How to develop children’s social-emotional skills in kindergarten
In the beginning there is a big toddler who refuses to share toys in the sandbox. It only takes a few preschool years to hatch a friendly preschooler who knows how to play with others. How to support this transformation?
The kindergarten years take children a long way forward in their socio-emotional development. In a group of peers they gradually learn to recognize their own and others’ emotions, to control and restrain themselves, to behave modestly and express gratitude, to consider others, to communicate and cooperate with others. Under your kind but consistent guidance, children literally change before your eyes.
The process of socio-emotional development is not always easy. That’s why we’ve written some tried-and-tested advice on how to guide children safely through it.
Socio-emotional development strategy
Recognize emotionsThrow yourself into exploring emotions. When children get their feelings in order, they can talk about their emotions and learn to process them. And when they can decode the emotions of others, they can approach their environment with empathy and respect.
Get lost in the library and start reading together. Children’s books are full of stories of friendship, building positive relationships and the art of getting along with those who are not to our liking. Check out our favorites:
- Petr Horáček: A friend for the bear
- Sandra Dieckmann: The dog that swallowed the world
- Simona Smatana: Hugo the Dung Beetle
- Noemi Cupalová: Carlyle and the Wasps
Even simple play can have a big impact on the development of social skills. For example:
- Board games
teach children to take turns, follow the rules and deal with failure.
- Playing together
with cars or dolls gives children the space to interact in a group, share ideas and seek consensus on the next play scenario.
- The sandbox
is a place where children can share toys, take turns using them, cooperate and resolve any conflicts.
- Board games
Try sophisticated activities
- Compliment circle:
Sit in a circle. Each person in turn says something nice about someone else in the circle. It doesn’t matter if the compliment is simple (“You have a nice shirt.”) or more complex (“I like the pictures you draw.”), the goal is to appreciate the other person first and foremost.
- Kindness calendar:
create a weekly calendar and write a task in each box from Monday to Sunday to practice kindness. In the morning, read the task to the children and ask them to try to complete it by the evening. Then the next day, discuss together how they felt about the task.
- The power of kindness:
prepare three objects of different sizes, e.g. a small bead, a medium stone and a large ball. Then work with the children to come up with different examples of kindness and match each one to one of the three objects. Take the object and throw it into a bowl of water. Observe what it does to the surface, how it splashes and the circles it makes. Compare this to the power of kindness that spreads out with each good deed in a small or significant way and affects the lives of others.
- Broken heart:
cut out a large heart from red paper. Invite children to approach the heart one at a time and say things that can hurt feelings. Fold the paper each time and make a crease in it. When the paper is all crinkled, have the children try to smooth it out. Explain that sometimes even an apology can’t erase bad words and that they should be careful what comes out of their mouths.
- Compliment circle:
Cultivate cooperation and belongingInclude activities where children can share ideas and stories, find similarities between themselves and others, and collaborate with each other in a game or project.
Teach children gratitude and kindness, and develop other social-emotional skills. It won’t be perfect right away.
But be sure you are laying a solid foundation that they can build on after they leave preschool.
20. 5. 2023 | Martina Zatloukalová