15 Ways to Help Your Preschooler Develop Social and Emotional Skills

The preschool years are a time full of huge learning leaps in every area -- including social and emotional skills!

Learn how to help your child develop these skills and succeed throughout life.

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I'm over at Pam Barnhill's site again today, sharing a bit about social-emotional development in preschoolers and why these skills are so important for all children, not just those preparing to enter Kindergarten.

You'll want to click on over and read all about it, then pop back here to learn how to help develop these skills in your children.

15 ways to help develop social-emotional skills in your preschooler:

1. Encourage your child to make choices, like letting them choose between two different outfits or snacks.

Or, let her choose her own fabulous outfit all by herself!

2. Establish and follow a predictable daily or weekly routine.
  • Preview the next day's schedule at bedtime.
  • Post a daily or weekly schedule and refer to it as you transition your child from one activity to another throughout the day.
  • At the very least, let there be a general "flow" to your day, where your child can count on certain tasks and activities happening in a certain order.

3. Respond with inquisitiveness and specific praise when your child shows pride in an accomplishment.  Validate feelings, address needs and be responsive and supportive.

  • "I see you drew lots of giant trees on your paper; tell me about them."
  • You spilled your drink, but cleaned it up all by yourself! When the rag didn't work, you figured out a different solution and used the towel. Thanks for cleaning up the spill so that we wouldn't slip!
Wow, you wanted to play "Shimmer & Shine," but didn't have the right dolls, so you used clay to turn your Strawberry Shortcakes into them!

4. Promote emotional literacy (the ability to talk about emotions and feelings of self and others) by identifying and naming feelings with your child so s/he can practice using these words on a regular basis.

5. Play games where you take turns acting out a feeling and trying to guess what feeling is being shown. My Get Kids Moving with Fun Feelings Action Cards  and How Do Dinosaurs...Social Skills Game posts offer some fun ideas and free printables to help you with this! 

6. Teach your child strategies to calm down when s/he is angry or upset.
  • Sing "If You're Happy and You Know It" (Check out this book or this one to help!).
  • Choose a feeling and ask your child to think about something s/he does when feeling that way. If your child can't think of something, make a suggestion. ("I noticed when you were angry at your sister, you took a deep breath.")
  • Develop a cozy "Cool-Down Corner" in your home with books or stuffed animals.
  • Create and post a simple chart of "Calm-Down Ideas," such as counting down from 10, humming a song, doing a simple exercise, striking a yoga pose, or using a calm jar (see "Glitter Jar" here.)
Another great idea? Build a blanket fort! Not only does it give them a private space to calm down in, but the physical act of building helps regulate emotions, too!

7. Take the time to model how to do new things so your child can be independent in future and develop autonomy.

Don't forget how much little ones enjoy doing something "All by myself!"

8. Model appropriate ways to resolve conflict (role-play or use stuffed animals or puppets).

9. Play all types of games to practice taking turns. (Need great game ideas? Check out my 31 Games a 3-yr-old Can Play and Brilliant Boredom-Buster Books posts for help!)

10. Teach problem-solving skills.

11. Provide regular social contact, in one-on-one and group settings.

13. Check out these free lessons from the Committee for Children.

14. Take advantages of these materials from the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning.

15. Read books on social-emotional issues:

A great resource for parents or teachers is Ready-to-Use Social Skills Lessons and Activities For Grades PreK - K

And here are 70 books that especially promote social-emotional development in preschoolers:

What Do You Say, Dear?

When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry…

Wilma Jean the Worry Machine

Want even more ideas? See what we did to focus on feelings and emotions during one week of our Latticed Learning time and to really learn how to improve relationships, check out my series on Non-Violent Communication here.

Do you have a little one who is working on adding these skills to his or her toolbox? I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

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  1. Number 4 is so important. My girls are older now and it is number 4 that is so helpful to both them and also their teachers and me as their Mama. I bought a couple of books to help them express what they felt. They loved the pictures 😊.

  2. I have to let my 6 year old pick out her clothes because she is so creative and imaginative, I was learning that this type of person (like me as well) needs an outlet for that or they can get bogged down. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Great suggestions! This is such an important thing to work on at this age. I have to admit, it's definitely something that's a work in progress in our house with my 5 year old yelling and bossing her 2 year old sister around. :/ Can't wait to check out more of the resources you have listed!

  4. Wonderful ideas! I teach a preschool class at my church and find they certainly benefit from the things you mentioned.

    I need to work a little more with them on emotions and will implement some of your suggestions. Thank you!

  5. These are great suggestions! :) I love your giving specific praise idea! :) As a former teacher, I realize the importance of of this type of praise reinforcing positive behavior.:) I will pin your link from Booknificent Thursday.
    Thank you,
    Christina/The Blog for Teachers, Readers, & Life!

  6. Great tips! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com!

  7. These are great tips, useful for grandparents, too! Thanks for sharing with us at Creatively Crafty #ccbg :)