Fostering Social and Emotional Development in Preschoolers

Teaching Kids to Care about Others

A recent World Economic Forum report on the most in-demand skills in the current job market includes several social and emotional skills—with good reason. Social-emotional skills affect every aspect of life, including personal relationships, academic growth, learning, and self-esteem. 

The results of numerous studies demonstrate that children’s social-emotional learning is just as critical as their physical or cognitive growth. Social-emotional development often occurs organically, as parents and teachers model positive relationships. But these skills can also be taught, just like any other skill. During the preschool years, children can learn the basics of emotional literacy, social interactions, and problem-solving.   

Foster Emotional Literacy in Children

According to Vanderbilt University’s Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, children who have a strong foundation of emotional literacy tend to have more positive relationships with others, feel happier, and even do better academically. One critical aspect of emotional literacy is being able to identify emotional responses. 

Help your child identify and articulate how she’s feeling, first by labeling her feelings yourself. “You’re crying and your face is red. I can tell you feel really mad right now. Do you want to tell me about it?” Give your child permission to express negative emotions and offer reassurance. Intense feelings of anger and sadness can feel frightening to a child. Help your child understand that these negative emotions are a normal part of life and that you’ll help them handle these feelings along the path to emotional maturity.  

Build Your Preschooler's Social Confidence

Children vary widely in their social readiness. Some children are naturally social, effortlessly interacting with others. Other children may seem shy, anxious, or even aggressive in social situations. Differences in temperament usually account for these variations, but a little education can go a long way in your child's social development, building confidence and increasing the chances for social success. Teach your child how to say hello, look someone in the eye, or ask to play, just as you would teach your child how to wash his hands or put on his coat. Use playdates to help build your child's social skills. Give your child the words to say and model how to initiate a social interaction, e.g., “Tap your friend on the shoulder and say, ’Can I play with you?’" 

At Bright Horizons, we know that social-emotional learning is the foundation that allows for success in all other areas of learning  

and life. It is not secondary to other learning but the most important thing we do. Our Social-Emotional Learning curriculum fosters skills and attributes children and adults need for optimal emotional health and to interact successfully in society. A solid start socially and emotionally sets children up for success in school and life. 

Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Teaching Kids to Care about Others