social/emotional growth

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?


How to Steal a March #16: Helping Kids Develop Self-Regulation Skills

We all want what’s best for kids, if only we knew–but we do; helping kids develop self-regulation skills is critical for their future and their success. And the most sensitive time to begin that process is during the early years, from birth to the age of 5. The best way is with everyday, ordinary experiences. developing self-regulation skillsSelf-regulation involves coping with emotions, controlling impulses and attention, handling problems, and being able to wait. Early childhood expert, Dr.Ida Rose Florez, has studied young children and the role of self-regulation. In her article, Developing Young Children’s Self-Regulation through Everyday Experiences, she describes it as a sort of internal thermostat that we all use to guide our responses to situations. Children learn how to turn on and off their reactions to situations and to warm up or cool down their interactions. Like any other skills, this takes practice and support. As parents and teachers, we can help kids develop them.

Each day will have countless opportunities for us to model how we control and regulate our emotions and behaviors. For instance, if we are feeling frustrated because the morning is hectic, we can mention we’re getting pretty upset and need to take a deep breath so we can get back to being calm. Out and about, if we have to wait in line, we can talk about how it’s hard to wait for a turn, but that’s what people do.

Children don’t have the words to tell us about their emotions. When we notice emotions building, we can say something like, “I see you are feeling frustrated because you can’t get that toy to work.” Or perhaps, “I hear your voice is quite upset when your sister/brother won’t listen to you. Are you feeling angry?” As well as cues and reminders, a gentle touch or short back rub can help a child regain control.

Books and stories are great resources for sharing examples. There are dozens of titles for many common issues for kids. Maurice Sendak’s, “Where the Wild Things Are,” has been a top choice for decades. developing slef-regulation skills

One of the best opportunities for helping kids develop self-regulation skills is, of course, through play. As children play, they are being constantly challenged to explore their emotions, solve problems, and direct their attention. Development of these skills gives kids a distinct advantage, it enables them to ‘steal a march.’ What can you do today to support learning self-regulation?


How to Steal a March #11: Helping Kids Learn to Make Choices

Making choices is a skill, and during the early years is the best time for helping kids learn to make choices. Kids need opportunities and experience, as well as our example and guidance.

kids can be friends with boredom

Have you ever noticed how kids will play with anything? It’s every bit as likely a child will play with sticks, rocks, bits of paper, plastic containers, raw pasta, buttons, empty bottles and other items in the recycling basket, as s/he will play with cars, dolls, puzzles, and other toys. As adults, we often forget that play is in the child, not the toy. In addition to that, there’s a critical reason kids will play with stuff: the child gets to control the play. With non-toys, kids get to make up the play. They have the choices and the control.

Jeff A. Johnson at Explorations Early Learning quotes authors and early childhood teachers Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky, “Nothing gives children a greater sense of power than being in control of the materials they are using. Because loose parts are open-ended, children can make choices and decisions about how to use them–and learning to choose well is part of social-emotional development. ” Now that we understand what’s going on in a child’s mind, we can better support and encourage play and making choices.helping kids make choices

Loose parts are small, numerous items that kids can interact with in various ways. They really can be almost anything. One mom shared how her son had used several tampons to load as logs on his dump truck. Anything. While I was doing some spring cleaning, Little Sister found several items in a drawer, including a small bear that had come off a birthday cake decoration, a tissue, a cotton ball, comb, and other bits. She set these out in a flat basket and made a home for the little bear. Next, she placed the bear in various spots in the basket and pretended the bear moved things around. She was making choices constantly as she played. Her voice changed as she called me to come see and then decided she was done. Check what you have available for loose parts play. Kids will have suggestions too. As in this case, sometimes helping kids learn to make choices means staying out of the way.

Usually in a day, there are several times when kids can choose. What to wear is an opportunity for helping kids make choices. So kids don’t end up wearing just a swimsuit and rubber boots for going to the store, we can give them three or four options and let them pick the one they want. When setting the table, kids may be able to choose the color of their bowl or cup. Any time during the day, ask your child to go pick out a book and then you can sit down and share a snuggle and a story. You might want to ask your child why s/he chose that particular book. You can suggest some unrelated reasons, such as, “Did you choose this story because it smells good?” Kids will usually come up with a better reason.

reading books and storiesKids will imitate others around them. We can tell our reasons for the choices we make. “I think the sky is cloudy and the wind is chilly so I am going to take a sweater, just in case.” Of course, kids seem to choose not to follow our example when it’s sensible, and to do exactly what we do when the choice isn’t so great.

Choices affect all of us our entire lives. Helping kids learn to make choices is a way to give them an advantage, or in the words of the old expression, to help them “steal a march.” Can today’s play-of-the-day for your child include making choices?

Change: Friend or Enemy? Helping Kids Cope with Change

Today’s play-of-the-day, helping kids cope with change, is inspired by a move for our family. Change can be really challenging for kids. They barely have their sea legs coping with what ‘s happening on a regular basis. Change can upset the balance and there’s lots of it for kids It might be a new baby … Continue reading Change: Friend or Enemy? Helping Kids Cope with Change

Resolution Words for the New Year #1 – Ways to ACKNOWLEDGE Kids

Word of the Day is ACKNOWLEDGE Instead of New Year’s resolutions, how about just words for the New Year? Today’s word is acknowledge and the post is ways to acknowledge kids. Jeff A. Johnson from Explorations Early Learning shared another great quote poster this week. It’s inspired a whole month of posts using one word … Continue reading Resolution Words for the New Year #1 – Ways to ACKNOWLEDGE Kids

Olympic Games #23: Young Children Learning Values

The Olympics are far more than sports. As we watched the games, we saw values at play too. What are your thoughts on children learning values? Which ones? We could likely all agree that some important values for children to learn are kindness, friendliness, good sportsmanship, honesty, perseverance, being part of a team, and trying … Continue reading Olympic Games #23: Young Children Learning Values

What Make Summer Magical for Kids? Crazy Family Stories!

Once Upon A Family… Stories are magical any time of the year, but stories about family members, are extra special to young children. The ones that are most popular are the adventures, or misadventures, of moms and dads when they were kids, and of siblings. Tucked away in my heart, are the countless times my … Continue reading What Make Summer Magical for Kids? Crazy Family Stories!

Pirate Fun Activities For Kids: The Real Treasure

Pirate activities can range from counting to drawing maps to simple science experiments to cooking, creating, moving, and more; they can also include ideas for social and emotional development. And kindergarten readiness is more than academic, it includes social and emotional aspects too. During the preschool years children’s brains grow faster than at any other … Continue reading Pirate Fun Activities For Kids: The Real Treasure