Early Learning Success Manual, pages 39-41

The Social and Emotional Development domain examines how children understand their feelings and the feelings of others, how they feel about themselves, how they develop relationships and interact with others, and how they learn the skills necessary to negotiate the world around them. Positive social and emotional development is crucial for on-going positive development. Children that are socially and emotionally secure will be more successful in school and life.   

Common components within this area of development used by the Early Learning Success curriculum include:  

• Self-concept development – the development of positive self-confidence, self-esteem and understanding of themselves 

• Emotional development – the understanding of emotions of self and others, and developing strategies for self-regulation and resiliency 

• Social competence and relationship development – the ability to establish relationships with peers and adults, and the understanding of positive social behaviors 

The social and emotional development of a child impacts everything they learn and do in school, with friends, and in life in general. This development starts when they’re born and continues to be an important part of development through the teen years and into early adulthood.  

In Practice  

  • Educators/providers use a variety of strategies to nurture positive social and emotional development  
  • Are caring, nurturing and respond to each child’s needs  
  • Provide an environment that is child friendly with materials and activities that are easily accessible and are age/developmentally appropriate 
  • Use positive behavior guidance strategies such as setting boundaries, redirection, teaching positive decision making and conflict resolution strategies, and allowing children opportunities to make choices  
  • Provide an emotionally safe and encouraging environment where  all children are loved and celebrated

Strategies for Helping Children Develop Positive Social Skills 

  • Focus on Feelings First 

Children need direct teaching and practice when learning new social skills.  Educators/providers should model behaviors that are expected or be ready to discuss and demonstrate the new skills they want children to learn. Start simple by using activities and expectations that are age appropriate.  

  • Validate the child’s feelings  

Children need to know it is okay to have strong feelings such as anger, frustration or fear but is not acceptable to hurt someone or act in a violent manner. Educators/providers should help children learn how to express their feelings in ways that are socially acceptable. One simple way of teaching self-control is to use relaxation and self-calming techniques such as deep breathing, counting to ten, or having them think of something that makes them happy.   

  • Make it real

Use real-situation strategies to teach children the abstract concepts they need to solve problems. Children will more easily understand abstract concepts like sharing when they are allowed to practice these concepts through using puppets, role playing or illustrated stories.  Talk through the situation with the child, encouraging them to discover and talk about their feelings and the feelings of others. 

  • Teach and practice active listening skills

Children need to listen attentively to understand what others may want so that they can respond appropriately. Listening includes understanding or reading body language.  Children need to have practice identifying how feelings can be reflected through body language. This again can be demonstrated through using puppets, role playing or illustrated stories.     

  • Practice polite manners

Children are more likely to develop friendships and get their needs met if they are polite in their interaction with others. Good feelings build upon other good feelings leaving no room for bullying-type behaviors.   

  • Focus on developing one skill at a time

Problem-solving and social issues use many skills such as identifying the problem, analyzing feelings, and generating solutions. Educators/providers can help children through the process by asking questions and encouraging children to “use their words” to talk about the situation. Educators/providers can also provide possible solutions and ask “what would happen if” questions to help children practice different scenarios.   

Why is this important?

Being equipped with Social and Emotional competence will go a long way in helping children make friends, feel secure, and be able to navigate the world in which they live. Giving children the confidence and self-esteem to act on their own behalf is a skill they will carry into early adolescence, adulthood and old-age.