By Michael Hilkemeijer
The use of digital technology in early childhood education and care has been one area that has led to parents, teachers and child advocates its relationship to the cognitive, emotional, social, and developmental needs of young children. When digital technology/ICT is integrated and planned into other activities in a productive way it presents new opportunities for social-emotional development in early childhood education.
Experts believe that most reactions to technological development can generally be assigned to one of three theories by Stephen & Edwards (2018):
- Technological determinism – technological responsible for a generation change.
- Substantive technology – attributes social value to technologies.
- Critical perspective – questions technological purpose, evaluates outcomes.
Some critics have said at best the use of digital technology in preschool activities is lacking in educational benefit for young children, and at worst, harmful to their development.
This article will reject such claims by helping you to understand how you can integrate digital technology in early childhood education to develop young children’s social and emotional development.
Technology in Early Childhood Education
The theory presented above can reveal the underlying thinking that governs those opinions, and often prejudices, that come from many a critic. First discoverers (2022) uses the example of connecting Technological Determinism with what Stephen and Edward (2018, as cited in First Discoverers, 2020) have said:
“Assumed relationships between technologies and learning [which] tend to mirror technological determinist notions of cause and effect. Here, technologies themselves are often described … as having an almost inherent potential for informing young children’s learning.”
An example for those adopting a Substantive approach who may or may not have accepted the fact that digital technologies is already embedded in our lives but may strongly disapprove and regret the abandonment of earlier modes of delivering early years education may somewhat agree with what Scollan and Gallagher (2017, as cited in First Discoverers, 2020) state that:
“… access to technology for the under-fives has far outreached any research undertaken to fully comprehend long-term socio-emotional and cognitive effects, [thus] we find ourselves in a dilemma as to trust technology or fear it.”
Additionally, by adopting a critical perspective toward the use of digital technology in early childhood education demands an altogether more nuanced and evaluative approach as pointed out by Stephen and Edwards, 2018 as cited in First Discoverers, 2020):
“… it is the degree of coherence between values and expectations and the purposes, behaviours and practices around technological innovation that influence the ways in which individuals and social groups react. When there is a mismatch between values and expectations and changing practices, accompanied by an assumption of technological determinism, then concerns … are more likely to be expressed.”
The Impact on Preschool children
There are many perspectives to consider when considering the impact of digital technology on children’s social-emotional development. It is also too easy for adults to feel swamped by the pressure of diverse influences which play out in this context (First Discoverers, 2022). Experts suggests that when establishing and managing child protection measures of any kind, that you first need to find a way to conceptualise such influences such as indicated in the diagram below.
The message being to carefully consider the level(s) at which issues manifest themselves.
How can digital technology act as a tool for social-emotional development?
An advocate of the principles highlighted by Fred Rogers, Hedda Sharapan (2015) outlines examples of practitioners developing social-emotional development with digital technology in early childhood education. She is a firm believer that Rogers knew how to use digital technology to foster healthy growth in the areas of:
- Acknowledging feelings.
- Using words to talk about feelings.
- Working on self-control.
- Encouraging persistence.
- Expecting and accepting mistakes as a part learning.
- Developing empathy.
- Being able to work through conflicts with friends.
- Feeling good about themselves.
- Appreciating and respecting others.
Here is how to support emotional development in early childhood education today:
Finding ways to express feelings – instead of using books with photos or illustrations, give children a more personal and meaningful way to learn about feelings by making their own photo albums and using tools such as smartphones or digital cameras to take photos of the children in their group with facial expressions that match feelings. You can print the photos out so that you can put them into an album where the children can look at them time and time again.
Another way would be to make a photo album of the children doing something positive with their mad feelings and that doesn’t hurt others.
These kinds of books created with the help of technology can be made with social stories to encourage children to deal their own real situations and to find healthy ways to express their feelings.
The ‘Daniel Tiger Play at Home’ app is a good way to create music based on feeling happy, sad or mad. It is a meaningful activity that can help children talk about their feelings.
Developing self-control and dealing with limits – Fred Rogers importantly pointed out in his songs “What do you do with the mad that you feel?” and as Sharapan points out, it is the ending “I can stop when I want to…stop when I wish” is the most important part. It is hard for children to stop doing something they have engaged in and are enjoying. As an educator, part of your role is to help them build self-control.
