Social Emotional
Skills

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.” -E.B. White

What is Social Emotional Development?

Social and emotional development is a child’s ability to have empathy and understand others, control his or her own feelings and behaviors, get along with other children, and build secure relationships with adults. In a nutshell, it involves the way one feels about themselves and others and the world.

Why is Social Emotional Development Important for Children?

When we think of school, we think of academics right away. Of course, school is all about reading, writing, and arithmetic but it is also a social place! In an average classroom, there can be 20-25 children. In order to learn, children need to follow directions, get along with their peers, and handle their emotions. That is why social and emotional skills are crucial to school success. The Kindergarten year is a particularly important time period for this area of development because it’s where the foundational skills for appropriate social behavior are learned and embedded. Better behavior,lower levels of emotional stress, and positive wellbeing are outcomes of well rounded social emotional development.

Child eating lunch outside
parent and child

What Can Parents and Caregivers Do to Support Positive Social and Emotional Development?

Attending a preschool program is one of the best ways for your child to develop these skills. Though if you are unable to send your child to preschool you can help your child develop these skills by playing! Yes, playing! When children have time to free play and interact with others, there is a lot going on below the surface. Children are using their imaginations and learning to share, take turns, and participate in a conversation. While playing, children also learn to behave appropriately, understand what is fair and just, develop empathy, enhance problem solving skills, and self regulate. Unstructured free time to play with other children is very important for our little ones.

Parents should also model positive behavior and talk about feelings and appropriate responses. Here are some more ideas for developing social emotional skills:

1. Think out loud when you are working through a problem. Letting your child know how you are working through an issue and your thinking process can be valuable. For example, you could say things like, “Oh no, I keep losing my car keys. I better start placing them on the shelf by the door when I get home”. This link will take you to more info on teaching you child to problem solve.

2. Use Puppets, Dolls, or Action Figures to talk about conflicts with children. Help children think of solutions to their problems through the puppets. This will help identify feelings and the words to go with the feeling like happy, sad, angry, and frustrated. Click here to learn more.

3. Read and discuss stories. Finding time in the day to share a book and making it part of your daily routine is invaluable. Bedtime is always a special time for bonding and talking with your child. After reading a story, discuss the characters and events in the story. Invite your child to share her thoughts and feelings by asking questions. Do they agree or disagree with the characters actions. Need book ideas? Click here for books to support social emotional learning.

4. Do jobs around the together or give your child simple daily tasks to perform. Responsibility and accountability in small doses during the preschool years can teach independence. Working together with your child to complete household work can also give you a chance to model and praise your child about the importance of being self reliant. Sorting socks, help setting the table, or picking up toys would be age appropriate household work for a 4-5 year old. Learn more here.

5. Play games together. Board games like Chutes and Ladders or Candy Land and outdoor games like tag or hop-scotch offer opportunities for learning to take turns, cooperate, deal with frustration, and so much more. You can talk about winning gracefully when they win and acting appropriately when they lose. Here is a link to more information about the benefits of playing games with your preschooler.

See the videos below to get more fun ideas to support your child’s 

social emotional  development.

Resources for Social Emotional Development

The American Association for Pediatrics suggests limiting screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs for children age 2 to 5 years. Look for sites and apps that provide for opportunities to create, connect, and critically think! Below you will find some sites that provide high-quality age appropriate learning opportunities and ideas for your preschool child. Try them out together!