NAEYC Social-Emotional Development: 10 Things to Know

Social-Emotional Development Is a Key Factor in a Child’s Future Success

It’s easy to focus on the ABCs and 123s as you prepare your child for kindergarten, but social and emotional development is equally important to their future in school and beyond. Mastery of basic skills might ensure good grades, but without the ability to interact with others and adapt to changing or challenging situations, a child will struggle.

Imagine a child who can recite the alphabet, identify letters and numbers, and maybe even read a little. Many people would agree the child is kindergarten-ready. However, what happens when that child enters a room with peers and cannot understand how to play with them? Perhaps the child loses their temper when asked to share or constantly jumps around and takes crayons or toys from other children. Is that child still kindergarten-ready?

As a parent, finding the balance between academic skills and social emotional skills can be challenging at best. Finding proper support can have long-term benefits for your child, especially with a preschool that commits to a balanced approach.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) aims to provide a well-rounded education for kids through age 8. A NAEYC accredited program assures parents that their children will receive the highest quality, balanced education, including the NAEYC social emotional development approach. 

The Importance of a Child’s Social and Emotional Development During Preschool Years

Social and emotional development during the preschool years lays the foundation for the rest of a child’s life. It’s the time when children develop a sense of self and an understanding of feelings and emotions. Furthermore, children learn about appropriate interactions with other people.

While it might not always be easy to understand the social and emotional needs of a preschooler at every given moment, it helps to focus on what you can do as a parent. Working on social and emotional skills at home can help kids succeed in other settings.

  • Spend time with your child and make lots of eye contact. 
  • Be openly affectionate, especially to comfort and encourage them.
  • Reinforce your unconditional love and respect for your child.
  • Practice sharing and taking turns at home.
  • Encourage some level of autonomy to encourage your child to practice new skills as they are ready.
  • Lay the foundation for conflict resolution skills by teaching empathy and negotiation.
  • Talk about emotions and feelings at an age-appropriate level.

A child’s environment also plays a crucial role in developing their social and emotional skills.

Children benefit from receiving a consistent message, making their daycare and preschool environments as important as the work you do at home. Finding a program that supports your child through this critical stage of social and emotional development is key to fostering healthy coping skills.

two preschoolers playing together

10 Things About Your Child’s Social and Emotional Development No One Has Told You

Parenting is no easy feat, especially when it comes to raising well-rounded, well-adjusted kids. Working through social and emotional development during the preschool years is sometimes like a minefield. These ten facts might help you navigate the pitfalls.

1. Kids Need to Learn It’s Okay to Ask for Help

There’s a fine line between self-sufficiency and attempting the impossible. Young kids who learn when and how to ask for help fare better in the long run than those who don’t. It also encourages them to be realistic about their capabilities. 

Try asking your child for help with something at home to model the behavior. Be careful to choose activities they can do and thank them for helping. 

2. Family Time Should Be a Priority

Kids can benefit from quality family time at any age because it promotes emotional health. Setting aside time to do something as a family lets your child know that they matter to you. It also opens up lines of communication to discuss thoughts and feelings in a relaxed atmosphere.

3. Labeling Feelings Helps Kids Acknowledge Them

When you label a child’s feelings, it helps them understand the emotions better. It’s also a way to acknowledge their emotions and let your child know you see them. Voice the behaviors you witnessed and assign an emotion to them.

For example, your child cries and withdraws to their room. You can say something like, “I noticed you crying and not wanting to be around us. You must be sad about something.” In this situation, you let your child know that you noticed the behavior and correlating emotion while opening the door to conversation.

4. Eye Contact Matters

Kids absorb a lot by watching what we do. Since eye contact is a critical part of communication at all ages, it’s important to look a kid in the eye during a conversation. Even if your child is extremely shy, encourage good eye contact and practice in a comfortable environment.

5. Respecting Personal Space is Learned

Personal space can be a challenge for young kids, especially if they are naturally friendly and outgoing. In many cases, it can present as impatience and interfere with their ability to make friends. Teaching kids about personal space and providing appropriate examples through demonstration can go a long way.

6. Cooperation Can Be Fun to Learn

Cooperation is essential at every stage of life, but not always easy for kids to embrace. Teaching children how to work together to reach a common goal can be fun, especially if the end product is rewarding. Try working together to complete a puzzle, build a tower, or bake something – and make sure you are letting your child be genuinely helpful.

7. Active Listening Skills Start Early

Listening isn’t pretending to pay attention or keeping quiet while somebody else talks. While those are certainly key skills for kids to learn in life, laying the foundation for active listening is essential. Active listening entails absorbing information, processing it, and formulating a response. 

8. Sharing is Challenging for Young Kids Because They Understand the Cost

Preschool-aged kids understand that sharing can mean giving up something they want. For example, splitting a cookie in half means they get less, and that’s at the forefront of their mind. However, drawing attention to the benefit to the other person, like making them happy, can help. It also reinforces labeling feelings and empathy.

