Social skills in a season of social distance

Written by Kirsty Savides – Founder and Programme Director of Wriggle and Rhyme

I’ve been thinking a lot about the difficulty that young children face in learning social skills at the moment. This is a season where we are all being told to stay away and socially distance.

Human beings are social creatures. We need each other! Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, everyone would agree that loneliness is not a happy space.

We’re living in such a strange season at the moment. Wearing masks, social distancing and constant sanitising have become the norm, and for good reason.

What’s actually “normal”?

But, it’s easy to forget that it’s actually not normal to engage with each other through a mask. It’s not normal to never draw near to another human or to never give someone a hug.

Sanitising may be good for our health right now, but the subtle, underlying message is that community living is a dirty business.

It got me thinking about the effect that this season is going to have on our children in the future.

Froggy in a mask
Even Wriggle and Rhyme’s mascot, Froggy, is wearing a mask!

Lockdown Babies

We had our Wriggle and Rhyme termly team get together recently. This was an opportunity for our branch team to meet, share ideas and encourage each other through this season.

Our BABY and TODDLER branch teachers had some very interesting feedback.

They used the phrase “LOCKDOWN BABIES”.

They’ve been observing the effect that our social distancing, mask-wearing and sanitising norms are having on the little people that they meet.

It’s worth noting, that this is a team of women who have been working with babies and toddlers for an extensive period of time. They have been running Wriggle and Rhyme classes for almost 20 years between them. So, they know little people!

They commented on the unusual level of anxiety that some children exhibit when coming to their classes for the first time. It’s almost like they’ve been conditioned to feel anxious about approaching people.

Socialising in small groups

At Wriggle and Rhyme, we’ve always been passionate about keeping our groups small, so COVID didn’t shift things too much for us in terms of that.

But, anxiety levels have definitely shifted!

We’re so pleased that our classes give young children and their parents / carers an opportunity to socialise in a small and safe environment.

We’ve always maintained that music brings people together, and this has never been more important.

Bringing people together

It’s worth saying here that I’m not suggesting that people take unnecessary risks or show a lack of consideration for the vulnerable amongst us. Our COVID Compliance plan shows how seriously we take those risks.

However, I am suggesting that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere, and so we need to find ways to live with the disease without causing long term shifts to our social and emotional wellbeing.

Finding a healthy balance

What’s interesting is how quickly children re-adapt to a social setting! Over time, children realise that it’s okay to be with other people again. It’s okay to mix and make friends. Other humans aren’t scary beings that need to be avoided at all costs!

We’re seeing this in our classes. Children need to connect with another humans for their social and emotional development.

We believe that music connects people! Never before in this generation has it been more necessary to intentionally reconnect.

It’s vital to our humanity!