Social and Emotional Development Of Young Children

Kids playing in group

Kids playing in group

Learning is best for children when they feel at ease in their surroundings. If children are comfortable and relaxed, they are able to unwind in their surroundings and concentrate on the lesson that are being taught.

Kids when they are young go through a stage of “initiative versus guilt”. If the child is placed in an environment where he/she can explore, make decisions and initiate activities. On the other hand, if the child is placed in an environment where initiative is repressed through criticism and control, the child will develop a sense of guilt.

At around two years of age, your child begins to show interest in kids of his or his age. He doesn’t just look at a baby in awe like he used to do before. But interacts with him on a continuous basis, talking, sharing space and playtime and imitating his actions.. He is taking his first steps into social interactions. Encourage him to play well with another child. it will give him a sense of pride in his accomplishments and motivate him to keep on the right track. Also, try mediation when conflicts arise.

Important Social Skills For Children

There are many specific social and emotional skills that children must possess to be comfortable at school, including:

  • Separating easily from parents.
  • Sharing materials and taking turns.
  • Helping others.
  • Demonstrating empathy and caring.
  • Respecting people and their personal materials.
  • Staying focused and on task during a lesson.
  • Complying calmly with directions from authority figures.
  • Attempting to solve problems before asking others for help.
  • Verbally communicating needs and ideas accurately.

Making Comfort a Priority

Toddler laughing

Toddler laughing

All children have a strong need to feel that they fit in and belong with their peer group. Because of its importance, children will strive to meet this need before turning their attention to other matters, such as learning.

For example, if a child is uncomfortable being away from his parents or if he does not feel that other children like him, he will likely become tense and distracted. When this happens, he will instinctively devote his energy towards managing those emotions and away from focusing and learning during instruction time.

This is the same phenomenon that happens to many children in their pre-teen years. For example, I am never surprised when I hear about the smart, motivated, preteen girl who goes from getting straight As (and wearing her hair in a messy ponytail) to getting Bs and Cs (and spending an hour each morning in the bathroom with a can of hairspray and a disturbingly large collection of eye shadow and lip gloss). As her interest in boys increases, she becomes increasingly insecure at school. This unease in the classroom is the precise reason for her sudden inability to focus in school and actually, um, like, you know, learn.

Tips for Accelerating Your Child’s Social and Emotional Development

Social and emotional skills typically develop through practice and exposure to different social situations. The older your child is, the more time he has had to experience different social situations.

The best way for you to help accelerate your child’s social and emotional development is to intentionally place him in a variety of social situations such as:

  • Play dates with one or more children at your home.
  • Play dates with one or more children at a friend’s house.
  • Playtime at a park or communal playground.
  • Trips to the bank, post office, or other “adult” errand.
  • Music, cooking or other age-appropriate classes led by an instructor.

When hosting a play date

Your child will have the opportunity to share his toys. A favorite train, for example, is his own toy when he is alone at home. But when other friends are over, your child will be expected to allow others to play with the train. Also, when playing a game with other children, your child will have the opportunity to practice taking turns. This includes both being patient while another child makes a move and making his own move in a timely and courteous manner.

When hosting a play date, consider allowing your child to select a few toys to put away before his friends arrive. By giving your child the opportunity to put away his most-special-amazing-and-favorite-in-the-whole-world toy, you are also giving your child the opportunity to select which toys he will share with his friends. By giving your child some control in selecting toys, he will be more likely to share those toys happily, rather than feel as though he was forced to share.

If your child and his playmate are interested in playing a game, encourage the children to play a game such as Chutes and Ladders or Candy Land, since these games require no special abilities to succeed and each player has an equal opportunity to win. For older children, consider games such as Memory or Sorry!, which require only a basic skill set and most children will still have an equal ability to succeed.

When attending a play date at another child’s house

The kids will have the opportunity to practice taking direction from another adult, as the adult hosting the playgroup will likely have his or her own plans and rules. While jumping on a bed or climbing on a sofa might be acceptable at your home, for example, your child will need to follow a “no climbing on furniture” rule in place at another child’s home. Attending a play date at a friend’s house also gives your child practice separating from his parents, which will help ease any separation anxiety that might surface during the first few days of a new school year.

Read also: How To Handle Your Child’s Inevitable Mistakes

When participating in a group class or activity

The child will have the opportunity to practice meeting new children in an unfamiliar environment. Arriving at a new class requires your child to walk into an unfamiliar room filled with unfamiliar faces, introduce himself to the other children, and engage in group activities. This experience is very similar to what he will experience during the first weeks of a new school year. Also, your child will have the opportunity to practice taking direction from another adult, as the leader of the class gives instructions for how to complete the specific activity.

When accompanying you on a trip to the post office or other adult errand

Your kid will have the opportunity to practice his patience. For many children, their entire day is filled with child-centered activities. A trip with an adult to a “child-unfriendly” destination such as a post office or bank will help your child realize that there are times when he will be expected to wait quietly and patiently while others around him complete an activity.

In addition to actually putting your child in a new social situation, you can create hypothetical social situations for your child through books, movies, and stories. For example, when reading stories to your child, pause during the story to discuss how certain characters may be feeling. For example, is the main character sad, frustrated, nervous, scared, happy, surprised or excited? By encouraging your child to discuss the feelings of fictional characters, you will accelerate his general awareness that all people have feelings and that all feelings are important.

Learn More About What Will Be Expected of Your Child in School

Children are expected to develop social and emotionally during the preschool and kindergarten years. At the beginning of preschool, it is expected that children may initially be fearful about being away from their parents. However, after a few days, children should be able to play peacefully alongside other children. By kindergarten, children should be capable of separating easily from their parents, sharing materials with classmates, showing empathy for others’ feelings and attempting to solve problems without first seeking a teacher’s help.