Plan outdoor activities – the COVID 19 virus has been shown to spread more readily in enclosed, indoor spaces.3 Plan social get-togethers outdoors in the fresh air where there’s plenty of room for everyone to spread out. This gives your younger kids opportunities to play with other children while minimizing the risks of getting sick. For added peace of mind and protection, you can also choose to wear a mask.
- Take advantage of technology – To help your child interact with their peers, consider tapping into the power of technology. Video conferencing software, for example, allows kids to connect from a distance. You can try hosting online game nights with other families, attending interactive online classes, and more. Check to see if your local library offers online story time—this could allow your child the opportunity to practice school readiness skills while also connecting with other members of the community.
- Spend time in small groups of trusted friends – The COVID 19 vaccine is widely available and can provide protection against severe disease.3 Small-group get-togethers of vaccinated individuals, especially if they’re held outdoors, can allow for social interaction with lower levels of risk. Aim to keep the groups fairly small and settle on a few safety measures that everyone in the group is comfortable with.
- Find new family activities to try – While socialization outside your home is important, family interactions can also play a key role in preparing your kids for the outside world. Family game nights, arts and crafts activities, nature adventures, and bike rides are all ways to have fun together as a family. You can use this bonding time to practice healthy parenting skills and teach your kids important lessons about teamwork, respecting others, and caring for their bodies.
- Talk and listen – Finally, an important part of socialization is communication. Use the extra time you have together as a family to practice talking and listening. If you’re avid about teaching emotions and emotional language, ask your child questions about how they feel, help them develop the tools they need to articulate their feelings and leave plenty of space for them to ask questions. Presenting a healthy model of communication and showing that you care empowers their inner voice and fosters self-reflection at a young age.
Slumberkins: Your Partner In Navigating Difficult Times
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly put a damper on many of our social calendars, leaving young children to navigate the complexities of social interactions in a vastly different landscape.
Luckily, you can help your little ones learn the values of cooperation, collaboration, and community while also keeping them safe from illness. Outdoor activities, technology, and trusted friends are all important tools that you can use.
No matter the scenario, new social situations can be an unfamiliar and overwhelming experience for little ones. This is where we can help. At Slumberkins, we offer an assortment of toys, social emotional learning books, a stuffed animal collection, and other items that elevate the standard of learning and play. Our emotional wellness toys and trinkets can help comfort your child during difficult times, equipping them with the important mindfulness and coping strategies that will carry them through adulthood. For more mindful, genuine playtime, choose Slumberkins.
- Campbell, Leah. "Impact of COVID-19 On Children’s Social Skills." Forbes. 31 October, 2021. https://www.forbes.com/sites/leahcampbell/2021/10/31/impact-of-covid-19-on-childrens-social-skills/?sh=7f4cb712a548
- "The Importance of Socialization in Early Childhood. " Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children. https://mppfc.org/the-importance-of-socialization-in-early-childhood/
- "How to Protect Yourself and Others." CDC. Updated 11 August, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html