Social Environment


Social environment refers to the way that a classroom environment encourages and supports the interactions that occur between young children, teachers, and family members. A well-designed social environment supports and encourages positive peer relationships, interactions between adults and children, and ensures that opportunities develop for adults to support children to achieve their social goals.

Group size and make-up, activities initiated by teachers and children, materials and activities that promote interaction are all important considerations for teachers when organising the social environment in the classroom.

On this page


Including Families

Building rapport with and including families is another important aspect of social design of the classroom. This can be achieved through frequent, open, and honest communication with families and by making families and those important to them feel welcome. Family members can share information about the strategies they use in their homes and cultures to promote social interaction. It’s important for Teachers to listen to and incorporate parents’ beliefs, as appropriate, into their practices, including suggestions about how to encourage and guide children.

Parent questionnaires can be very helpful in gathering important information in these situations. Also offering opportunities for:

  1. immediate family to volunteer in the classroom,
  2. providing opportunities for families to meet and connect
  3. inviting families to share activities from home
  4. liaise with families to support the development of social skills at home.

Including Children with Disabilities

Teachers also must ensure that young children with disabilities have opportunities across the day to interact with peers and adults alike. Some children with disabilities might need extra support to participate in the social environment. For these children, teachers might need to:

  • Teach friendship skills, including how to ask a friend to play, share materials, and give compliments.
  • Teachers need to be intentional about teaching concepts of friendships like reciprocity and managing interactions.
  • Teach how to recognize emotions and to express them in ways that are socially appropriate. Children who don’t learn to use emotional language have a hard time labelling and understanding their own feelings, as well as accurately identifying how others feel. Songs (e.g., “If You’re Happy and You Know It”), games, puppets, and activities like feeling faces can all be used to support children learning about emotions.
  • Embed opportunities to interact with peers throughout the day. Teachers can supply cooperative-use toys and materials to increase the opportunities for social interaction. Cooperative-use toys are those that naturally lend themselves to two or more children playing together. Some examples of cooperative-use toys include balls, wagons, a pair of telephones, and board games.
  • Use what motivates the child for example if a child is interested in engaging with another specific child, allow time for that to happen. Another example would be where a child has a particular interest in an object/toy or activity then pair this child with a child with similar interests.