Articles and Advice

Social and Emotional Development

One of the ways we show respect for children is by enhancing their developmental opportunities. By investing in their development, we are signaling that we believe in them and see them as capable and competent. It is tempting to focus on easily recognized academic skills, but the importance of social and emotional development cannot be underestimated.

After reviewing decades of early education research, the National Research Council has concluded that social skills, emotional capabilities and dispositions toward learning that children acquire during early childhood are inexplicably linked to their learning and success later in life.

In addition, a variety of research studies focusing on the perceptions of kindergarten teachers, consistently report that positive social and emotional skills at kindergarten entry are as important to school success than specific academic skills.

In these studies, kindergarten teachers emphasize the importance of:

  • ability to follow directions
  • sensitivity to others
  • turn taking
  • non-disruptive classroom behavior

Other social and emotional abilities often linked to school success include persistence, active or focused participation, independence, appropriate risk taking, and self regulation. Research indicates that children who frequently exhibit these skills are likely to be those who take responsibility for their own learning and show high levels of interest and ownership in learning.

There is a great deal teachers can do to help support children's developing social and emotional capabilities. Take an active part in your child's early childhood education to ensure that their daycare provider will:

  • Develop warm, positive relationships with children;
  • Plan activities that allow children to work independently and in large and small groups
  • Implement games and activities that practice cooperation and turn taking
  • Encourage children to work on activities that are challenging and require time to perfect
  • Notice and praise behaviors that show sensitivity for others
  • Use guidance techniques to diminish disruptive behaviors as they occur
  • Help children live up to high expectations by clearly stating rules and directions and reinforcing them as needed
  • Resist the temptation to do for children those things they are capable of doing for themselves;
  • Arrange the classroom and equipment to allow children to be as independent as possible;
  • Show patience as children practice and perfect social skills slowly over time; and
  • Model the positive social and emotional skills they desire children to exhibit.

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