Social Skills Are in the News But How Can You Support Them? DAP!

August 5th, 2015

by Katrina Brooke

Authors: Susan Friedman and Kyle Snow

A recent report, Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness published in the American Journal of Public Health finds that children with better social competence in kindergarten are more likely to become well-adjusted adults who have jobs and contribute positively to society. In this study, social competence was based upon teacher’s ratings of how well children cooperate and resolve conflicts with peers, understand feelings, and are helpful to others.  Many news outlets summarized the report including NPR with Nice Kids Finish First: Study Finds Social Skills Can Predict Future Success and Edweek with Social Competence in Kindergartners Linked to Adult Success.

Supporting social and emotional development and academic rigor can coexist

To most early childhood teachers the fact that social and emotional skills in the early years are important and that teachers and families can foster these skills is foundational to how they approach their work. Economists argue that the long-term return on investing in high quality early childhood education may be due to these social and emotional skills (often called soft skills) that are nurtured in early childhood. The importance placed on social and emotional skills comes at a time when kindergarten has become more focused on academic content areas as described in another blog post, Not Yesterday’s Kindergarten.

Many parents and educators point to the Common Core State Standards as the cause of increased academic focus in kindergarten. NAEYC’s resources on the Common Core include a white paper, DAP and the Common Core Standards: Framing the Issues. It is not the case that academic rigor and supporting social and emotional development are in conflict. A forum at the Erikson Institute in 2012 “High Quality Pre-K-3rd in the age of the Common Core” provided several strong arguments against this false dichotomy. There is a growing body of knowledge about how to meet academic standards, including the Common Core, through DAP focused on teachers of children in kindergarten and 1st-3rd grade.

The importance of social and emotional skills alongside the  academic content, continue to  be hallmarks of early childhood education – sitting at the center of early learning standards, NAEYC’s Early Childhood Program Standards and Accreditation Criteria, and Developmentally Appropriate Practice.

Developmentally appropriate learning experiences support social skills

Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) means looking at the whole child. Academic content like literacy, math and science can be embedded into joyful learning experiences appropriate for children’s development. This example (Preschoolers investigate a Taco Truck) shows children learning about nutrition, food, and their community as they develop math, literacy, and social skills. A child reading a book would be learning and practicing  literacy related skills and may also be learning content about science, developing attention and focus, and at the same time laughing at a joke. Children can learn academic content and develop skills through hands on play, engaging learning opportunities, and with lots of time to interact and problem solve with friends. Not only do developmentally appropriate experiences offer children opportunities to learn reading, math, science, and more in meaningful ways but they also offer lots of opportunities to build social skills. Indeed, social and emotional skills support learning across domains, but they are also critically important for children’s development on their own.

Resources from NAEYC

NAEYC embeds strategies, and examples to foster children’s social and emotional skills within our content, resources. position statements and early childhood program standards.

Members of NAEYC receive Young Children and Teaching Young Children and every single issue is full of tips, ideas, and research about how to support children’s social and emotional development. NAEYC’s books offer deep information about content areas like math. science and literacy within the context of developing hands on playful learning experiences with plenty of opportunities for social and emotional learning.

We’ve included links to many NAEYC resources that offer learning ideas within the context of children’s social and emotional development.  Explore all NAEYC has to offer to learn more.

For Teachers:

For Families:

By Susan Friedman and Kyle Snow

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