Social and Emotional Development for Children Ages 3 to 6.

Hello again 🙂

I’d like to talk about a generalized span of the social and emotional development of children ages 3 to 6. Some variations that can affect where a child stands socially and emotionally in their development include a child’s age, birth order (eldest sibling, a middle child, youngest), and anything they’ve been exposed to. Things we look for in children when they come to preschool are whether they have entered a phase, are progressing well in it, or are at the end of a phase.

Virginia’s Early Childhood Development Alignment Project is a book I have that I really depend on. It’s a spiral book and it includes Milestones of Child Development. It is kind of right beside my DSS book that lets me know all the guidelines and what we need to be meeting. This really takes apart the child in terms of where they are and what approach to take. I’d like to speak to you from this book about some things that I’ve learned and some things that I’ve observed.

I’ve spoken about showing empathy, it’s really important.

When we’re observing children and kind of taking diagnostic notes that help us know where a child lands on the developmental scale, we look for things like showing empathy and care for others. Also, if they can cooperate with others and if they demonstrate increased ability to resolve conflicts. Whether or not they interact easily with one another, with more than one child, and adults is important. These are great observations and things that you can jot down on a kind of a checklist. In observing these things is also important to be able to label them

when you see them. If you see a child pretends to soothe a crying baby doll, taking turns in a game without having to wait too long, using words suggested by an adult to express anger such as “I don’t like it when you push me” or “please stop” … these are great observations. It’s good to know what to look for and it’s also good to know what to work on. Also, can the child separate willingly from adults to play with friends most of the time? These are important to note when our children are in a big playgroup or at preschool with their friends.

Much of this is modeled by the parents and can be directed by teachers and the adults in their life as we show them how to interact with their friends and how to problem-solve.

Strategic Approaches

Some strategies for us to be able to support and help the children are helping children use words to describe actions and feelings. We can create successful opportunities and group interactions in big games. Through how we work together by sharing and taking turns, we can encourage children how to problem-solve independently. We asked them “How can we fix this problem?” “I want to share this toy. What are some options that we can come up with that would help each of you be able to feel good about sharing this toy?” 

Another thing we can do as teachers and as parents or guardians is model and explain why it’s so important to be respectful. I need to tell you here that these little ones see and take in everything we do. So, we really need to be conscious of what we’re doing in every situation. Whether we are speaking with our spouses, to somebody at a drive-through, or behind that really slow driver, the children pick up on the things we think nobody sees. They end up reflecting that back to us or modeling what they’ve seen at home to their friends at preschool.

I also need to tell you that I’m a mom of two teenage daughters who show me every day the ways that I have not been meeting the mark when it comes to showing patience. That said, be kind to yourself and just have a little spot in the back of your mind that says they’re watching me do everything!

Perfection is not the goal but continued learning and improvement IS, for all of us.

We want to ask ourselves how we know that what we’re doing is really sinking into the child. “What can I see that says I’m working on modeling this for my child?” Keeping in mind perhaps, “this is what they’re working on in preschool and my child is really grasping these concepts” can help.

What should I look for in my child’s behavior or interactions with others?

Well, that’s a great question and fortunately, because of his amazing book, I have that answer on the indicators that the children are learning: Continuation to perceive themselves as worthwhile. Beginning to understand the consequences of actions they demonstrate, increased awareness of own abilities, characteristics, feelings, and preferences they see self as able to have an impact on others and be able to make responsible choices. Rebounding quickly from their own mistakes and accidents as long as there are no serious consequences.

Those are great things to see our children. They will quietly and gently come up to these new goals. You will be so excited when you see them interact with a stranger by being polite and asking them how their day was, or thanking them for a compliment and having a conversation while making eye contact. These are some skills we work on in preschool, definitely. They’re also just socially what we need to be working on with our children every day when they’re out in the world with us.

 “How can I support my child in these strategies?”

We can respond to our children with respect while encouraging them and their unique strengths and capabilities. We can acknowledge when a child’s behavior has been amazing as they wait their turn or help another person feel better.  We can expand the range of choices as long as the child makes choices that are within the established guidelines.

Instead of giving your child unlimited choices, let them choose from maybe three choices. Giving a child the choice of getting one toy off a huge toy aisle can seriously lead to a meltdown. Because we are human, we want all that we want. By choosing one thing, we may miss out on the best thing.

We help our children become problem-solvers and choice makers by limiting the choices to three of your best options. Give your child the chance to choose their very best from what you believe is the parent to be the three best choices for them. This is also a way for the child to trust that they will not be overwhelmed. It also reassures them that the parents are involved and still have a say and sway in their life.

I will end with this…

Let’s give our children some really good problem-solving strategies that we can support them with as they’re growing through this really important developmental stage, emotionally.

We can support our children’s attempts at defusing conflict and problem-solving.

We can help them express their feelings by giving them a voice and a choice and labeling emotions with the names rather than making them good or bad.

We can gently support and help negotiate.

Sharing and recognizing the emotions of both children and a conflict are absolutely going to normalize and validate their feelings while giving them some options on how to move forward. We find as adults that as we follow these guidelines in helping our children develop, we will actually become better at handling our own conflicts and our own lives as we are mindful of our children’s.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve observed a conflict on the playground that looks incredibly similar to one we may have had in the office somewhere. That needing to be heard and understood and valued is important for children ages 3 to 6. jjust as it is for adults. It is also important for all of us to not only hear but to be heard. To not only understand but be understood. To not just value others but have value for ourselves.

Thank you so much for stopping by. I’ll be talking to you soon.


Watch Your Child Take Center Stage In Their Learning