Fruitful early child development includes sensory learning and social-emotional learning (SEL). These types of learning are becoming more popular in daycare settings. This article will take a closer look at what these types of learning involve, why daycare centers are a logical place to teach these skills, and some of the toys used to assist with the process.

Sensory Learning & Social-Emotional Learning

Sensory learning begins in utero: studies show that fetuses not only hear but respond to their mother’s voice and heartbeat. And, of course, sensory learning—visual, auditory, and tactile—continues after birth as the growing child learns to process what they see, hear cognitively, and feel around them.

For example, when a toddler puts something into their mouth, this is sensory learning as the child uses its senses to understand that object.

On the other hand, SEL is how young children learn to use, express, and understand human emotions and engage in constructing relationships. Part of SEL for a child is learning how to get along with others, deal with frustrations, notice how others around them are dealing with emotions, and know how to react to those situations.

Fruitful early child development includes sensory learning and social-emotional learning (SEL). These types of learning are becoming more popular in daycare settings. #parenting #SEL #autismparenting

At What Age Do Children Learn Social and Emotional Skills?

Sensory learning starts before birth and continues throughout our lives. Social-emotional skills start at birth but ramp up during the preschool years. Children begin to form relationships with others outside of their family circle and become more autonomous.

Both types of learning continue developing throughout childhood, into adolescence, and beyond.

What Make Sensory Learning and Social-Emotional Learning Important?

It is natural for children to explore their senses and emotions. And the environment the child is in can help that child develop these skills by offering the right components to encourage the safe development of senses and emotions.

Essentially, children can experience sensory and social/emotional learning in a space where imaginative play with others and sensory objects for sharing are available. Experts say that the more space and activities you provide for imaginative and sensory play, the more the child will be able to tune into their own emotions and the emotions of others.

They will learn to develop empathy and reciprocity, enabling them to interact with others better. In addition, practicing these skills at home and in the highly social worlds of preschool and daycare enables them to develop the building blocks of interrelating with others. Through reciprocal emotional interactions, a child learns to practice kindness, respect, and understanding. These are skills they will carry with them for the rest of their lives, so it is important to be encouraged to develop them early.

What Social-Emotional Skills Help a Child to Do

We’ve talked about skills development that a child can receive through sensory and social-emotional learning. But what exactly does that look like in actual practice? Here is a short list of things that a child with these skills is learning to do:

  • make friends, maintain friendships
  • improve self-confidence
  • confront and solve conflicts
  • control anxiety, stress
  • learn social norms and apply them
  • make healthy decisions
  • withstand social pressure
  • understand others’ feelings

Children with healthy social-emotional skills succeed in school, work, and life. You could say that people who achieve good things possess solid social-emotional skills.

What Types of Toys Assist With Sensory and Social-Emotional Learning?

Toys that encourage creative play are the most effective in SEL for children in daycare. Below are just a few types of toys that assist with this.

Dolls

Dolls are excellent toys, helping children to explore emotions and relationships. In addition, they enable children to explore complex feelings that they may project onto the doll to create a safe way to express those feelings.

Costumes

Who doesn’t like to play dress-up? A collection of different pieces of clothing helps children construct a world of their own. This promotes make-believe activities and emotions from situations they create and address with their peers.

Outdoor Playsets

These are not your typical jungle gym sets. These daycare playsets include various components that let children create a world from their imagination. They can pretend just about anything and improve their communication skills, how to take turns, and sharing.

Building Toys

This can be anything from blocks to logs to sticks and more. These are great toys to assist with building motor and cognitive skills and social and emotional development. Creativity, math, and imagination all get exercised with any building toy.

Craft Supplies

With everything from markers and crayons to paper, string, and glue, children can explore creative ways to express themselves individually. Plus, this kind of activity may unlock artistic talent that was hidden previously and only just discovered through craft play.

Puzzles

Problem-solving, logic, social, motor, emotional, spatial, and cooperative skills are all developed when children are left with a puzzle to put together. They also help children to understand shapes, patterns, and colors better.

Little girls with curly hair playing with puzzle pieces

Final Thoughts

More daycare centers provide the tools for children to develop their social-emotional skills and combine them with sensory learning. Children naturally gravitate towards activities that will enhance these skills. The best daycare and preschool sites have a wide range of activities and objects that can help children process feelings, explore roles and relationships, and develop the social and emotional skills that provide the proper foundation for growth.

Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.

Alicia Trautwein is an Autism advocate, writer, motivational speaker, and dedicated mom of four. Alicia’s desire to advocate for Autism comes from her own autism diagnosis and that of her three children, niece, and brother. Her life’s mission is to educate on autism acceptance and change the world for future generations of autistic individuals.

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