Social-Emotional Development

Your Young One Might Need a Little Extra Help with His Social-Emotional Learning

Young children are learning so many things so fast! Just as important as any academic learning, or maybe even more so in the early formative years, is the development of a child’s social and emotional skills. Early childhood classrooms help children learn how to express their emotions and work well with other friends in the classroom. Sharing is caring, right?

Stages of Social-Emotional Development:

  • Birth to 12 months: Babies are beginning to understand that their actions affect other people. By being responsive to your baby, and giving her loving touches, kisses and words, you will help her understand that she is special.
  • 12 – 24 months: Toddlers are increasingly becoming aware of themselves as well as others. They are developing empathy. Parents and caregivers who are supportive of their child’s hurts and challenges as well as their successes are modeling the social skills the child needs to exhibit to their peers.
  • 24 - 36 months: You’ll find children are naturally curious, vocal about the things they observe, and not necessarily in tune with social etiquette at this age. But children learn from you so it is important that you model what you want them to do. They are increasingly independent now and will start dressing and undressing themselves, washing their hands and going to the bathroom all by themselves. Help them learn the appropriate social skills at this age: for example, teach them to use their napkin, say “thank you,” and take their plate to the sink.
  • 3 – 4 years old: Children at this age are beginning to play more with friends rather than the  parallel play you saw when they were younger. You may need to give them frequent but gentle reminders to take turns and share with friends. Since they like to be independent, you should start giving them a series of simple directions to follow and even small chores.
  • 4 – 5 years old: Competition and fairness often come into play at this age, and you’ll see it again in another four years or so. You can help your child learn to cooperate and play more collaboratively by explaining the rules and that the rules apply to him too.

Ways to Help Your Child’s Social and Emotional Learning:

  • Model the behavior you want them to learn: say “please” and “thank you” and let them see you lending a helping hand to someone.
  • Teach them words that help explain their feelings: Happy, Sad, Lonely, Tired, Mad, Thankful
  • Assign them small tasks and take them up on their offers to help.
  • Look for things your children are doing right or well and complement on them.
  • Talk with your children about being kind and generous, and try to provide enough experiences for them to understand what these words mean.
  • Help your child understand empathy by talking about your own feelings and asking him about his: “How did you feel when the puppy got lost in the movie?” or “That song makes me feel sad.”
  • Acknowledge and respect your child’s feeling and choices. If she is crying, you shouldn’t tell her she has to stop. Help her understand why she feels that way and what might have gone wrong or could have been different.
  • Provide opportunities for playdates to help your children learn to cooperate more with their peers, to teach fairness, and connect with other children.

More information: