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Social and Emotional Development - Older Preschoolers (45 to 60+ Months)

At ages 4 and 5, older preschoolers are actively learning what causes certain feelings, how others may react in certain situations and how to manage their own emotions. Introduce coping strategies for them, such as "talking it out" or drawing pictures about how they feel. You'll also notice your child is getting better at playing with other kids, making friends and attempting to resolve conflicts. Model pro-social behaviors for them, such as waiting for a turn.

About This Domain

The Social and Emotional Development domain includes children’s feelings about themselves and their relationships with others, as well as learning to manage and express emotions. These skills and characteristics effect progress in every other area of development.

Components

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Developing a Positive Sense of Self

Milestones

Goal SED-1: Children demonstrate a positive sense of themselves as unique and capable individuals in play and everyday tasks.

Use detail to describe positive feelings about themselves, their physical characteristics, what they can do, and what they have accomplished in a variety of areas.

Express preferences and explain reasons for choices.

Express awareness that they are members of different groups (family, clan, preschool class).

Strategies

Suggestions for Enriching the Environment
  • Design children’s spaces as places where they experience joy, feel comfortable, safe, and successful.
  • Include photos of each child with their family, as well as other materials that reflect their homes and cultures throughout the environment.
  • Place unbreakable mirrors in several different areas of the room, such as at the changing table and on the walls at children’s eye level.
  • Provide many opportunities for children to explore the outside natural environment, as well as the indoor environment.
  • Provide opportunities for children to do “inside” activities in the outdoor setting such as painting, reading, kitchen/ dramatic play.
  • Label cubbies with children’s names and photos.
  • Provide activities that are stimulating, challenging yet achievable.
  • Provide cozy areas where children can be alone if they wish within sight of an adult.
  • Provide a dramatic play/housekeeping area with familiar real life materials children can use in their play, such as telephones, dishes, food cartons, pots, and pans to encourage independence.
  • Set up a “safe haven” table near the door, where children who have trouble separating may ease into classroom routines by engaging with play dough or simple puzzles.
  • Provide shelves and other spaces for children’s extended art projects.
  • Display work from all the children at their eye level. Include children’s own descriptions of their work as part of the display. Occasionally use paper or inexpensive frames or mats to highlight their work.
  • Provide materials and activities that are developmentally appropriate for a wide range of ages and abilities. Include adaptive materials so children can fully participate and experience success. Offer choices of open-ended art materials, simple and more advanced puzzles, and a variety of blocks that children can access independently. Set up a safe woodworking area with child-safe tools and safety glasses.
Effective Strategies to Support Children's Development and Learning
  • Demonstrate deep respect for each child and family.
  • Greet children individually and help them engage in activities to ease their transitions from home.
  • Demonstrate a genuine interest in each child. Smile, laugh, and spend time with them. Make comments that focus on positive qualities and contribute to their self-esteem.
  • Respond to children according to their individual preferences and needs for daily routines such as feeding, sleeping, and comforting.
  • Observe families interactions. Ask parents and guardians help learn more about their children. Use what is learned to provide consistent, predictable, loving care.
  • Keep notes on each child to develop an individualized plan to meet each child’s unique needs.
  • Offer objects to comfort, such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal to help a child feel secure when he or she appears upset.
  • Take plenty of time to interact with each child in a relaxed way during everyday caregiving routines including diapering, dressing, and eating. Plan ahead so all supplies are readily available before starting routines. This enables full attention and focus to be on the child.
  • Talk with children and narrate, putting words to their actions as they explore. (“I see that you are rubbing your fingers across the bark of the tree. How does it feel?”)
  • Play and interact with children at their level, getting down on the floor, or cuddling close together while reading a book.
  • Provide opportunities for children to repeat successful activities, gradually providing similar but slightly more challenging experiences.
  • Help children develop a positive sense of self by providing many opportunities to make choices, allowing them to make decisions and planning (what book to read, song to sing, or game to play).
  • View mistakes as opportunities to learn. Be supportive and let children know everyone makes mistakes. Model that it is important to keep trying.
  • Use children’s home language as much as possible in daily conversations with them. Put words to feelings and emotions.
  • Read books about families and encourage children to talk about their families. Invite children to share photos of their families. Discuss similarities and differences.
  • Provide positive role models for both boys and girls. Read books that feature positive role models for boys and girls.
  • Provide opportunities for children to identify themselves in pictures and to identify their names from a group of other names.
  • Prepare children for new situations and changes in routines (such as a field trip or visitor) by using pictures, verbal explanations, and acting out what will happen.
  • Have frequent conversations with children. Listen carefully, respond, acknowledge and give them credit for their ideas.
  • Expand on children’s ideas and interests. For example, a child’s interest in vehicles may become a play theme or topic of study. Routinely involve children in thinking through real-life problems (how to clear a path through the new snow).
  • Promote reflection by asking open-ended questions as children are working on a project.
  • Help children use conflict resolution skills when they are working through problems with other children. Model negotiation skills by talking about the problem, the feelings related to the problem, and how to explore possible solutions.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate children’s successes. Encourage them to recognize their own achievements and congratulate peers on their successes.
  • Help children identify coping skills that will help them when feeling stress, such as asking for a hug, holding a blanket and taking a break.
  • Role model relaxation skills, such as deep breathing, slowly counting and progressively relaxing muscles to help children cope with challenges.
  • Encourage children to think of mistakes as opportunities to explore alternative solutions and ways to complete tasks. Avoid making critical or negative comments. Acknowledge when you yourself make mistakes and talk about how you try to learn from them.
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Developing Relationships

