With the school year back in session, many parents are doing everything in their power to ensure that children retain as much as possible each day from the hours spent in the classroom. And, in general, this involves focusing on subjects learned in class, as well as smart study habits and how to excel in a variety of educational arenas.
Of course, the importance of class time cannot be overstated; students should always be encouraged to give a full effort to their studies, both in class and at home. However, while in-class time may play a large part in children’s development, recent research is now highlighting the importance of time spent outside of the classroom, specifically recess and playtime, and how these periods are integral for social development. And furthermore, the same study shows a correlation between developed social skills and positive social interactions, and success in early classroom years as well as later in life.
The Importance of Social Development
The aforementioned study began in the early 1990s and was conducted in four locations across the country. In the study, teachers were asked to assign scores to a child based on certain qualities related to their characteristics. To elaborate, the qualities included “resolves problems on own” and “is very good at understanding feelings.”
The information was retained, and again revisited in July of this year by researchers from Pennsylvania State University, who mapped out what exactly happened to these students in the 13 to 19 years since they departed from kindergarten.
The results were truly remarkable. The results helped predict the probability of a number of different outcomes, namely whether the students would finish high school in time, obtain a degree from a university, or even retain employment as a young adult. In addition, the results also helped predict the likelihood of living in public housing, and whether the students would later on have a criminal record.
And here, one result stood out significantly: students who were ranked highly for social skills were four times more likely to finish college that those who were ranked poorly. Of course, this study does not present any absolutes; for example, a student who has difficulty developing social skills during early childhood is not destined for failure, and vice versa. However, the research does help us understand a general correlation, and what we can do, as parents, to help ensure our kids have everything they could possibly succeed, both now and later on in life.
Focusing on Social Development
Again, this should not be considered as a suggestion for parents to abandon study time and instead focus solely on social development. Academic development is equally important as the obtainment of social skills, if not more so, and is necessary to excel throughout all years of school.
That being said, parents should also take an active role in their children’s social development by encouraging this growth in many ways. At school, children often have the ability to interact with their peers during recess, a time when the students can run, talk, create games, and play with other kids their age. This helps teach cooperation and communication, both necessary components of a solid social structure.
Furthermore, positive interactions on the playground, during recess and before and after school, can lead to better results in the classroom. To be sure, a student who feels well-liked and has friendships with his or her peers will likely perform better than if he or she had a negative outlook.
Beyond the classroom, parents can take matters into their own hands by encouraging social interaction in a variety of ways. Here, the importance of playtime cannot be overlooked. The days of many students are filled with activities and extracurriculars; this can be beneficial in some respects, but it may rob the children of the time they need to blossom socially. Parents should be careful to balance their children’s after-school schedules with both structured and unstructured activities with other peers to help facilitate the development of communication.
Finally, parents can even play a positive role themselves by being an active source of communication with the child at any point throughout the day. By encouraging social and emotional learning at home, in the classroom, and anywhere else throughout the day, parents are helping to provide their children with an important set of skills. And, in turn, these skills can help ensure the little ones are further prepared anything, both within the classroom and later on in life.
Learning Both Inside and Outside of the Classroom This Year
The school year is already upon us, a time when we do everything in our power to help our children succeed in the classroom. So this year, keep in mind the importance of both academic and social development as you help your little one progress through school.