Social Emotional Activities for Preschoolers

Preschoolers playing with an inflatable ball.
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The preschool years -- ages 3 through 5 -- mark a time when children are developing friendship skills and starting to understand their own feelings. By age 3 most children are able to cooperate with other kids, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' website. Social-emotional activities can help preschoolers to build regulation skills, feel comfortable in group situations and better understand the world around them.

1 Emotive Models

Modeling appropriate and expected behaviors for young children is one way to help them to learn social and emotional skills. Turn modeling into an engaging activity by using puppets or dramatic pretend play. Set up a scenario in which the preschooler meets and befriends a "peer" puppet. For example, you can play the puppet role of a new student who is anxious about meeting new friends. Show him how another child could help by modeling with another puppet. As the pretend scene plays out, let the preschooler take over and operate the puppet. He can give the puppet words to say that encourage the anxious child to become his friend.

2 Sing-Song Solutions

Songs aren't only for the musical content of a preschool curriculum. You can use songs to teach themed lessons in social and emotional areas. You can create a song by turning a favorite such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" into a social sharing tune by replacing the lyrics with your own. For example, switch out the original words for something such as, "Sharing, sharing little child. Can you tell me how to share?" Whether you choose this tune or another, include themes such as sharing, making friends or being kind to others.

3 Book Beginnings

Reading a book interactively can help your preschool student better understand social and emotional concepts. Not only does a book reading activity provide an opportunity for the child to practice social skills such as listening attentively, but it can also help her to better distinguish fantasy from reality. Choosing themes that focus on social skills development areas such as making friends, sharing and listening to others as well as emotions can help the child to better understand what is expected of her. Look for titles such as "The Best Friends Book" by Todd Parr, "Feelings" by Aliki or "Making Friends" by Fred Rogers.

4 Art Activities

Art activities allow for the young child to express his feelings, gain self-control and learn how to communicate with others. Giving the preschooler choices when it comes to what materials to use or what type of art he will create can lead to independent decision-making skills.You can encourage social skill development and emotional self-regulation by setting out an array of art items and letting different children choose and share. Another option is to allow the preschooler to express his emotions by painting out his feelings, drawing a picture or pounding a ball of clay.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.