Milestones

Goal SED-2: Children form relationships and interact positively with familiar adults in play and everyday tasks.

Seek out and accept help from trusted adults as needed for emotional support, approval, assistance, social interaction, and help solving problems.

Build and strengthen positive relationships with new teachers or caregivers over time.

Use language effectively to converse with familiar adults, to ask for help, or to do something.

Goal SED-3: Children form relationships and interact positively with other children in play and everyday tasks.

Demonstrate social skills when interacting with other children (turntaking, conflict-resolution, sharing).

Form and maintain friendships with other children of diverse cultural backgrounds, abilities, and genders.

Can name qualities that make a good friend.

Have effective back-and-forth conversations, negotiate, and plan with other children.

Play, interact, and make decisions collaboratively with other children in pairs and small groups (work on project together, exchange ideas).

Express respect and caring for all people, celebrating similarities and differences among people of all abilities and cultures.

Strategies

Suggestions for Enriching the Environment
  • Work to develop a sense of community among the children and adults in your setting by reading books, singing and playing together.
  • Allow each child in your care to have responsibilities such as setting the table, helping to put away toys, watering plants, caring for pets, and contributing to the good of the group.
  • Create inviting interest areas or centers in the room where small groups of children can play. Include a housekeeping/ dramatic play area with materials that represent a variety of cultures and families, changing props throughout the year.
  • Provide plenty of time and opportunity for enjoyable peer and adult interactions during routine times, such as snack time, hand washing, and clean up. Avoid hurrying children.
  • Promote cooperation and sharing by having enough materials in centers/interest areas and elsewhere around the room that allow children to play together.
Effective Strategies to Support Children's Development and Learning
  • Continually nurture your relationship with each child daily, working in close proximity to help each of them develop a sense of trust and belonging.
  • Nurture relationships with each family, treating them as valued partners with frequent conversations and seeking their input.
  • Be honest with children, providing a good model for them to follow. Follow through on what you have told the child you will do.
  • To promote attachment, assign one specific person to be the primary caregiver for each young child for as long as possible.
  • Reassure family members that children can form attachments to more than one person and will not become less attached to them if they have a good attachment to their caregivers as well.
  • Support each child’s attachment to his/her family while the child is in your care. Greet both children and family members as they arrive and depart. Talk about family members with children during the day. Set up a communication system (report form, notebook, text, or e-mail) to let families know what the child’s day has been like.
  • Encourage family members to say goodbye to their children and reassure them that their loved ones will come back.
  • Help children learn strategies to deal with separation from their parents, such as bringing something special from home (their own or the parents’).
  • Interact with children in an engaging way during caregiving routines such as diapering, feeding, and hand washing.
  • Watch infants for signs that they are not becoming attached. For example, a child might become passive, not react to something that would typically upset a child, or seem not to thrive like other infants. Talk with family members, administrators, or other professionals if you observe these signs.
  • Recognize that fear of strangers and separation anxieties are normal stages of attachment in mobile infants. Help parents understand that this is normal development and create strategies and good-bye routines to support the child/family through this stage.
  • Treat children as individuals by frequently using their names rather than just talking to them as a group.
  • Model “gentle touches” for children as they interact with each other.
  • Meet children’s needs in a timely manner. Provide children with a sense of security and trust.
  • Discuss the characters in storybooks, talking about feelings of the characters, similarities and differences in their appearances, etc. Help children to make their own books or class books with photos or pictures of children displaying a variety of feelings. This could be especially helpful for children who are non-verbal or who have language difficulty.
  • Provide books and music that depict a variety of cultures and traditions.
  • Engage in meaningful, back and forth, conversations with children. Listen to children’s interests and ask genuine follow-up questions. Let children see that you understand by mirroring their emotions, such as sharing joint excitement over an accomplishment.
  • Share activities that help children get to know each other and help them recognize and appreciate similarities and differences. For example, graph eye color, hair color, gender, and how they get to school.
  • Provide opportunities for children to play cooperatively in pairs and in small groups to foster friendships. Make sure they have opportunities to play with and learn to appreciate all of their peers.
  • Celebrate group successes and collaboration instead of competition.
  • Help children initiate play with other children in positive ways. Model strategies to help children enter a group (“Can I be a sister?”) and give children suggestions on how to join play activities with another child or group of children, such as sharing toys and play ideas, offering to help, and giving compliments. Be especially mindful of dual language learners who may need additional support.
  • Invite children to participate in a variety of small-group activities such as cooking and reading together, and in large-group activities such as circle time and creative movement for short periods of time.
  • Promote nurturing behavior by encouraging children to help each other, reading books that demonstrate caring and setting a good example.
  • Invite family members and people from the community who model caring for others to share their cultures, traditions, and talents.
  • Take trips to visit people and places in the community.
  • Involve children in projects that help the community, such as recycling, visiting the elderly, and collecting food or other items for those in need.
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Self-Regulation and Pro-Social Behaviors

