Optimal Learning Environments - Dr. Alicia Valero-Kerrick
Children's Social and Emotional Development
Posted March 7th 2015

Some young children can demonstrate emotional, behavioral and social problems. For instance, anxiety is a normal part of childhood but for some children anxiety can become excessive. According to Gimbel & Holland (2003), "Research has consistently shown that approximately 50% of children who exhibit problems in the preschool years continue to have problems into elementary school, and even later." When children's mental health issues become severe they require professional help. However, educators can play an important role in promoting children's mental health in the classroom. One way is to read children's books that address social and emotional development.


Go to the website http://www.apa.org and look for a list of wonderful children's books under Publications. Share one of those books and an extension activity that you would carry out in the classroom to support children's social and emotional development.

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Reply from Sophie posted on May 29th 2015
I think that this is a great approach in helping children understand social- emotional development. Social and emotional development is a key growth in development. It is really important that children to learn about different emotions and know how to deal with them.
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Reply from ShaNice Patterson posted on May 19th 2015
I love this topic. I think its important for children to learn about anxiety and angry. The need to leave how to deal with their emotions in a positive and effective way. It's important for the student and the parent for the child overall safety. As adults I could have benefited from this type of education as a child.
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Reply from Victoria Thomas posted on May 15th 2015
I found the book My Anxious Mind: A Teen's Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic written by Michael A. Tompkins and Katherine A. Martinez. I found this book helpful because it actually has a plan to help students overcome anxiety it is a actual plan to follow through on. Which can get a student motivated, which can help motivate them out of anxiety.
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Reply from Ashley Crane posted on May 14th 2015
I found a book on the list from apa.com called What to Do When Mistakes Make You Quake: A Kid's Guide to Accepting Imperfection. It's a book about explorers out to discover new things, but all the way they make a lot of mistakes and fail a bunch of times. If explorers could not accept their mistakes and keep going, they might never make any discoveries! If children have trouble accepting mistakes, if they try to be right all the time, or if you worry about being too perfect then this book can help the, understand them understand that they won't always be perfect on the first go but they should always keep trying. You can easily turn this into a treasure chest hunt in the class room with riddles and directions and let the kids realize that they will make mistake, but in the end they will be able to find the treasure. This activity can be done before reading the book and the story can then diffuse the stress and help them understand that if they keep trying they can still succeed and they don't have to be perfect.
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Reply from Yuga posted on May 12th 2015
The book which caught my attention, is – “Nobody’s perfect: A story for children about perfectionism”. In this book, a girl named Sally Sanders is a perfectionist. She feels like a failure, if she can't be the best at what she does. Sally is a competitive girl who keeps competing herself with others, and shies away from new things. The time comes when she realizes that she is not able to do the best, she convinced herself that she was not good enough. With the help of her teachers and mother, Sally learns how to relax, reset and try new things without agonizing much about being the finest. She can just be herself, and that is all she needs to enjoy her tasks. I think perfectionist children tend to be over critical about their response to an activity. Being so perfectionist can put huge emotional stress on children making learning less fun and they might lose the motivation to learn new things. A child needs to know that it is completely acceptable if they are not perfect. Children should be assured that their parents and teachers love them the way they are. Parents and teachers also should be careful not to push children to do the best each and every time, as it could hamper their emotional growth and childhood innocence. I think this book provides a good lesson for children and caretakers about effects of perfectionist attitude in young children and how to mitigate it.
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Reply from Maritza G posted on May 7th 2015
I chose, "A Terrible Thing Happened: A Story for Children Who Have Witnessed Violence or Trauma" by Margaret M. Holmes. I chose this book because working with children in a low SES school, many children have seen or experienced violence whether within the home or in the neighborhood. I wanted to pick this one so they can know it is okay to be able to open up about these things that they witness and talk to them to someone they trust to help them conquer their fear. As an extension activity, I would have them sit in circle time as I write down things that they have witnessed and then have an open discussion on how they felt. I would then write their ideas of healthy coping strategies when they still feel afraid after they talk to someone they trust about the terrible thing they witnessed.
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Reply from Demetra Rozakis posted on May 7th 2015
The book I chose is "When Lizzy was Afraid of trying New Things" by Inger Maier, PhD. It is about a very shy sheep who will not try new things because she is scared of failing and making mistakes. The reason I chose this book is because I think it is important that children know that it is okay to make mistakes and sometimes it takes a few times to do something until it becomes successful. As an extension activity after reading the book, I would have the children write down something they have a fear doing. Then, I would have them draw a picture of themselves doing that fear. Lastly, we would share our drawings to the class.
