The buzz…

Diving Deeper - Social Skills by Kate Rice

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

As I scrolled through my Facebook feed recently this quote caught my eye. It really resonated with me, both as a parents and as an educator.

When asked what we hope for as our children grow, like me, many parents respond with something along the lines of hoping they become a valuable and considerate member of society.

We want to raise children who display empathy and compassion to those around them, who treat their peers with kindness and respect, who have a voice and use it but also listen when someone else is using theirs.

And while our intentions are there, at times we may be left wondering how to get from A to B. How do we help our tantrum throwing 2 year old to accept that it is someone else’s turn to have a go on the digger or how do we encourage our shy and timid 3 year old to speak up and answer the question of the kind lady in the supermarket queue?

One thing that would seem clear is that learning the skills required to participate well in the world around us takes time. It also takes teaching and modelling.

Each of our Mini Maestros teachers consider it a privilege to play a role in this important social learning journey. In fact, developing the whole child is of paramount importance at Mini Maestros and music is the means by which we can do this.

For those already attending classes, you may have noticed how social skills and social learning are interwoven into the activities at each different age. However, sometimes when we are in the midst of the action, we miss some of the intentionality behind all that is taking place. So let’s pause for a moment to consider what amazing learning is actually happening week in, week out.

For our babies, this comes in the form of meeting and noticing their peers, sometimes for the very first time. Dances with steps that bring them into the middle to say hello, instrumental activities that draw them in close around the gathering drum and sitting in a small closed circle allows our little ones to notice and connect with each other.

As children become more mobile in our 1-2 year old classes, they are offered opportunities to wait, share and help with their peers. Waiting their turn to offer an action in the welcome song or to receive an instrument, listening and responding to the action of a friend in the group and helping to pack away are all part of the learning that takes place throughout the class.

Our 2-3 year old students are sometimes given a bad rap. We all know the term ‘the terrible twos’ but are they really that terrible? They can feel so at times! However, children in this age group are experimenting with their increasing independence, they are testing boundaries and are learning the rules of society. How valuable to provide them with a safe and accepting space to do this. Yes, sometimes the wheels fall off as they are developing this new social understanding but with support and clear guidance, our 2-3 year olds begin to share and show respect to the others in the group. We see the beginning of friendships forming and real sense of group becomes evident.

Children in our 3-4 year old classes are met with the challenge of participating in the class independently of their carer for the very first time. For many long term Mini Maestros carers, this is a much awaited day… the day they get to move from sitting on the floor to sitting on a chair! Each child comes at this new challenge in their own unique way. Some children need to be enticed away from their carer through the excitement and action of the class whilst others are chomping at the bit from Day 1 and sit themselves down with their teacher ready to go. Even at this early stage of the year, many children are already completing much of their class independently with confidence.

Our oldest students in our 4-5 group are a true delight! They are full of fun and energy, coming with a story to tell and an idea to share. Taking turns, working as team, respecting others, listening and sharing underpin many of the activities experienced in class each week. Instructions such as ‘find a partner’, ‘make a circle holding hands’, ‘friends with guiros play and then friends with cabasas have a turn’, ‘let’s swap our instruments’, ‘can you be the leader and then it will be your turn?’ are used again and again in many different contexts allowing the children to practise and perfect these important social skills. By the end of the year, these children are ready to enter the school environment with confidence and social strength.

What valuable and exciting learning we still have ahead of us and what a privilege it will be to support and encourage each student as they develop and grow.

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