Milestones

Goal SED-4: Children demonstrate self-regulation, prosocial behaviors, and participate cooperatively as members of a group in play and everyday tasks.

Demonstrates pro-social behaviors, participate in routines, and transition smoothly from one activity to the next with minimal support.

Make requests clearly and effectively most of the time.

Balance their own needs with those of others in the group most of the time.

Anticipate consequences of their actions and plan ways to solve problems effectively, with a small amount of guidance and support.

Use a variety of strategies to solve conflicts with increasing independence and show greater understanding of when to bring a problem to an adult.

Defend self while respecting the rights of others.

Play independently, in pairs, and cooperatively in small groups.

Initiate play and know how to enter into a group of children who are already involved in play.

Show social support through encouraging words or actions. (“I’ll be your friend.”)

Goal SED-5: Children demonstrate an ability to identify and regulate their emotions in play and everyday tasks.

Use increasingly more complex vocabulary to express their feelings, as well as to identify the emotions of others.

Describe reasons for their feelings that may include thoughts and beliefs as well as outside events. (“I’m happy because I wanted to win and I did.”).

Manage emotions, control impulses, and delay gratification with minimal support, coming up with possible problem-solving strategies and solutions for managing their frustrations, calming, and regulating themselves.

Goal SED-6: Children recognize and respond to the needs and feelings of others in play and everyday tasks.

Communicate understanding, empathy, and support for others’ feelings.

Show awareness that their behavior can affect the feelings of others. (“I didn’t mean to hurt you when I threw that.”)

Choose to act in ways that show respect for others’ feelings and points of view most of the time (complement each other during play, work out conflicts, show respect for opinions expressed by others).

Recognize that everyone has emotions and that other people may not feel the same way they do about everything.