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Reply from Angelina Marasigan posted on May 6th 2015
I would choose the book "A Terrible Thing Happened: A Story For Children Who Have Witnessed Violence Or Trauma" by Holmes, Margaret M. The story is about children who have witnessed any kind of violence or traumatic experiences, such as physical abuse, verbal abuse, accidents and many others remain. I have interned in a classroom with children who have experienced these unfortunate situations and who have struggled academically because of it. I think that these topics are very sensitive for children to talk about so reading this story could help them bring down their walls slowly. An extension activity I would do after reading the book would be to have students anonymously write their own stories or if they don't have experience in this area, they could write about others they know who do. I think speaking and letting out feelings about these traumatic experiences opens up the door to recovery. I would then encourage students to think positively about the good things they have in life. To have them reflect more on the positives and to encourage them to realize that although bad things have happened in the past, you could create a better future by appreciating the good of the present.
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Reply from Emily Elliott posted on May 6th 2015
The book I pick is titled "All My Stripes: A Story For Children With Autism" by Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer. This book is about a little zebra that knows he is different than the other kids and worries that he stands out from the rest. An extension activity I would construct is first, read the book aloud. Next I would have the kids draw a picture of a zebra and on the back, answer a few questions about themselves such as "What is your favorite color?", "What is the color of your hair?", "How many siblings do you have?" and so on. Lastly, I would have each child share there drawing and answers with the class. In conclusion, I would wrap up the activity with a discussion on how everyone is uniquely different and regardless of the differences, each child is important and has the potential to grow and have potential to do amazing things.
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Reply from Jordan Milhous posted on April 27th 2015
A book that I chose from the website was "Don't Put Yourself Down in Circus Town: A Story About Self-Confidence." I chose this book because this book shows children how to foster self-confidence by discouraging negative self-talk and put-down statements, encouraging persistence and asking for help, and focusing on effort, not results. It also includes a note to parents with more information about strategies for fostering self-confidence in children and helping them develop positive feelings and beliefs about themselves. An activity I might have them do after reading this book is self-esteem can be compared to a bucket of water. It starts out full when we're born, but whenever we develop negative beliefs about ourselves, it's like poking little holes in that bucket and our self-esteem drips out.* Have the children brainstorm a list of things we do or say to ourselves or to others that pokes holes in the self-esteem bucket. Put this list on the wall to serve as a constant reminder. This could be a way to show children that putting others down or putting yourself down is a contagious habit.
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Reply from Holly Siino posted on April 5th 2015
I chose the book "Nobody's Perfect, a Story for Children about Perfectionism". I think that this book is important because it is a really relevant topic. This book is about a girl named Sally who procrastinates, compares herself to others and is hesitant to try new things. She seems like she is very stressed because she feels that she does not fit into the image of what she feels like other people want her to be. I think that a great activity for this book would be one that encourages self love. For instance, children could trace their hand on a piece of paper and write five things that they love about themselves (one on each finger).The teacher could walk around and affirm each student in their work and their chosen attributes.
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Reply from Jagdish posted on April 3rd 2015
I chose the book "Don't Squal Unless It's a Big Deal: A Tale of Tattletales" writtien by Jeanie Franz Ransomas, who has experience as an elementary school counselor. I feel that tattle taling is an issue that can is a form of bullying in the classroom that can label children or blame children for mistakes or actions they do not intentionally intend to do. Moreover, when children tattle tale they do not think independently and resolve issues themselves. From my experience, I have seen tattle telling happen early on in the classroom and it can affect who children choose to interact with. In order to apply this book my classroom I would read the story during circle time and ask the children to to think of times when they experienced tattle telling. Later on I would do a puppet show showinga real life scenario and have the children talk about what they felt was wrong and how to fix the problem. This allow children to self-reflect as well as provides a real life situation for them to experience and solve.
