Activities for Children's Emotional and Social Development

Your child’s social and emotional development starts as soon as he is born and continues to develop for years after 1. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, early social-emotional development “is a fundamental part of a child’s overall health and well-being.” Help your child build a strong foundation by planning some activities to encourage this development 1.

Dramatic Play

When children are involved in dramatic play, several components of social-emotional development occur 12. They use verbal and nonverbal communication as they play. Vocabulary and language skills are strengthened as they interact. The children learn to appreciate each other's feelings as they share space and work together to create the play scenarios. Since it is an open-ended type of play, the children can try on different roles and be anyone they choose. A bin of dress up clothes, puppets, dolls and flannel boards all fit into this dramatic play category.


Children’s games are not just for entertainment -- they can be educational, too. Games that require kids to take turns and share help develop their social development. They must co-habitate the play space and decide on what rules to follow. When a child loses or accidentally gets his feelings hurt, he must learn how to accept the loss or demonstrate emotional self-regulation. Age-appropriate board games, puzzles, field games, races or tag are all examples of games that can help your child mature socially and emotionally.

Art Projects

Art is an excellent means of providing an emotional and creative outlet for a child of any age. If you pair two or more children together to do a cooperative art project, you also tie in the social aspect. When the children have to work together, they must determine how to distribute the supplies evenly and share the art space to complete the task. Creating a large painting, gluing together an ice pop stick birdhouse or mixing up a batch of homemade modeling clay all require the kids to collaborate and brainstorm how to complete the task, as well as learn the valuable lesson of give and take.

What Else You Can Do

There are simple activities or actions that you can do to make a major difference in his life and development. One of the best things you can do for your child is to model appropriate behavior. He learns a lot from just watching you -- so set a positive example. Make sure to hug, kiss and praise your child often to let him know how valued and special he is. Spend quality time with him every day, even if it is only an assigned 15-minute block per day. Engage him in conversations, read to him and cuddle. All of these activities will help strengthen his self-image and allow him to develop a healthy view of the world.