Strategies

Suggestions for Enriching the Environment
  • Keep the mood positive, creating an environment where children and adults are happy and engaged.
  • Establish a predictable daily routine and post a schedule that includes both pictures and words.
  • Encourage children to identify, interpret, and express a wide range of feelings for themselves and others by providing books, toys, puppets and activities such as drawing, writing, creating art and movement, and open-ended pretend play.
  • Set up a Safe Place Center in the room where children can go when they are having a difficult time. Place soft pillows or cuddly bears, and pictures on the wall of their family members for comfort.
  • Have a Solution Center or Peace Talk Area where children can talk out and verbalize their feelings and resolve conflicts by themselves or with the help of an adult if needed.
Effective Strategies to Support Children's Development and Learning
  • Respond to children’s verbal and nonverbal expressions of feelings, such as signs of becoming overwhelmed. Let children know you are there for them and care about them unconditionally.
  • Be patient with children. Model using a calm voice. Recognize that young children do not cry or act out in an effort to frustrate adults. They are simply learning to communicate their wants and needs. Responsive adults help children learn to effectively communicate needs.
  • Allow children to make choices to promote feelings of control and success. Encourage them to do things for themselves as much as possible, even though it may take longer and won’t be done as you might have done it yourself.
  • Recognize that expressing both positive and negative feelings is a part of healthy emotional development. Children need support to learn to express intense feelings with words and acceptable physical ways.
  • Use natural situations that provide opportunities to talk and identify feelings, and how our actions may affect the feelings of others.
  • Talk with children about events or challenges that are influencing their emotions.
  • Model socially appropriate ways to express unpleasant feelings and how to ask for something, using puppets or role-playing.
  • Include words that describe feelings as part of children’s overall language development. Model language to help children identify emotions you see a child is experiencing. (“You look disappointed.”)
  • Give children something engaging and constructive to do during transitions or when they have to wait. For example, sing songs, draw a picture, play with a puzzle, or tell a story.
  • Model techniques to help children learn to relax, stay calm and manage their anger and fears, such as breathing deeply, finding a comfortable spot to listen to music, and using words to express themselves.
  • Understand that some children have a greater need for movement than others and make sure to provide opportunities for movement throughout the day. Allow children to move freely from one interest area/center to another. Consider allowing a child to stand, sit, or lay down in a comfortable position while you read a story to the group.
  • Involve children in creating a small number of shared expectations/rules/guidelines for the group.
  • Reinforce appropriate behaviors by providing positive feedback and linking to your shared expectations/rules. (“Thank you so much for walking in the room and keeping your friends safe.”)
  • Explain reasons for limits and provide alternatives. (“We use gentle touch so we do not hurt our friends. When you are mad, you can use words to talk to your friend about it or come to an adult for help.”)
  • Use reminders and logical consequences. If a child throws sand let her know that if it happens again she will need to leave the sand table and choose another activity. Then assure her that she will have other opportunities to return to the sand table to “practice” good choices again.
  • Consider teaching children a Social Problem Solving Process: identifying the problem, brainstorming possible solutions, choosing a solution, trying it out, evaluating their success, and trying something else if not successful.
  • Redirect children’s inappropriate behavior by offering choices. (“It’s not OK to push our friend away from the play dough table, but you can play with the blocks or in the art area.”)
  • Establish a transition routine, such as singing or playing a special song that provides cues to let everyone know they need to clean up or come to circle by the time the song ends.
  • Encourage and acknowledge children when they use good manners, such as holding the door for a friend and saying “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” Model an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude. Thank children for being kind and include them in writing thank you notes to others.
  • Encourage children to express their needs with words. Model appropriate language, such as, “May I please have that toy?”
  • To promote self-regulation play games such as Simon Says. Sing Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, and ask children to touch their heads when they say “toes” and toes when they say “head.” This promotes their brain’s ability to stop, think, and vary their responses.
  • Use music, literature, puppets, and role-playing to help children recognize feelings of others.
  • Encourage children to express different emotions in their pretend play.
  • Model empathy and help children develop empathy toward others. Talk with them about how their actions impact others. Encourage them to notice and ask others how they are feeling.

About the South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines

The South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines serve as a shared vision for all adults supporting young children's experiences prior to entering kindergarten. Positive interactions with trusted adults, engaging with peers, and consistent environments that are safe, healthy, and enhance learning are vital elements to support young children.

Goals and Developmental Indicators describe expectations for what children learn starting with infancy and covering all ages through kindergarten entry. These goals apply to all children regardless of what language they speak, what strengths/disabilities they may have, or specific unique family circumstances. Strategies to enrich the environment, support development and learning, and adaptations provide a variety of ideas to consider.

At the “heart” of the document are tables or developmental continuums that describe children’s learning and development from birth up to kindergarten. You can find these tables under the Learning Domain tab in our main navigation. These Goals and Developmental Indicators are divided into five domains:

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Approaches to Learning

Children are born with an inclination to learn. This is reflected in behaviors and attitudes such as curiousity, problem-solving, maintaining attention, and persistence.

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Communication, Language & Literacy

From birth, children are learning language and developing the ability to communicate. Talking, singing, reading, and responding effectively when children express themselves are great investments supporting learning.

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Cognitive Development

This fascinating area of development includes understanding how children aquire, organize, and use information in increasingly complex ways. Through play, skills are developed as the foundation for exploring and understanding more sophisticated concepts.

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Health & Physical Development

Physical growth, muscle development, nutrition, self-care, health and safety practices are included in this area. Safe and healthy practices suppport the ability to learn more effectively in all areas.

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Children's areas of development are all integrated. While organized among five domains, each with different components, no one area is more important than another and are interrelated. These guidelines provide understanding for how children develop and why it is important to provide playful activities and experiences that support early learning.

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