The Work And Family Blog

FOR WORKING PARENTS
April 19, 2021

Peer Interaction for early Childhood Kinderjahre

Two reasons why peer interaction is vital for any early childhood learning environment

by Kenntnisreich

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What makes a perfect learning environment for young children?
Supportive, learning-enforcing surroundings are characterized by several material components, amongst them “indoor and outdoor chances for choice, play, exploration, and experimentation” as well as “age-appropriate equipment, materials, and supplies” (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services). In addition, the composition of a space needs to be safe but with the necessary freedom to explore and learn (ibid.). What seems even more important, though, is the proper social management of these spaces (ibid.). Concerning this, one aspect sticks out: the fostering of regular child-child interactions. Here are two reasons why.

1. Peer interaction in early childhood gets children ready for school

It is crucial that children interact with each other from an early stage on because it helps them develop social skills. These, in turn, provide the basis for success in other, more logical or analytical skill areas. Focusing solely or too much on academic skills to get children “ready for school” might therefore often turn out to be a fallacy (Ostrosky/Meadan 2010: 104). This view is supported by research showing that learning together in an appropriate environment generally enhances learning abilities in young children: “Children learn best when they are socially interacting with other people and with objects in their environment” (Biddle/Garcia-Nevarez/Henderson/Valero-Kerrick 2014: 265). In fact, “individuals need social interactions in order for learning to take place” (Biddle/Garcia-Nevarez/Henderson/Valero-Kerrick 2014: 277).

2. Peer interaction in early childhood supports mental health

Science has long been showing that child-child interaction in a learning-enforcing environment helps prevent “negative consequences later in life, such as withdrawal, loneliness, depression, and feelings of anxiety” (Ostrosky/Meadan 2010: 104). Promoting the development of social skills in young children can thus not only maximize their academic readiness but also significantly reduce their risk of mental and behavioral issues (ibid.). Finally, fostering social interaction with peers early in life helps children build confidence and find a sense of identity – both being strong predictors of mental health and happiness later in life (Ostrosky/Meadan 2010: 267). Are you looking to integrate a learning-enforcing environment with a focus on child-child interaction into your enterprise?

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