Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Social Skills Versus Academic Skills – Why the Conflict?

Carol Duffy

By: CAROL DUFFY

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Recently we had a call to the Early Childhood Ireland office. A journalist was writing a piece on the importance of developing social skills over academic skills at the preschool stage, and wondered if we had a comment. As I played with the reply in my head, I quickly recognised the complexities of providing an answer that does justice to our youngest children’s intelligence, knowledge, and capacity for learning. How in a few words do you discuss the concept that in the early years social and academic skills can be intrinsically linked through play, rather than valued one over the other.  So often children’s learning is discussed in a play versus academic model rather than being seen in a holistic manner where, in fact, one supports the other. The old saying “he’s not very clever but he is very good with his hands” obviously never considered that it was the brain that moved the hands, provided the creativity and all the other skills that made the handiwork so good.  One’s interpretation or definition of social and academic skills can frame one’s perception of development and learning. Social skills and emotional interactions of children at play are often observed without reflection on the considerable cognitive knowledge that underpins it. I once watched a 32-month-old child turn and offer a hand to a younger child to help her down a muddy slope. I was impressed at her empathy and the cognitive reasoning that instantaneously occurred as she felt the give in the mud under her feet and immediately deduced that the new younger child to the playgroup might need a hand.

 

Where does “academic” learning start? Let’s consider some examples I have observed over the years.

Is the adult counting the stairs with the toddler on their way to bed supporting the relationship or the concept of number?

Is the bedtime story a warm social experience or the earliest introduction to academics: observation, literacy, concentration, language, mathematical reasoning and concept formation?  

What about the child displaying incredible social skills in organising their 3-year-old peers in a game of house building in the garden, mentally planning and designing the build, developing understanding of size and shape, while also articulating in-depth funds of knowledge of building terminology, gained from observations and experiences with builder dad.

 

Roles, professions, and life experiences are consistently replicated by very young children in their play. Children digging in a sand pit to fill the buckets at either side of an oversized scales absorb the realities of cause and effect. When I heard them shout out “That’s enough, it’s balanced”, I knew that through their play they were gaining mathematical terms and concepts. In all these scenarios accompanying the recognisable social learning and skills are cognitive academic qualities like those previously mentioned. I am reminded of the four-year-old beekeeper who taught her teacher in-depth scientific information about beekeeping as they played in the summer garden. Knowing herself as a beekeeper, the child brought her beekeeper suit and her considerable knowledge into the playgroup to teach her friends what her grandparents had taught her.  

Parental concerns for their children’s education are ever present.  Throughout the years, new concepts and models of education have gained favour. What remains constant however, is children’s innate curiosity to learn about themselves, their families, and the world around them. Children learn in many different ways. Surely the role of adults is to understand and appreciate how our individual children learn, and support them in their endeavours.  Play is universal in nature and for centuries upon centuries it has been how humans have passed on skills, and how young children have become educated in the ways of the world. It seems demeaning to recognise it only as a tool for developing social skills and thus bypass the intense cognitive and early academic elements it helps build. For me, it is play all the way. As a mother, grandmother, and early years educator, I have seen the benefits of a playful childhood across generations and experienced first-hand the foundational early education experiences it provided.

So next time you see children deep in play, consider all the things they have learnt socially and cognitively that makes such play possible.

1 comments Comments

One Response

  1. Denise Collins says:

    Carol
    I always enjoy hearing your views. I wholeheartedly agree with you and find myself every September having this conversation with new parents.

