Two multicultural puppets, a brightly colored timer, and one very mad mouse: What are they doing in KinderCare Education centers? The puppets help children learn to express emotion; the timers prepare them for transitions; and the mouse teaches calming skills.
“All of these tools are now in every one of our centers, as part of the Social and Emotional Development Tool Kits,” said Director of Instructional Support Kate Jordan-Downs. “Used effectively, every child benefits from these teaching tools.”
There’s a reason the Education team provided teachers with the tools, curriculum, and additional training they need to help children learn social and emotional skills.
Research shows that when young children understand their own feelings, appreciate the viewpoints of others, and can cooperate with other children and adults, they are more successful in school. Because so much social and emotional development happens during the first five years of life, early childhood educators have an incredible opportunity to help children learn these critical skills.
Eighty percent of children develop social and emotional skills naturally when they are taught purposefully. In KinderCare Education classrooms, teachers do this through intentional activities – like cooperative games – and using teachable moments, such as when a teacher helps two children take turns playing with a beloved bear, rather than fighting over it.
Working with children who are lacking certain social and emotional skills can be very challenging for teachers. For example, if a child is ripping up other children’s art out of frustration, it can be disruptive to the whole class. Furthermore, about 10 to 15 percent of children will need extra practice to develop their social and emotional abilities. But fostering strong social and emotional skill development in all classrooms helps to reduce and prevent the challenging behaviors that can pop up with a child simply hasn’t learned to express herself differently.
Just like language or creative expression, social and emotional skills can be learned: “We can’t blame a child for not being able to follow the rules, or for expressing an emotion in a way that is disruptive,” said Jordan-Downs. “We have to start thinking about social and emotional skills like we think about physical development, as skills that can be taught.”
This is part of KinderCare Education’s commitment to do what’s right for every child, and creating spaces where all children can explore, grow, and succeed.