The Beautiful Early Years!
Key Area No.6 – Part 1: Personal, Social and Emotional Development
The Heart of Learning
In my career as an educator and through being a mum, I repeatedly come back to the same conclusion; the central importance of personal development. This truly is at the core of developing confident, resilient, emotionally intelligent and kind young people.
For me, personal development is at the heart of what makes an education successful or not. Thankfully, The Foundation Stage Curriculum fully agrees and has a whole area dedicated to Personal, Social and Emotional Development.
As this is such a vital area it will be split across 3 blogs – the first being Emotional Navigation, the second, Nurturing the Self and the last, Positive Relationships.
Supporting small people to process, communicate and manage emotions is vital to growing a future internal script that they can use to help themselves and others. Emotions are big and have a dramatic impact on our behaviour and wellbeing. Therefore, it is important that we support our children to label, to understand and to respond to their own emotions.
We can support our children by teaching them about emotions. A few examples:
• Reading stories
There are so many beautiful books with illustrations and stories which give opportunities to discuss emotions and how they make characters behave, ‘Oh no, look at her face!’ ‘How is she feeling?’ ‘Why is she feeling like that?’ ‘Why did she do that?’
- More than happy or sad
The more emotions words we give our children, the more able they are to understand. Try not to oversimplify by just using for example, happy, sad, cross.
Words such as calm, proud, curious, relaxed, grateful, frustrated, disappointed, jealous (and many more) are all clearer ways of explaining a response to a situation or a behaviour.
For example, ‘I can see you’re disappointed it’s time to leave.’ Disappointed is a far more precise way of explaining the feeling when something ends. This will then help your child to understand and anticipate this feeling in similar future moments when it’s time to stop.
The Blippi Emotion cards activity from Fun to Learn Favourites #420, is a fun way of exploring how a face might look when experiencing different emotions.
We can also help children in the moment by teaching them how to respond to emotions.
• Labelling emotions and suggesting a response
This is a great way of helping children to understand how they are feeling and what to do about it. This learning can then be applied when you are not there.
‘Keep going! I can see it’s getting tough!’
‘I can see you’re frustrated right now – take a break.’
To support small people in difficult moments, try to avoid minimising the feeling, ‘Oh come on, you’re alright’, ‘Don’t be silly’. This can make the child feel invalidated and has a negative impact on their sense of self.
During role-play, children can re-enact difficult situations and play with new endings or they can experiment with emotions in a safe place. It’s much like ‘life practice’. Much of role-play happens organically, completely initiated by children’s design. However, we can gently model or create role-play to support our children’s learning. For example, playing with the cars, putting them in a queue for the car park and one car keeps saying, ‘It’s my turn, it’s my turn.’ Or ‘He pushed me.’ This gives the children a chance to empathise with the feelings and, through their play, consider ideas of how to respond appropriately.
• Other Factors
It is vital that children understand the impact their physical wellbeing has on their emotions. For example, if I am feeling frustrated or emotional maybe I am hungry or tired. How can I moderate my behaviour to meet these needs? Even with my more grown-up children, I often reflect with them that their feelings pre-lunch can change dramatically after a good meal!
• Praise the Positives
With feelings and behaviour, we can quickly fall into the trap of focussing on the negative. However, the more we praise the positives and amplify the good things, the more children are able to respond in those trickier moments.
‘I am so happy you ate it all up!’
‘I am so proud that you did that all on your own!’
‘I can see you waiting your turn, you are very calm!’
As children develop a greater expertise in labelling, understanding and responding to their own emotions they can then recognise emotions and behaviours in others and respond to them in an appropriate way too.
Children who are kind to themselves and kind to others is the goal!
This Blog series looks at the 7 key areas of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage and links activities featured in our Fun To Learn magazine range that will help support this development.
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