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When first starting school, preschoolers face a variety of changes. From meeting new teachers and classmates to singing new songs and learning how to count, children have a lot on their plate when beginning their academic journey. And while curricular features are certainly important in introducing students to the learning process, teachers also need to consider how best to foster social-emotional skills for preschoolers. Through this lens, it’s necessary to develop these skills at an early age to ensure the development of other skills in and out of school.

Why Social-Emotional Skills for Preschoolers are Significant

In order to understand why social-emotional development in children is important, it’s helpful first to define it. According to Bradley Busch and Ben Oakley, writing for The Guardian, emotional intelligence can be summed up in five primary components:

  • Self-awareness
  • Emotional control
  • Self-motivation
  • Empathy
  • Relationship construction

These characteristics of emotional intelligence comprise the foundational skills that help give students access to independence and academic success.

Emotional intelligence is an effective predictor in success for children into adulthood. According to an article in Psychology Today, a new study reports that emotional intelligence makes up for 54% of the variations in success, which consist of factors that include relationship success, healthy living, and quality of life. The data set’s main takeaway is that “young people with high EQ earn higher grades, stay in school, and make healthier choices.” With this figure in mind, it’s more important than ever for educators to locate opportunities to integrate social-emotional skill development in their preschool curriculum.

The benefits of forming emotional skills for preschoolers can be found in the ways that emotionally intelligent adults are able to excel in their fields. According to Dr. Travis Bradberry, writing for Business Insider, emotional intelligence is massively important because of the way it “affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.” Centrally, he found that emotional intelligence can be linked to patient, empathetic, and, above all, effective problem-solving. With this logic and with the significance of emotional intelligence in adults in the workforce, teachers and educators can create conditions in the classroom that will support social development in preschoolers.

As teachers look to explore ways to introduce social-emotional development in preschoolers, it’s also important to consider some important byproducts of the practice. Social-emotional skills, when developed at an early age, can influence and motivate more effective “math-specific interest,” according to a 2016 scholarly article in the journal Psychology in the Schools. The significance of this study can be found in the ways that the researchers connected learning overall – particularly in social-emotional capacities – with the development of math skills.

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How to Support Social and Emotional Development in Preschoolers

When deciding how to incorporate effective strategies to promote social and emotional development in preschool-aged children, the options can at first be overwhelming. Fortunately, though, activities that focus on social and emotional development can be seamlessly incorporated into typical classroom instruction.

Above all, children need opportunities for socialization. Researchers for the scholarly article “Empirically Valid Strategies to Improve Social and Emotional Competence of Preschool Children” have pinpointed the importance of the development of social and emotional skills for preschoolers. Specifically, the researchers elaborate that “Children who are socially and emotionally competent have increased socialization opportunities with peers, develop more friends, have better relationships with their parents and teachers, and enjoy more academic and social successes.” On the other side, children who aren’t able to gain these skills at an early age often become withdrawn from their peers, experience social isolation, undergo greater achievement problems in school, and require greater behavioral intervention.

Give children the tools and the language to understand their emotions.

The learning process can be made much smoother when students are able to express their feelings clearly. Here, teachers can establish vocabulary games that center on the communication of feelings. With pictures, video materials, songs, and partnered activities, teachers can give preschoolers opportunities to learn how to comfortably express themselves. One of the best ways to promote social / emotional skills development is to give students the tools to communicate their emotions.

Read books that build empathy.

Storytime is one of the best ways to get preschoolers to begin thinking outside of their own perspectives and experiences. By introducing students to new ways of thinking, teachers can effectively promote a more empathetic approach to learning. Teachers here can select appropriate books that empower preschoolers to connect with colorful characters and new points of view. Preschoolers who have more opportunities to engage with new perspectives will have a much easier time developing social-emotional skills, which will benefit the learning process overall.

Build an environment that welcomes the open communication of feelings.

When students feel more comfortable expressing themselves in their environment, they’ll be able to develop a greater sense of self-awareness. As one of the hallmark features of emotional intelligence, greater self-awareness will help preschoolers learn and engage with their peers more effectively. Additionally, positive and welcoming learning environments will help instill an overall positive relationship with learning. According to Tori DeAngelis, a writer for the American Psychological Association, just 29% of school-age children reported that “their schools provide caring, encouraging environments.” To help mitigate this growing issue, it’s more important now than ever for preschoolers to experience inviting spaces where they can explore and learn more about their emotions. One way that teachers can foster a supportive and emotionally welcoming environment is to integrate activities that promote socialization. Teachers can partner or group students differently in each interactive lesson to create an atmosphere where students feel connected with each other.

Create activities that invite reflection.

Reflection-based activities can be used to help build an effective foundation for preschoolers to understand better why they feel certain things. Outside of storytime, educators can employ interactive games and other activities to support emotional control and self-awareness. Some examples of these activities can include:

  • Emotion matching games, where preschoolers pair cards that illustrate different emotions.
  • Emotion check-ins, where children can point to different graphics that help articulate what they’re feeling.
  • Compliment time, which gives students the opportunity to give compliments to their peers.

While these strategies are helpful entry points, the best way to prepare preschoolers to become more emotionally intelligent is by learning from experts with experience in the field. Through Point University’s online Bachelor’s in Child Development, you’ll have the opportunity to learn best how to create activities and environments that cultivate physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual development. By completing the affordable and 100% online program, you’ll also be able to apply for an Early Education Teacher Certificate from the Association of Christian Schools International. Learn more about the program today and begin your journey in effectively equipping children with the social-emotional skills they need to succeed.