How can social emotional learning be integrated into other areas of the early childhood curriculum?

As a caregiver or educator in early childhood, you may be wondering how to effectively integrate social emotional learning into other areas of the curriculum. Experts in education have found that social emotional learning (SEL) is vital to a child’s development as it helps them understand themselves and others around them.

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, SEL is defined as the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

It is essential to incorporate SEL into early childhood education to help children develop social skills, which will benefit them in the long term. The following sections will provide details on how to seamlessly integrate SEL into various areas of the early childhood curriculum.

Social Emotional Learning in Self-Awareness

The first domain of SEL is self-awareness, and it focuses on helping children understand their emotions, thoughts, and beliefs. It is crucial to teach children that emotions are a part of daily life and that it is appropriate to express them positively. Several activities can help children learn self-awareness, including:

  • Feelings checks: In a feeling check activity, children are encouraged to talk about their feelings and share them with others. By doing this, they learn that it is normal to have different emotions and how to express them effectively.

  • Encouraging feelings recognition: Activities such as drawing, painting, or writing about how they feel can help children become more aware of their emotions.

  • Self-reflection: This activity could be done with children one-on-one, and it involves asking them questions about their feelings, behaviors, and thoughts. By doing this, children can become more aware of what triggers different feelings, which will help them better manage their emotions.

Social Emotional Learning in Relationships

The second domain of SEL is relationships. It focuses on fostering positive relationships between children and others around them. Teaching children how to form positive relationships is critical for their emotional well-being. Activities that can help children develop their relationship skills include:

  • Cooperative play: This activity encourages children to work together and learn how to share ideas, solve problems, and communicate effectively.

  • Role plays: This activity teaches children how to develop empathy by practising situations that require them to understand how others are feeling.

  • Circle time: Circle time involves sitting in a circle with others and discussing different topics. This encourages children to share their opinions, listen to others and build their communication skills.

Social Emotional Learning in Responsible Decision-Making

The third domain of SEL is responsible decision-making. It focuses on helping children understand the impact of their actions and to make responsible choices. Activities that can teach children responsible decision-making skills include:

  • Decision-making games: These games could involve moral dilemmas and conflicting choices, which will help children understand the importance of critical thinking and decision-making.

  • Problem-Solving activities: These can be done individually or in groups and involve activities such as puzzle solving, which promotes creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

  • Role-plays and simulations: These activities allow children to put themselves in different situations and make decisions, which will help them develop their decision-making skills.

Social Emotional Learning in Physical Education

Physical education classes after the core academics play an essential role in promoting emotional regulation and developing positive relationships among children. Sports activities that focus on teamwork can be used to teach children to:

  • Collaborate and communicate with their team

  • Manage their emotions effectively

  • Develop sportsmanship and competitive behaviors.

Social Emotional Learning in Arts

Arts activities such as music, drama, or dance can be used to promote SEL, allowing children to express themselves creatively and learn different forms of emotional expression. These activities develop children’s emotional regulation, social competence, creativity, and cooperation.

In Art activities, children can share different perspectives and learn from their peers. Through a group discussion and reflection on the artwork, children learn how to express themselves effectively and absorb feedback positively.

Combining Academic Learning with SEL

Incorporating SEL into academic areas such as reading, writing, and math can help children develop skills such as communication, problem-solving, and decision making, which are important in other areas of their lives.

For instance, teaching children how to write narratives and personal stories can help develop their self-awareness and help them understand the perspectives of others. When solving math problems, they learn to work with others cooperatively, develop self-efficacy, and critical thinking skills.

Implementing SEL strategies in the academic areas will help improve the capacity of the children to learn and understand the different concepts effectively.


Social Emotional Learning is an essential part of early childhood education, as it promotes the development of important life skills such as self-awareness, positive relationships, and responsible decision-making. Introducing SEL into other areas of the curriculum can be done through activities that promote communication, teamwork, collaboration, decision-making, and creativity.

By emphasizing the social-emotional learning throughout the day, children are equipped with skills that will help them handle social and emotional challenges effectively. These skills prepare them for future success in all areas of their lives, including school, family, and their future career.


How can social emotional learning be integrated into other areas of the early childhood curriculum?

General Statistics

  • • According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, students who participated in social emotional learning (SEL) activities had higher academic achievement than those who did not.
  • • A study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that SEL activities improved student behavior and attitude in the classroom, as well as increased their selfesteem and selfconfidence.
  • • A survey conducted by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) found that teachers who implemented SEL activities into their curriculum reported improved student engagement and motivation.
  • • According to a study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, students who participated in SEL activities had better social skills and were more likely to be successful in school.
  • • Research conducted by the University of Michigan found that students who received SEL instruction had better problemsolving skills and were more likely to be able to work collaboratively with others.


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