9. Support Your Child’s Interests….Even If You Don’t Share Them

Supporting and encouraging your child’s interests is key to their development and creating a healthy connection. It might not be easy being a mom who likes to stay at home and read, with a child who loves to play sports. If some of the toughest dads can play princesses and “diner” with their kids, then you can find a way to encourage your child’s passion. 

Make sure you listen to your child as they chatter about their favorite things. Giving them your full attention shows that you respect and support them.

10. Encouraging Rest Teaches Mindfulness

Any parent can tell you that a solid night’s sleep is the difference between a moody, temperamental toddler and a happy kid. However, getting sufficient rest impacts more than mood; it’s a key factor in social and emotional development.

Encouraging and reinforcing rest periods allow kids to recharge, but it also supports memory retention and awareness. Afternoon naps and quiet times establish a foundation for mindfulness, a meditation practice that aids in focus and connectedness. While kids might not understand mindfulness yet, they can benefit from setting aside time to rest and relax their busy minds.

How NAEYC-Accredited Preschool Programs Can Help Your Child’s Social and Emotional Development

NAEYC established ten standards that programs must meet to earn accreditation from the organization. These standards stem from input gleaned from experts across the country with a special focus on child development and holistic support, including a child’s social and emotional development.

1. Standard One: Relationships

Learning how to communicate with others and build a community helps kids establish healthy, long-term relationships. It provides safety and security while teaching cooperation. 

This standard supports social emotional growth by modeling and encouraging healthy communication and conflict resolution.

2. Standard Two: The Curriculum

All NAEYC programs must follow a curriculum that promotes well-rounded development. While kids should learn necessary academic skills, they also need support to develop physically, socially, and emotionally. Programs should feature goals and integrate several skills into planned activities.

A balanced curriculum addresses more than academics, and this push for integrated lessons ensures that the program meets each child’s social and emotional needs. It encourages the exploration of individual interests and promotes cooperation.

3. Standard Three: Teaching

Children learn differently, and NAEYC accredited programs must account for these differences by approaching education in multiple ways. 

This standard supports social emotional development by embracing and supporting each child’s uniqueness. Further, instead of watching children become frustrated by failure, the teachers can adapt programs to meet individual needs so they can succeed.

4. Standard Four: Assessment of Child Progress

Programs conduct assessments to track each child’s development and communicate results with the families. These assessments should be conducted both formally and informally for a more comprehensive approach. Further, teachers can customize the curriculum to support each child appropriately.

Parents should ask how programs assess development and what communication looks like. Each family should receive regular updates, including some conferences with the teaching team.

5. Standard Five: Health

Health and safety are crucial for any school, and parents should know that their child is safe and well-fed while at preschool. Look for programs that have health and safety-related policies in place, serve nutritious meals and snacks, and hire staff with pediatric first aid training.

6. Standard Six: Staff Competencies, Preparation, and Support

Programs should hire staff with the requisite knowledge and skills, but also with a willingness to keep learning. Continuing education and professional development help teachers stay current with the latest information and skills to support families. 

Teachers with a full, well-rounded education and skill set tend to have better interactions and provide a quality learning experience for kids. They have the tools to guide kids through all stages of development, including social and emotional.

7. Standard Seven: Families

NAEYC programs recognize the importance of family support and relationships. They foster healthy relationships and encourage all cultures and family compositions to participate. 

This approach validates each child’s home life and background and fosters respectful, collaborative relationships. Look for programs that welcome a wide range of families and embrace open policies to support everyone.

8. Standard Eight: Community Relationships

When programs engage with the surrounding community, they model the importance of a strong support system. It’s an excellent way to help each child and family achieve their goals and find the resources they need to explore individual interests.

9. Standard Nine: Physical Environment

Facilities should be safe and clean to make children and families feel comfortable. They should be sufficiently equipped to meet the health, safety, and educational needs of each child.

10. Standard Ten: Leadership and Management

Solid programs begin with a strong foundation, meaning leadership and management teams who understand the above standards. Further, they should have educational backgrounds with specializations in early childhood education and child development. 

Programs for Preschool Staff

NAEYC offers several preschool programs to help teachers and administrators deal with special circumstances. Some top options include:

Teachers and administrators can complete these programs to expand their skills and better support their children and families.

How We Do It at Kids’ Care Club

Kids’ Care Club is a NAEYC-accredited program that supports preschoolers in developing academically, socially, and emotionally. Our centers utilize the top child development theories to meet each child’s needs and support their unique interests. 

We believe in nurturing each child’s interests, fostering a love of learning, and encouraging them to develop healthy relationships. Families will appreciate the communication and our home-to-school connections.

With five programs available, we support kids from infancy to kindergarten. The various programs allow us to focus on age-appropriate skills, including social, emotional, and academic development.

If your child is ready for preschool and you are looking for a nurturing space that supports academic, social, and emotional development, contact Kids’ Care Club today. 

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