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Reply from Shivani Patel posted on March 28th 2015
“Not Every Princess” by Jeffrey Bone, PsyD and Lisa Bone, PsyD is a children’s book that questions the construction of gender roles in a witty and fun way. It inspires children to challenge societal expectations by being their own person without caring about what standards society has created. The authors see gender roles as a set of behaviors that are learned, promoted through the media, and defined through how one dresses and interacts with. The book promotes the idea that a princess does not have to live in a castle or that not every superhero has to fly. It encourages children to be whatever they want whether they are a boy or girl. There are stereotypes that society constructs about the skills and abilities of what men and women can do. It is an important lesson for children to learn that you don’t have to live in a castle to be a princess. There are these stereotypes that boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls. Attitudes about gender roles develop fairly early on. In classrooms, I think it would be cool to bring in male and female guest speakers in different careers that can give visual demonstrations of careers and explain to the the children that they can do be whatever they want to be. That girls can be firefighters and play with trucks. We could also go to field trips and visit career sites for example a fire station. Boys and Girls will be inspired by the many opportunities available to them.
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Reply from Amanda Huynh posted on March 15th 2015
I chose the book "Boss No More" by Estelle Meens. I believe this book will be helpful to young children who are transitioning from the home environment to a school environment, where they are surrounded by more peers. Although children with siblings may be more socially developed, they may still lack the empathy to interact with larger peer groups. That said, I believe children who are the only child at home will benefit most from this book. The moral of this book will teach the children how to deal with social norms as well as to deal with social conflicts by learning empathy. I have witnessed many children from one-child families have difficulty transitioning from home life to school life, as they are unaware of the idea of sharing and communicating with children in the same age group. If I were to witness a social conflict in the playground because one child is unwilling to compromise with the rest of the group, I would utilize this book to get the lesson across. During reading time, I would specifically gather the group of children involved in the conflict to do reading time together with me. I would read the book with them and, after finishing, I would then bring up the conflict I had observed earlier. By applying the book to a real-life situation, this book will be a good resource to help them understand empathy and how to resolve social conflicts in situations that directly pertain to them.
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Reply from Marisela Rivera posted on March 9th 2015
I chose the book, Healing Days: A Guide For Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma by Susan Farber Straus, PhD. The APA website describes the book as one that is sensitive, and can be used to reassure children who have experienced some sort of trauma. Attached, was a PDR for parents and the following is a quote from it, “…traumatic events can be a one-time incident, a repetitive event, or an ongoing experience extending over years. It may not always result in bodily injury, but it always results in physiological and psychological distress.” I feel that as educators working closely with children, this is something that we must remember. An event happening once can be traumatic for a child. An extension activity I would carry out in my classroom would involve one of the two recommended techniques in this book, muscle relaxation. This activity could take place before circle time and done daily to help calm the children down after free play. On YouTube, I found this link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaTDNYjk-Gw and it is a 13 minute video that shows how you can practice muscle relaxation with a child or even as an adult. I would for example, like the video depicts, ask the children to pretend they have a lemon in their hand and to squeeze all of the juice out. Then tell them to squeeze even harder with the other hand. We could talk about the energy we use when we squeeze differently and the tension in their hands and arm, and also how they feel when their muscles are relaxed. I believe that this activity could be done with a wide range of children.
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Reply from Lindsey Pitts (Quail) posted on March 8th 2015
What to Do When It's Not Fair by Jacqueline B. Toner, PhD, and Claire A. B. Freeland, PhD is a book about jealousy and children who focus on the small things instead of the big picture. I chose this book because I thought it could be used to focus on the child as an individual, and multiple types of differences everyone has. By teaching about the uniqueness of differences, and learning to appreciate themselves, I think this book would be helpful in getting children to have personal drive instead of constantly feeling like they are at competition with one another. This is an important concept to learn in ECE because American culture is very focused on doing better, and being better than. This book would be especially helpful in teaching in diverse areas, such as low SES, or neighborhoods where there are ethnic and cultural differences such as multiple languages and skin color. An activity I would do with this book is an All About Me theme, where children could focus on what they look like, what they like about themselves, and what they are good at and like to do. I would stick with the pirate theme the book uses, and have children use shoe boxes to make personal treasure chests, and fill the treasure chest up with things that represent them and what they like about their life.
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Reply from Seng posted on March 8th 2015
I browsed through the book catalog, and found "Don't Put Yourself Down in Circus Town: A Story About Self-Confidence" by Frank J. Sileo, PhD and Illustrated by Sue Cornelison. Without haven't to read the entire book, I knew immediately from the overview that this book aims to indulge self-confidence in children, and perhaps also adults. I like how the description talks about how self-confidence is essential to a child's development. For instance, one of the review reflects on one of the character development, Larry the Lion Tamer, realizing that anyone can make a mistake. With this book, I would do an activity where all children can show off their talent. This would help them to see that everyone has different hidden talents, and also hopefully helps them to build up their self-confidence by knowing that they have the ability to do something.
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