Skip to main content
Warning triangle

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Visit our coronavirus pages for the latest updates.

Personal, social and emotional development in early years

Personal Social and Emotional Development (PSED) supports children to have a positive sense of themselves, respect for others, social skills, emotional well-being and a positive disposition to learning. These are all crucial for school readiness.

PSED is about children:

  • developing confidence and independence
  • making friends and getting on with others
  • learning about right and wrong
  • self-regulating their emotions
  • understanding about their own and others’ feelings
  • feeling good about themselves
  • being interested, excited and motivated about their play and learning
  • gaining self-respect for themselves
  • developing respect for their own culture and beliefs and those of others

Making relationships

Children playing football

For children, being special to someone and well cared for is vital. Children with warm affectionate relationships with their parents are more likely to feel safe and secure, have confidence, self-esteem, be positive about others, be socially adjusted and achieve.

Give your child lots of affection, such as cuddles and holding hands. Have patience and talk to them in a reassuring way.

Be a playmate for them, showing interest in the things that they like to do. When your child is ready, show them how to take turns and share. Provide opportunities for them to play with other children and make friends.

Self-confidence and self-awareness

Children smiling together

Children who feel good about themselves develop confidence to try new things and to cope with not being able to do something or get things right. They are more likely to persevere and try again. Developing these skills help children do well in school.

Children with low self-esteem feel unsure of themselves and may give up too quickly or not try something new at all. They may find it difficult to cope if they make mistakes, lose or fail, and as a result, not do so well at school.

Your child needs to feel safe, loved and accepted and to receive positive attention from you to show them that you are proud of what they can do or have tried to do.

Help them to learn to do new things. Make sure it’s not too hard for them and let them do what they can, praising their efforts for trying. Try not to criticise them, instead focus on what they do well.

Give your child little tasks to help you - helping others will build their self esteem.

Managing feelings and behaviour

Providing a nurturing environment, with routines, such as bath time, story then sleep time, helps children feel safe, understand the structure of their day and understand what is coming next. This helps to reduce anxiety.

Children who are encouraged to express their feelings can develop strategies to cope with new challenging or stressful situations. Displays of emotions, such as tantrums, screaming and tears, are common in the early years, particularly for those children under 3 years.

Help your child to recognise their feelings and identify them in others.

You should:

  • name the emotion your child is displaying, for example  “I can see that you are …”
  • stay calm, patient and be reassuring
  • be responsive - model wanted behaviours and share stories
  • catch your child being good and praise the behaviour
  • explain boundaries and rules in a manner which your child will understand and be consistent
  • have realistic expectations of what your child is capable of, relating to their stage of development

If applying sanctions remember that if your child doesn’t understand what they are being rewarded or punished for then the reward or punishment will not have the desired effect.

It is unrealistic to expect a 2 year old (or a child working at this stage of development) to be able to share and take turns. They will need someone to help them share space, toys and adult time.

Health and wellbeing

Children’s health is a key part of their PSED. Being physically healthy is not just about having nutritious food and being a healthy weight. It also includes having:

  • a clean and safe environment
  • stability
  • appropriate clothing
  • healthcare, including dental care
  • mental stimulation
  • access to the outdoors
  • a loving relationship