The Importance of Early Peer Experiences

Guest Authored By Molly Rein, MS, DT

Blue Bird Day and kids playing

Children gain a lot of knowledge and skill when in a peer rich environment that supports their growing self-efficacy. Peers have the ability to support children in reaching their full potential and provide them opportunities to practice social skills within a safe and nurturing environment. Children benefit from peer models because they are more likely to believe they can complete a task or play a simple game when observing a successful model similar to themselves, thus promoting the child’s self-efficacy. 

Self-efficacy is the belief that you are capable of performing a task or managing a situation; it is about learning how to preserve and try again when presented with a challenge. When children equate success to internal factors, they develop a sense of mastery, which in return reinforces a stronger self-efficacy belief system. A child with higher self-efficacy has more motivation to attend and participatecan be less anxious in less-preferred/challenging situations, and demonstrates greater resilience and flexibility towards challenges. For many children, early preschool experiences can be their first time in a structured setting with teachers and groups of children. Blue Bird Day provides the opportunity to learn to share, follow instructions, and begin the foundation for learning, with individualized accommodations and support systems. Within the nurturing and warm environment of Blue Bird Day, children are supported with learning through their experiences with adults and peers. The Blue Bird Day staff support children with developing early self-esteem and self-efficacy necessary for social-emotional development by providing them many experiences to practice their skills alongside like peers. 

The Developmental Therapists at Blue Bird Day take pride in supporting each child with practicing and acquiring the social skills necessary to engage in structured play sessions with peers. These peer interactions are important for children to learn and practice social pragmatic language, how to open and close interactions, self-esteem, and overall social-emotional developmental. Developmental Therapists tailor lessons to each child’s specific language ability and learning style. This allows the Developmental Therapists to guide the child through navigating peer relationships and interactions with the appropriate amount of support. During the first week of the Fall session, Developmental Therapists support each child with learning their new peers through an interactive picture book of the entire class. During circle time, the children are supported with singing Hello to each friend. Each child also has the opportunity to look in the mirror and observe/reflect on their own personal characteristics including eye color, hair color, gender, etc. The Developmental Therapists use these activities to narrate for each child similarities and differences while supporting the group with visually attending to their peers and/or commenting. As well, the Developmental Therapists use these activities to nurture a child’s curiosity and motivation to learn, not just about themselves, but about the people within their environment.  

Peers have the ability to impact a child’s learning because peers do not have a position of authority over one another. But for some children, acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary for interacting positively and successfully with peers can be a challenge. Young children learn positive social skills through the natural process of observing and engaging in social interactions with peers. Blue Bird Day thrives on the importance of promoting children’s participation in social interactions through the individualized and supportive environment, in hopes of promoting their overall self-esteem and self-efficacy to tackle future social interactions.