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Children's Rights(3) documentation(3) Buddy Bench(1) behavioural science(1) phone apps(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Painting(1) Visitors(1) Arlene Forster(1) aistear blog(3) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Interactions(2) Children(3) Mindfulness(2) Leprechauns(1) Syria(1) Teamwork(1) dublin(2) ears(1) Buddies(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) ReCreate(2) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) conference(1) outdoor play(6) Appreciation(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) experience(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Through the looking glass(1) Community involvement(1) Confidence(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) parents(6) Investment(2) Dance(1) New Appointments(1) Light table(1) Inter-generational(2) Treasure Chest(1) Celebrate(1) meals(3) Window(1) man up(1) Grief(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) preschool settings(1) books(4) Santa(2) School Age Childcare(1) Primary School(2) PIP(1) Yoga(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Academic Skills(1) Research Seminar(1) Child mental health(1) story time(2) Upcycling(1) Sustainability(3) ICBN(1) animals(2) Aistear(116) Map(1) Socioemotional development(1) Culture(2) Impact(1) Academics(1) Italy(1) Competent(1) friendships(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Book Review(1) Digital Devices(1) trust(3) Advocacy(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Irish(1) budget(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Whole Group(1) Early Years(1) Learning Story Awards(2) CIT(1) role playing(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Meal time(1) Environment(2) Iraq(1) Cork(1) Penguins(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Confident(1) Cognitive development(1) Awards(2) mushrooms(1) Autism(3) Engineering Ireland(1) Sessional service(1) development(8) Treasure(1) Stress(2) code of professional responsibility(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Department of Education and Skills(1) research(6) Engagement(1) Magic(1) INTO(1) HR(1) Creativity(4) Training(2) gender bias(1) United Nations(1) Document Learning(1) Family(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) CPD(1) Magda Gerber(1) Study Trip(1) Celebrations(4) CCTV(1) Leargas(1) Reflective Practice(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Childhood(1) Titles(1) Siolta blog(7) Scéalta Book Review(1) Identity(5) Story(1) Workplace well-being(1) respect(5) Imagination(3) UNCRC(1) AsIAm(1) Giraffe(2) EECERA 2016(1) Blocks(1) Super Shed Stories(1) Queues(1) Adoption(1) E.coli(1) dining experiences(1) Maria Montessori(1) Settling in(4) Photographs(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Afghanistan(1) ECCE(7) San Miniato(4) Snakes(1) Mathematicians(1) education(2) Sociodramatic play(1) Shapes(1) curiosity(3) Arithmetic(1) learners(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Mantra(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Policy(2) Our Little Seed(1) Budget 2019(2) National Holiday(1) Feeding(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) Building Resilience(1) imotion(1) listen(1) Certificate(1) Pobal(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Human Resources(1) dogs(1) purpose(1) Flowers(1) Xbox(1) Ceremony(1) Belonging(3) outdoors(3) Sport(1) Fabric(1) value(1) Easter(1) Quality(4) DES Inspection(1) Employee(1) Laughter(1) grandchild(1) DCYA(4) Trade Unions(1) Maynooth(1) Creative(1) conversations(1) Tuscan Approach(2) EM Standing(1) Leadership(1) Eritrea(1) First 5 strategy(1) Mark Twain(1) community(5) Masterclass(2) Exploring and Thinking(1) Inclusion(3) Social Skills(1) Recycle(1) GDPR(1) Mayo(1) Snacks(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Self-Esteem(1) emotions(2) risky play(2) research submissions(1) Síolta QAP(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) learning bias(1) Staff Motivation(1) Wesco(1) Art(6) Exercise(1) Participation(2) Running(1) communication(4) life long learning(1) Care-giving routines(1) Positivity(1) AIM(2) Jenga(1) Sleep(1) Budget 2018(1) Craft(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) science(3) ECEC(2) Role play(1) Support(1) Plastic(1) educarer(1) Funding(1) Youtube Series(1) Mo Scéal(1) Maths(5) Nuturing interactions(1) Body Language(1) Decision Making(1) Nonverbal(1) Lego(2) Early Years Educators(3) NAEYC(1) Smiles(1) Japan(1) Little Buddies(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) Gardening(1) Kerry(1) Facebook(1) Kids Own(1) Death(2) emotional environment(1) Self-regulation(1) Valentine's Day(3) Twitter(1) Qualifications(1) baby room(1) Storytelling(5) Special Needs Assistants(1) Leaders in Practice(1) babies(7) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Book