Why Should We Focus on Social/Emotional Development in Early Childhood?

As early childhood educators we know strong social/emotional skills are the foundation for healthy growth and development. This article will share research on the connection between social/emotional development and the benefits in later years.

For young children, social interactions provide many opportunities for teaching and learning. Studies have shown that those children with strong social/emotional competency are able to manage more complex social situations and interact appropriately. In addition, they tend to engage in positive interactions with their peers and develop friendships (Brown & Conroy, 2011). Because humans are social beings, our growth and development relies on interactions with others. Beginning at birth, we look for every opportunity to interact with our caregivers. These interactions are the foundations for development and play a critical role in a person’s quality of life.  Cognitive development is connected to the social world; children learn in a systematic way as a result of dialogue and interaction with a competent adult who has the ability to scaffold their interactions to meet the developmental needs of the child. This, in turn, supports their cognitive development and places them in a better position to be able to take on the rigors of the academic world.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the measure of a person’s level of emotional intelligence which refers to a person’s ability to perceive, control, evaluate and express emotions. Daniel Goleman, who wrote the book, Emotional Intelligence suggests that understanding and expressing emotions can play an equal if not more important role in how people fare in life (Goleman, 1996). In addition, studies have found that 50% of kids enrolled in social/emotional learning had better academic achievement and almost 40% showed improved grade-point-averages. Additionally, social/emotional programs were linked to lowered suspension rates, increased school attendance and reduced disciplinary problems (Cherry, 2016).

How can you help develop emotional intelligence in your classroom? Be a model for them and create intentional daily opportunities for your students to practice:

1.      How to be a friend

2.     Problem solving strategies

3.     Identifying emotions in themselves

4.     Talking about their emotions

5.     Identifying & talking about emotions in others

6.     Talking about differences in temperament in a positive light

7.     Helping others

8.     Sharing

9.     Taking turns

10.  Using positive and encouraging language

11.   Compromising

Classroom Tip:

A wonderful way to help students identify and talk about feelings is to have a daily feeling chart. One way is to have students put their clip (clothespins with their names on them) on the feeling they are having that day. Have each student talk about why they are feeling that way. This is good for so many teaching and learning opportunities – sharing their feelings, attendance, counting, more/less, gives you a tenor on the classroom that day, oral language, and much more!

Attached is a feeling chart from TACSEI (Technical Assistance Center for Social/Emotional Intervention). Simply cut out the faces and glue to tag board. Laminate the tag board and students can clip their name to how they are feeling that day.