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Learning to Love in Preschool

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Learning to Love in Preschool - teaching social emotional skills to preschoolers by creating a warm and safe environment, meeting individual needs, modeling empathy.

Learning to Love in Preschool

Our days are very full with learning activities, basic routines and learning about how to get along. More and more, our time is spent learning to get along and handle emotions.

I feel this is the most challenging part of my days. Meaning how I handle it probably makes it the most important.

Learning to Love in Preschool - Social Emotional Development

How can I create a warm and safe environment?
First of all, I welcome them here. For many, this is their second home. A smile and a hug when they come in. Friendly chatter with mom. A place for all their things. A transition to play with something that might attract their attention or promise of fun activities ahead. I often have soft music playing in the morning. Everything that is out encourages exploration, creativity and engagement. Some bring in lovies or blankets for self comfort. Our routine plays a large part in children learning to feel safe and comfortable here because they know what’s going to happen and to expect. My job is to encourage and give opportunity for children to express their preferences – likes and dislikes. Building a positive relationship with the families as well as each child creates respect and a loving atmosphere that benefits everyone.

Learning to Love in Preschool - Social Emotional Development

Individual Needs
Children are often feeling tired, stressed and sometimes out of control with different feelings they are experiencing or situations they are coming from. Communication with parents is vital. I need to know what is going on in their lives, how the morning went, how their child is feeling and anything unusual. Being an in-home child care setting, with a small group, I have the opportunity to focus on and meet individual needs even if it goes beyond our normal schedule. Sometimes a child needs to lay down and rest upon arrival. Just quiet time alone. Or finish breakfast. Or even get dressed.  If I can make the day easier for a parent and child, I will do it. Helping children identify and manage their feelings by talking with them and observing their behaviors is crucial.

Learning to Love in Preschool - Social Emotional Development

Modeling Empathy
Modeling empathy is one of my most important roles. Children need to learn to have empathy for others who are different than ourselves, or who even have different ideas than we do. Two and three year-olds have definite ideas of what they want to do and what others should do! Those ideas are not always pleasing to one another or very considerate. Taking time to explain can sure be time consuming but it’s necessary. Often I hear “so&so did this” and “so&so did that”. My response is: “What could you say to him/her?” “Did you ask for what you want?” “Tell him/her how you feel.” They need to learn to talk each other. Then they can consider each others feelings. I often just listen and see if they can work things out on their own. These first friendship experiences teach children about building positive relationships.Learning to Love in Preschool - Social Emotional Development

In the case of minor injuries and hurt feelings: I ask “What could we do to help ____ feel better?” Options are commonly:

  • Sit together in a chair.
  • Hold hands.
  • Share a book.
  • Get an ice pack.
  • Share a toy.
  • Give a hug.
  • Say “I’m sorry.

These little efforts can make a big impact. All day long it seems like there’s little annoyances and bumps and bruises. It’s easy to get impatient. It’s exhausting really. But often, these things just need to be acknowledged. The child needs comfort. He or she needs to feel cared for and remembered. Sometimes all I can do is say “I’m sorry that happened to you.” and give a touch or a hug.

Learning to Love in Preschool - Social Emotional Development

Caring for Others
How can we practice taking care of others? Stop what we are doing and lend a helping hand?
Being just one person (believe it or not!) I’m often asked “Stacy, can you…??” when I’m helping another child, have wet hands, changing a diaper or making lunch. Well, no I can’t always drop what I’m doing and assist or entertain whatever request that comes up. Often this is opportunity to call on another child to help out. For example, I might ask: “K, can you help G with the buttons on her dress up costume?” This helps me and also helps children learn they can help one another. They are pleased to be asked to help and are proud of their accomplishments once they do.

Learning to Love in Preschool - Social Emotional Development

Doing these things throughout the day helps us keep the same perspective when doing a math activity, reading a book, tracing letters or making an art project. One way the Mother Goose Time helps us concentrate on social emotional development is with a new Friendship Trait each month. February’s trait is “Loving”. We talked about how we can be loving, or show others love. I loved the answers – “Play together”, “Give hugs”, “Say nice things”. Since the day the Loving Friendship Feather was introduced, I’ve been trying to incorporate this word into our days. “Is that a loving thing to say?” “That was very loving!” “How can we show we’re loving?” It’s a great reminder to me as well as a lesson for the children. Just using and expecting kindness and consideration of others is expected throughout our days.

I feel I have a lot to learn about helping children in their social emotional development. There are many methods and theories that go with discipline and educating children. The most effective is our example.

Excellent resources for parents and educators: Center on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning

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