Club(2) Orla Kenny(1) play stories(1) feisty(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Limerick(1) Biting(1) toddlers(3) social science(1) Challenges(1) ECEC Setting(1) apps for children(1) Design(1) memories(1) Interests(1) Maynooth University(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Kilkenny(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) awards 2020(1) keezy(1) Vietnam(1) Party(1) refugees(1) Routines(1) Performance Management(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) Summer(1) Engineers Week(2) UD(1) Digital(1) Maths Week(1) Ariana Pucci(1) outdoor space(3) Technology(3) TOY Programme(1) risk(2) Music(3) STEM(3) Intention(1) blog(28) National Awards 2019(1) Affordability(1) Hand Hygiene(1) Change(1) eating(1) scéalta(30) IGL(1) Horizon 2020(1) Meet the Members(1) Independence(1) Graduation(1) reading(5) food(1) social media(1) supportive environments(2) Thanks(1) under 3's(3) Magnavacchi(1) early years learning(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Communicating(1) environments(1) Loss(1) NCCA(3) Rich Documentation(1) Vertical grouping(1) Home Corner(1) Arts(1) Glitter(2) Recycling(2) Children and families(1) Learning Story(1) Behaviour(3) St. Patrick's Day(1) Scents(1) code of ethics(1) MA(1) Prexit(1) worries(1) preschool(3) Gratitude(1) Rituals(1) Interaction(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) MECPI(1) Trigonometry(1) Nutrition(1) Self Help Skills(1) College(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Awards 2019(1) RTE Investigates(1) TRAP(1) Albert Einstein(1) Wrapping paper(1) Exploring(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Learning journals(1) Thinking(1) InspireMe.ie(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Inspections(1) UN(1) Scéalta Blog(94) Learning Journal(1) National Awards 2018(2) Weather(1) Sequins(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) Budget 2020(1) Decisions(1) COVID-19(1) early childhood educator(1) routine(2) Brain(1) journey(1) Spiders(1) ERASMUS+(3) Graduate(1) Norway(2) Pobal sector profile(1) Breathing(2) Laugh(1) Traditions(2) bonds(1) collaboration(1) christmas(9) risk assessment(1) Obesity(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Inspirational(2) overhear(1) Communications(1) educating(1) Workforce(1) Wilenski(1) maternity health(1) Capable(1) University(1) Mixed age groups(2) Seas Suas(1) Games(1) science week(2) Drawing(2) Sustainable(1) Family wall(1) Sweets(1) Touch(1) Childcare(2) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Learning Stories(9) Universal Design(2) Elders(1) Patterns(1) Reading Time(1) Halloween(2) Thank you(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Malaguzzi(1) Consent(1) Performing(1) child-centred approach(1) relationships(17) Plants(1) continual professional development(1) Fantasy play(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) annual conference(1) Fee Play(1) Educators(2) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) planning(1) Mental Health(3) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Care routines(1) Bereavement(2) Names(1) Children's Research Network(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) Engineering(3) Reggio(1) Administrative Burden(1) gender stereotype(1) European Project(1) Wonder(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Mount Everest(1) pets(1) Snack Time(1) Awards 2018(3) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Traffic Lights(1) curriculum(5) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) linc(1) Infection Control(1) Wendy Lee(3) Favouritism(1) learning(19) Relaxation(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Maternity Leave(1) Professionalisation(5) Diversity(1) Event Guide(1) stories(2) Playdough(1) iOS(1) Shoes(1) Exit interview(1) bloom app(1) early years research(2) listening(1) Montessori(3) Empathy(1) Time(1) Síolta(110) Reggio Children Network(1) Online(1) Time Out(1) Line-ups(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Playschool(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Margy Whalley(1) Winter(1) Workplace Relations(3) transitions(10) Sculptures(1) Health(2) Trick or treat(1) Trade union(1) RIE philosphy(1) Reggio Emilia(1) Learning Stories Award(3) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Iceland(1) pablo(1) Well-Being(9) Love(2) Supernanny(1) Builders(1) Children's Voice(1) SPICE Framework(1) Mealtimes(1) Early Learning and Care(1) youdoodle(1) Degree(1) The Jelly King(1) Mud kitchens(1) interacting(2) Oireachtas(1) First 5(1) play(32) Pen green(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Infectious diseases(1) Visual Impairment(1) Awards Night(1) dining(1) Frustrations(1) Anxiety(2) Potential(1) Exclusion(1)

SIGN UP FOR BLOG UPDATES

SUBSCRIBE
Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine