Emotional Development

Parent Wishes #16: Supporting Social-Emotional Development in Young Children

More support for learning challenges is one parent’s wish and that includes supporting social-emotional development in young children at home and school. School could mean daycare, play groups, preschool, and kindergarten.

rough and tumble play

It’s hard to separate social—dealing with others, and emotional—coping with feelings, because they are so linked. More and more, research is showing us that social and emotional skills and strategies affect how well children cope in school. One of the best resources for kids as they learn basic social skills is play. As children interact with others they practice sharing, taking turns, waiting, and solving differences and playing without hurting. Kids build relationships and figure out how to care for other people.

When figuring out emotions, it is really helpful for adults to name emotions for kids. When we see a child is happy, we can say, “I see you are happy. Your face is smiling.” Doing the same thing for feeling sad, scared, anxious, angry, and frustrated, links the word and the emotion. That way kids can tell us what they are feeling. Having the words for emotions is key to understanding them and to expressing them. As children play, they will explore these emotions. During imaginative play, they may pretend they are frightened or brave, angry or upset, excited and silly.

super-hero play

Besides play, explaining our behavior gives clues about social interactions and feelings. Children will learn by watching and imitating the adults around them.

Two playful activities for supporting social-emotional development in young children are to make faces. Kids enjoy making different expressions in a mirror and showing them to us. What does your happiest face look like? How about your saddest? This helps for learning to read faces. Sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and add verses  for other feelings. What action would you do for “If you’re sad and you know it?” or “if you’re scared and you know it?”soecial-emotional-development

Are there some play activities your child might do today for social and emotional development?


Off to School Toolbox: Kids and Asking Questions

When it comes to kids and asking questions, parents, caregivers, and teachers are not surprised to know kids ask about 300 of them a day! Challenging as this can be for the adults, it’s tremendously important for kids. In the words of writer Thomas Berger, “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”

kds and asking questions

Being able to ask questions is another great tool to make sure kids have in their off-to-school toolbox. Chances are, when kids first start school, preschool, or daycare, there will some things that are new and different. Kids will have questions. But does your child know how to ask a question and how to ask for help?

Asking questions can be complicated. We can make learning how to ask questions easier by giving kids an example to copy. For instance, if we notice a child holding out an empty cup, we can acknowledge the action. “I see your cup is empty. Would you like something in it? You can say, “More juice please,” or “Can I have more juice please?” If the child is reluctant, we can use a  higher voice and pretend to be the child asking for more.

Besides the words for asking questions, kids also need confidence. At home or with someone they know, kids do this, but they may not feel they can with someone unfamiliar. We may need to directly kids they can ask their teacher if they have a question. This is both a social skill and an emotional one.

This sounds so basic, but I know from experience that sometimes 3, 4, and 5 year-olds  do not remember how to ask or are afraid to. Simple and significant things like asking about the bathroom or is it really okay to play with the trains.

Letting kids see us asking others for help sends the message that it is okay. As adults, don’t we often wonder if we should ask or if it’s better not to? We have to walk the walk ourselves, not just talk the talk. For a play-of-the-day, how about Twenty or 300 Questions?

P.S. Go ahead and ask, if you have a question. This is the page with how to get in touch.

School Toolbox: Emotional Development in Young Children

Increasingly, we are recognizing the role of social and emotional development in young children as important for the adventure of school–and life. The title of the article, “Readiness: Not A State of Knowledge, but A State of Mind,” by Dr. Dan Gartrell, emphasizes this new perspective. He writes:

People used to think children were ready for kindergarten if they could say the ABC’s, count, identify colors, and write their first name. Readiness was always more complicated than that, and new brain research is helping us understand what readiness really is. Readiness doesn’t mean just knowing the academic basics. It means a child has a willing attitude and confidence in the process of learning: a healthy state of mind.
Perhaps, besides a healthy state of mind, we could say that children need a healthy state of heart. That is to say, a healthy level of emotional development.  Being able to regulate and figure out their emotions is such a challenge for young children. Emotions will impact children’s learning to a great extent and will directly affect memory. There are some basic, simple ways to support children’s emotional development.
emotional development in kidsChildren need to learn the words that go with how they are feeling. As parents and caregivers, we can help by naming emotions for them when we can. Words like happy, sad, worried, frustrated, scared, angry, and disappointed could all be used in a day.  We often ask children to calm down, so it’s a good idea to check and see if they know what calm would look and feel like.

how are you peeling

Faces often give clues as to how someone is feeling, but only if a child is able to read the expressions. It’s fun to make silly faces and check them out in a mirror, or to match them to each other. Sometimes, it’s easier to tell the emotions on faces in children’s books. Hand puppets may be another option for making facial expressions.

Talking about our own emotions and sharing our feelings with kids is also very helpful. This gives children a model for understanding and communicating emotions. In the words of another title, “How are you peeling?”

Family and Children’s Early Emotional Development

Have you heard of the “intergenerational self”  and how it helps with children’s early emotional development?  Family is a major factor. On the weekend, an aunt and uncle in my family, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Besides the cake, the greetings, the visiting, and the gifts, there were the stories. Many family members and friends … Continue reading Family and Children’s Early Emotional Development

Connecting to Emotions Key for Kindergarten Readiness

Parents and caregivers often ask what is most important for kindergarten readiness and are surprised when I answer “Social and emotional skills.” They are expecting an answer about academics but children learn best when they are comfortable and confident. How can kids be eager to participate and learn when they are worried and anxious? The … Continue reading Connecting to Emotions Key for Kindergarten Readiness

Kindergarten Readiness – Conversations with Guest Experts #8

For each radio show on Learn and Play with Mrs A, I take notes because I’m learning so much about kids and kindergarten readiness from fascinating guests who are experts in a variety of areas. Each of them is passionate about kids and loves the work, or maybe that’s play? Here’s a play-of-the-day suggested from … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness – Conversations with Guest Experts #8

Kindergarten Readiness/Early Learning Basics: Emotions

Parents and caregivers often ask what young children need to know before kindergarten; this is the sixth in a series of blog posts on kindergarten readiness and early learning basics. No matter the age of your little one, this will give you a general picture of what to do as your child’s very first teacher. … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness/Early Learning Basics: Emotions

Some Handy Ideas for Kindergarten Readiness: Tickles

When we think of kindergarten readiness, all too often academics is the first thing that comes to mind. But emotions is also an important part of children’s early learning. In fact, the brain is most sensitive to the development of emotional control about the age of one year old. For more impact, check out this … Continue reading Some Handy Ideas for Kindergarten Readiness: Tickles

Readiness for Kindergarten – Happy Thanksgiving

Emotions have a powerful influence on memory. That may be why our brains have such strong memories about holidays because they are emotional events, both positive and not so positive. Did you know that your holiday celebrations can help little ones with readiness for kindergarten ? At this age, the roots for healthy emotional growth have already … Continue reading Readiness for Kindergarten – Happy Thanksgiving