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Social and Emotional Development Domain

The Social and Emotional Development domain includes children’s feelings about themselves, their relationships with others, and learning to manage and express emotions. The skills and characteristics included in this domain are the foundation for personality development and affect progress in every area of development.

Relationships

The social skills and relationships children form are important for their overall development. Early relationships provide the basis for later relationships with adults and peers. Positive early relationships with adults help children understand and care about others. Children also gain skills that help them adjust to the demands of formal schooling. Sensitive interactions with family, caregivers, and teachers establishes a strong foundation for social and emotional development. This enables children to feel safe and supports learning through exploration.

Environments

Warm, responsive and predictable environments help children thrive emotionally and socially. When adults pay attention to children’s cues with positive regard, children learn to manage emotions, impulses, and reactions. This also helps with children’s self-esteem.


Interaction

Play experiences help with development of pride, joy and mastery of skill. Children learn self-control, turn taking, sharing, negotiation, and appropriate ways to express emotion. Playing with others also helps children work through unfamiliar situations and explore roles that are unique to their family and culture.

Temperament

A child’s temperament is the unique way he or she responds to the surrounding worlds. Some children may be generally happy and friendly, while others may be more withdrawn or shy. Sensitive adults recognize that children respond differently when exposed to a variety of situations. Responsively interacting with children in ways that match each child’s temperament supports social and emotional development.

Developing a Positive Sense of Self

Developmental Indicator Continuum

  • Show awareness of their bodies (purposefully reach for toes).
  • Show interest in their image in a mirror (smile, gaze, reach out to touch).
  • Respond to their name (smile, kick feet, turn head).
  • Express likes and dislikes (smile, cry, turn away, protest, wave hands, kick legs).
  • Show they expect results from their actions (hit toy over and over to produce sound).
  • Show pleasure at things they have done (wiggle, coo, laugh).
  • Explore the environment with support from a familiar, trusted adult.
  • Begin to recognize some body parts by pointing when asked.
  • Recognize themselves in a mirror (point to self, make faces in mirror).
  • Express choices with gestures, signs, or words (select a toy they want).
  • Show confidence in their ability to make things happen by repeating or changing their actions to reach a goal (move closer to reach an object they want).
  • Share what they have done with others and show them things they like.
  • Explore their environment, occasionally “checking in” with a familiar, trusted adult.
  • Begin to name some body parts when asked. (“Nose,” when adult asks, “What’s this?” while touches nose).
  • Identify themselves by name or a personal pronoun (I, me).
  • Express preferences and make choices. (When offered an object they do not want, will respond “No!”)
  • Use simple terms to describe their physical characteristics and what they can do.
  • Show increasing confidence and pleasure with their accomplishments.
  • Explore things that interest them in their environment.
  • Use more complex terms to describe body parts and physical characteristics (accurately identify “where it hurts”).
  • Identify themselves by first and last name.
  • Aware of the idea of ownership. (“This is mine, that is yours.”)
  • Describe themselves in positive terms, including what they like and dislike, what they can do, and what they have done.
  • Demonstrate emerging sense of independence in their choices and confidence that they can do many things.
  • Express a sense of belonging to a group. (“There’s Destiny from my class.”)
  • 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).

Developing Relationships

Developmental Indicator Continuum

  • Enjoy being held, cuddled, and talked to by familiar adults.
  • Recognize and reach out to familiar people.
  • Seek to be near trusted adults; stop crying when they come near.
  • Show signs of separation anxiety when a familiar caregiver leaves.
  • Make eye contact with others if culturally appropriate.
  • Imitate sounds, facial expressions, or gestures they see other people do and wait for a response (peek-a-boo, hands up for “so big”).
  • Show preference for and emotional connection with adults who take care of them on a regular basis (feel secure to explore and then “check in” with caregiver while playing, greet family member with big hug, seek out caregiver when upset or uncertain, exhibit anxiety when adult leaves).
  • Offer toys and objects to familiar adults.
  • Use sounds and gestures to engage adults (initiate simple give-and-take interactions).


  • Form close relationships with their primary caregivers and other familiar adults.
  • Seek help from trusted adults when upset (when fearful or having difficulty with something).
  • Feel more secure and calm more quickly, when primary caregiver is with them.
  • Use simple language to ask adults for help or to do something with them. (Sign or say “more” or “up up.”)
  • Seek out trusted adults for approval, emotional support, assistance, and help solving problems when needed.
  • Show affection for adults they are close to and refer to them by name. (“Hi Nana!”)
  • Given time, form positive relationships with new teachers or caregivers.
  • Show ease and comfort in their interactions with familiar adults.
  • 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.

