In beginning a new school year, we want to help our little ones adjust and succeed, whether they are starting at a new school, or returning to a familiar classroom. Studies show your Emotional Intelligence is actually a FAR greater indicator for future success than your Intellectual Intelligence. Ditch the flashcards, and move toward play where children are able to practice things like emotional regulation, problem solving, flexibility, imagination, and so much more.
Moreover, these social and emotional skills only become more nuanced as we age. With rising levels of anxiety in students, teaching social cognitive skills, and emotional regulation skills can be beneficial for everyone. Not just small children. I am focusing on pre-school age because the younger we start the better! But, its never too late!
WHAT SKILLS DOES YOUR CHILD NEED TO RECEIVE THE MOST BENEFITS SOCIALLY AND ACADEMICALLY WHEN BEGINNING SCHOOL? In writing this post I interviewed a local teacher to ask what she views as the most important skills for children entering kindergarten. Her response included academic skills, but in addition focused on social-emotional skills as well.
We can think of our children’s minds as buckets we want to fill. In order to fill their buckets and increase confidence and enjoyment of learning we need to “plug the foundational holes” in their buckets. Having solid skills prior to beginning school enables our children to regulate, learn, and thrive.
Some pre-academic skills to consider for entering school include:
–Letter Sounds and Blends
–Simple Sight Words
–Following 1-3 Step Simple Directions
–Zipping a Coat
Some Social Emotional skills to consider included:
–Learning to Raise Your Hand in a Group
–Actively Listening while Someone Else is Speaking
–Taking Turns Speaking
–Sitting in a Spot for an Extended Period of Time
Children’s Academic Skills are impacted by their Social Competencies and vice versa.
For Example: Being able to sit and attend impacts your ability to remember and integrate concepts; identifying one’s own emotions and the emotional cues of others impacts: picking up on teacher’s non-verbal cues for following directions, and managing peer relationships; and linking actions with thoughts and emotions impacts reading comprehension and personal narrative development.
Children who have difficulty interpreting social situations may have underlying lagging skills such as: comprehending the new information or situation, organizing the information into the desired response, retrieving language to express that response.
The Focus Point: So how can we help our children connect?
How Can We Help Our Children Connect Using Emotional & Logic-Learning
- Learning Through Play: Engage in pretend play, use emotional vocabulary, incorporate numbers, incorporate letters, BUT in a way that involves engaging higher level thought processes
- Ex: Playing Kitchen “I really want this food…but I forgot the name! It starts with an E…it has a shell….,etc.”
- This engages children in Big Picture Thinking: Pulling Salient Detail Together
- It also targets sound awareness
- AND/OR “I want more than three eggs…but less than four…how would that look?”
Another Tool is Using Real Time Situations and Play Based Learning:Ex: “Mom, Can I have a juice?”, “Why do you need a juice?”
- Teaching Reasoning, Expressing/Identifying Emotions, and Advocacy.
- Taking pictures on family outings and placing them on a table, but out of order. Have your child arrange the photos in order and tell you the sequence of events.
- Shared Reading: Acting out scenes in a book, mimicking character emotion, having them predict the next part of the story (and act it out!) *This practice has also been linked to increased comfort levels of public speaking.
- Play pretend school: Have child sit for circle time, then you be the student. Model HOW to sit and listen in play! Your child’s mind is typically great at generalizing play skills to learning skills (Albert Einstein knew this!)
- MOVEMENT helps integrate the brain! Learn outside, learn through movement!
- Go outside and HUNT for categories, hunt for objects that begin with ‘B’, or specific colors.
- Turn Questions Around!
- “Mom or Dad, why are the street lights red, yellow, and green?” ASK your child “Why do you think they are?” ENCOURAGE guessing, predictions, and any chances to develop and discuss logic!
- In the morning go over the weather, and have your child pick their clothes. Step outside quickly, and talk about whether it’s hot, cold, rainy, sunny, and what clothes go with certain weather. (They may not match BUT they have engaged higher level thinking!)
- Encourage story telling! Have them repeat, pause, etc.
- Play “What would you do?” games. Give hypothetical situations or problems and talk about what they would do.
- Acknowledge and explain emotions physically and mentally, talk about what it looks like to listen!
- Whole Body Listening Larry
- The Whole-Brain Child
- The Explosive Child
Finally, You Are Your Child’s Greatest Model
- Talk about everything and anything! Talk about what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, what your child is doing, what you see, etc.
- Your child is watching HOW you listen. If you are multi-tasking, looking away, moving around, your child is going to observe that as actively listening.
- Give them time to respond. Children learn conversational rules from us! If we interrupt or rush, they model the same! Show signs of actively listening (more obvious than usual): nodding, smiling, verbal acknowledgement, eye contact.
- Teach Delayed Gratification (this skill is a very large indicator of future successes and persistence during education and in relationships.)
- Teach Positive Self Talk: the things you tell your child about themselves, will begin to be how they see themselves.
- Schedule mind wondering time into your routine! Leave educational materials out, let them explore their interests in down time.