Social-emotional activities for preschoolers
Speaking of social-emotional activities for preschoolers, you may be wondering if preschool is too early to start talking about and practicing socio-emotional activities. Will they be able to understand? Are they too young to regulate their emotions?
The answer is, preschool is a prime time to start social-emotional learning. Between the ages of three to seven, there is a rapid growth of the prefrontal cortex, our “thinking” and “planning” brain. As this part of our brain grows, we learn how to form friendships, learn how to deal with conflict, follow rules, and manage our emotions more effectively.
Studies have also shown that positive social-emotional skills shown by kindergarteners reflect that by age 25, the same children have higher rates of graduation, better employment, and fewer incarcerations.
Here are some social-emotional activities for preschoolers that promote strong emotional intelligence from an early age:
The baselines of all social-emotional activities for preschoolers should be the ability to identify emotions properly. Practice identifying emotions through pictures of faces and body language. See if your child can identify angry, sad, hurt, disappointed, happy, excited, curious faces. Expand on their social-emotional vocabulary by adding new emotions and faces. You can also make the activity more interactive by having your child draw in a face after several days of previously identifying emotions. For example, give your child a blank template of a head and ask them to draw a sad face.
Reading Social-Emotional Books
By reading social-emotional books, your child can learn how to deal with conflict and polite ways to make friends, deal with problems, and address their own feelings. Ask your child what lessons can be learned from the story and engage in a social-emotional discussion about what may be hard to implement. Add to the social-emotional activity by asking your preschooler alternative endings to the story and what would happen if the characters acted differently.
Puppetry and Stuff Toy Play
This social-emotional activity for a preschooler can be coupled with reading as well. With stuffed toys or puppets, you can act out scenes from a story or even a real-life event that happened and discuss ways that the puppets may feel through a scene. Talk about the consequences of each choice made in a scene and ways the puppets can act responsibly.
In this social-emotional activity, you can use puppets and stuffed toys to simulate positive coping behaviors as well such as deep breathing and helpful prompts. For example, this bear is angry that his friend took his crayons. Instead of saying something mean, he can take deep breaths (act out deep breath taking) and tell his friend “The problem is I feel _______ when you __________. Please stop _________.” Have your child fill in the blanks.
When practicing social-emotional activities with preschoolers, practice and consistency is key. Children go from building an awareness to managing their emotions to forming a social skills tool box, to having these behaviors be automatic and become a part of their character.
Understand that in the beginning, it may take time for them to get used to learning the activities. But as their prefrontal cortex grows and with consistent engagement, they will learn valuable lessons from the starting social-emotional activities in preschool.