Developing Relationships

Developmental Indicator Continuum

  • Notice other infants and children (turning and looking in their direction, reaching out for them).
  • Interact and move toward other familiar children when mobile.
  • Imitate sounds, expressions, or gestures when interacting with other children (shared smiling, squealing, clapping).
  • Show delight when familiar peers arrive.
  • Enjoy playing alongside other children.
  • Imitate actions of older siblings and playmates.
  • Offer toys and objects to other children.
  • Show positive emotion and turn taking, with guidance and support, when playing with familiar playmates.
  • Show affection or preference for particular children (spontaneously hug, call other child a friend).
  • Remember and use names of familiar playmates.
  • Use appropriate words to influence playmates’ behavior. (“Play with me.” “Please stop.”)
  • Participate in play with other children.
  • Demonstrate developing social skills with guidance and support when interacting with other children (improving turn-taking, conflict-resolution, sharing).
  • Form and maintain friendships with a few other children.
  • Identify another child as a friend.
  • Begin to initiate positive interactions and play with other children.
  • Seek comfort from and give support to familiar children.
  • Begin to demonstrate a respect for the rights and property of others (ask to play with someone else’s toy).
  • Notice and accept similarities and differences among people, including people with disabilities and those from different cultures (hair color, gender, or favorite activities).
  • 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.

Self-Regulation and Pro-Social Behaviors

Developmental Indicator Continuum

  • Use gestures and sounds to get another person to do something (cries, points to

cup they want).

  • Use gestures, sounds, objects, or simple words to get another person to do something (bring box to adult to be opened, make noise to get someone to look).
  • Begin to follow simple directions. (“Please get your shoes so we can go outside.”)
  • Control impulses some of the time (look at forbidden object and say, “No, no,” allow adult to direct them to a different activity).
  • Accept adult help to resolve problems and conflicts, and cooperate when an adult redirects them from a situation that poses a problem.
  • Demonstrate pro-social behaviors, participate in routines, and transition from one activity to the next with adult guidance and support (need adult reminders to self-regulate and return toy they have taken from another child).
  • Adjust their behavior to fit situations (tiptoe near a sleeping baby, use a quieter voice inside, runs outside).
  • Accept limits of the environment and redirection (accepts “no” and moves onto another activity without getting overly upset).
  • Evaluate their own and others’ actions as right or wrong (pointing out that another child is climbing on the table).
  • Show caring and cooperation (help to put away toys, offer to help another person).
  • Wait for a short time to get what they want (a turn with a toy, a snack), with guidance and support.
  • Demonstrate pro-social behaviors (waiting for a turn), participate in routines, and transition smoothly from one activity to the next with some adult guidance and support.
  • Often make requests clearly and effectively.
  • Show awareness that their actions affect others (move carefully around classmate’s block structure).
  • Work to resolve conflicts effectively, with guidance and support.
  • 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.”)

Self-Regulation and Pro-Social Behaviors

Developmental Indicator Continuum

  • Express a range of emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, and anger) with their face, body, and voice.
  • Show when they feel overwhelmed or are in distress or pain (cry, yawn, look away, extend arms or legs, arch their body, fuss).
  • Soothe themselves (suck thumb or pacifier, shift attention, rock back and forth, rub hands together, snuggle with soft toy).
  • Use body language, facial expression, simple words or signs to communicate needs and feelings (clap when happy, shout “Whee!” when excited).
  • Separate from parent or main caregiver without being overcome by stress.
  • Find comfort and calm down in a familiar setting or with a familiar person.
  • Frequently use simple words or signs to communicate needs and feelings.
  • Manage emotions and control impulses with guidance and support. (Instead of hitting says, “I don’t like that!” Waits by door instead of running ahead when excited to go out).
  • Display emotional outbursts less often.
  • Use physical ways of expressing themselves when their feelings are intense (jumping up and down when excited).
  • Use words or signs to express their needs and feelings most of the time.
  • Suggest reasons for their feelings. (“I’m sad because Grandma’s leaving.” “That makes me mad when you do that!”)
  • Manage emotions, control impulses, and calm themselves with adult support and guidance.
  • 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.

Self-Regulation and Pro-Social Behaviors

Developmental Indicator Continuum

  • Become upset when another infant is crying.
  • Respond differently to positive vs. negative emotional expressions of others.
  • Try to comfort another child or adult who is upset (bring a comfort object, stroke the person on the back).
  • Look at familiar caregivers to see how the caregiver is feeling (look to see if the caregiver is upset after they spill a drink).
  • Match their tone and emotions to that of others during interactions.
  • Use simple words and/or actions to comfort another child or adult who is upset (provide a comfort object, hugging a peer who is crying and says, “OK.”)
  • Show concern for others (share a toy with someone who doesn’t have one).
  • Offer help to meet the needs of others (pick up item someone dropped, help another child who is having trouble building a block tower).
  • Recognize facial expressions or actions associated with different emotions.
  • Use words to comfort another child or adult who is upset (bring a comfort object, pat the person on the back).
  • Communicate concern for others. (“Are you OK?”)
  • Use words and/or actions to meet the needs of others (pick up item someone dropped, help another child who is having trouble building a block tower).
  • With guidance and support, show respect for others’ feelings and points of view (work out conflicts, listen to opinions expressed by others).
  • 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.
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