Social, Emotional & Intellectual Activities to Do With Preschool Children

Whether your preschooler is a master of her emotions, a social butterfly or a mini-genius in your eyes, chances are that she still actually needs help in one or more of these areas. Social, emotional and intellectual activities can boost your preschooler's -- ages 3 to 5 years -- developing abilities and help her to build new skills that she will need as she moves into the grade school years.


Before choosing activities that will help to build your preschooler's social, emotional and intellectual abilities, you may need to better understand what you should -- and shouldn't -- look for in his development. According to the child development experts at PBS Parents, during the preschool years most children are able to manage emotions through coping strategies -- such as drawing a picture -- and understand that other people often have different feelings than they do 2. Socially, your preschooler is starting to play cooperatively with one or more other children and may begin to build friendships based on similar interests such as trains or a favorite TV character. Although your child is making leaps in these areas, he still may struggle to self-regulate his emotions or social behaviors. Intellectual, also known as cognitive, growth at this stage -- according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website -- includes an increased awareness of measurement concepts such as time, relationships between two or more objects and an interest in universal ideas such as how the Earth was created.

Social Activities

Increasing your preschooler's social development often means introducing her into child-to-child or group play situations. The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends that adults can help to facilitate social development by encouraging interactions with peers and through modeling activities. Invite your preschooler's classmates over for a group playdate, filling the afternoon with games, outdoor play and arts and crafts projects, or have a one-on-one play activity in which your child and one of her friends engage in drama-filled adventures such as dress up. These types of playdates allow your preschooler to learn key social concepts such as building friendships, sharing and listening to others. If your child is struggling with these ideas, try a role modeling activity. Model appropriate social behaviors while you engage in a play situation with her. For example, while playing in her pretend kitchen, show her how you can take turns using the pretend stove or that you can share the plastic veggies with her.

Emotional Activities

Although your preschooler is beginning to recognize, identify and express his emotions in a productive way, he may still have some trouble keeping his feelings under control at times. The child development pros at PBS's The Whole Child website suggest that you help your child to get his emotions under wraps by giving him words or a simple sentence. The next time that your little one feels frustrated or angry, try a modeling activity. Act out the emotion for him and show him how you use your words -- such as saying, "I'm mad that I can't have a cookie now." -- instead of getting out of control. Another emotion-related activity is to show your child an array of feelings face. Use pictures or photos of other kids making happy, sad or angry expressions. Ask him to identify the emotions that he sees in order to help him develop better feelings identification skills.

Intellectual Activities

Help to build your child's intellectual, or cognitive skills, with a few content-based activities. Give him a boost in his mathematical and scientific development with a simple measuring experiment. Ask your child to pick a few different objects that are different sizes and weights, such as a toy car or a few of her socks. Ask her which ones she thinks will weigh the most and the least. Weigh the objects on your bathroom scale to compare the different numbers that represent each one. Have her compare the weights. Another activity that will help your preschooler to build her intellectual skills is to create a pictorial schedule. Have her cut out photos or drawings of things that she does at different times of the day -- such as:

  • eating breakfast
  • going to preschool
  • having lunch
  • playtime
  • eating dinner
  • going to bed

Help her to paste the pictures in order on her own daily time-line.

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