In relation to digital technology activities, you need to help children know the limits and to let them know that you are going to enforce them. Just as you may give additional early warnings to children to help them if they are upset when it is time to come inside from the playground, to help children to know that it will soon be time to stop playing with the digital device is no different.
It has been found to be helpful to use a timer that children are accustomed to from other activities. You may find at times that the novelty of playing with digital devices wears off and that the children move on to other activities.
With thoughtful limit setting, you will find that children learn to discipline themselves with digital devices.
Another way that some teachers are using digital technology is by bringing out a digital camera or smartphone at clean-up time to help children who don’t want to stop the work they have been doing on an elaborate block structure. A study has found that these children have been much more willing to put the blocks away if their play can be documented in a digital photo, particularly if they take the photo. There is a strong sense of being proud when they use the digital camera like a ‘grown-up’ and at the same time develop digital literacy capabilities.
Developing persistence – this is one of the keys to success in education and you would be surprised to learn that digital technology can also aid in this regard. Today, studies have found teachers using apps that encourage persistence, especially with older preschool boys.
One such app is the ‘Handwriting Without Tears’ program that lets children practice writing alphabet letters on a tablet computer. This has appeared to have elevated the handwriting task and made it easier for them to erase their mistakes such as misplaced lines and to try again.
Also, there are certain digital games that help children accept mistakes as many of them provide powerful and intrinsic motivation. Such games encourage children to keep trying even though they make mistakes again and again. It has become apparent that digital games and activities aren’t so discouraging and when it comes to it, that’s one of the best problem-solving experiences we can give young children. You want them to keep trying and to understand that making mistakes is part of learning.
Inviting interaction – did you know that digital technology in early childhood education can engage children in cooperative play? It has been proven in studies that children also encourage each other in addition to exploring, discovering and problem-solving together.
Such studies have compared the interaction with the children cooperating and collaborating together on a digital screen to those who may have just been painting on an easel. It found it were these children who were the more isolated. When creating artwork on a tablet computer, they tend to work together sharing new tricks and effects that they’ve found or are discovering together.
Enriching socio-dramatic play – there is enormous potential for the integration of digital technology into young children’s pretend play environments. For example, outdoor play vehicles and other toys may be controlled by traffic lights; children can use cash registers, desktop computers and bar code scanners etc.
Functioning computers can also be integrated into the children’s pretend play and successful experiments have been conducted using suitable software.
An example might be having two tablet computers next to each other with the app ‘My Play Home’ that allows children to have on-screen ‘dollhouse’ play. Such an app offers a home setting with a family and lots of possible interactions.
Sharapan (2015) leaves one final method for you to develop social and emotional skills in young children. Listening is the most important way that you can work with children. In relation to young children’s fascination with modern digital technology, you can listen to their ideas, feelings, and thinking as they are working on the activity or games.
Open-ended questions about the work that they are doing on digital devices is essential and because new technologies are emerging at a fast pace, it is alright to ask out of genuine curiosity. Questions such as “How did you do that? I’d love to know.” Or perhaps “How did you figure that out?”. However, in addition to learning new things about technology from the children’s own strategies, you are also listening to their ideas, thoughts and feelings and this will strengthen your connection with them. Relationships are strengthened when you show an interest in what they are doing with digital devices.
So engage in a conversation around what they are thinking and how they are problem-solving with the digital technology as this will boost their future learning. Today, children need to do more than just give an answer to a problem; they need to explain how they came to that answer.
The Power of Emotional Development in Early Childhood: Why It Matters
Early childhood is a critical period in a child's development, and emotional development plays a crucial role in shaping their overall well-being. Emotions are an essential part of our lives, and how we learn to manage them in our formative years can impact our future success in relationships, work, and mental health. When children are emotionally developed, they have a better understanding of their feelings, can communicate effectively, and build strong relationships with others. Research shows that emotional development in early childhood can predict academic achievement, social competence, and mental health outcomes later in life. As a parent or caregiver, understanding the power of emotional development and how to foster it can be the key to providing children with a solid foundation for future success. In this article, we will explore the importance of emotional development in early childhood, how it impacts children's lives, and practical ways to support it.
Why Emotional Development Matters
Emotional development in early childhood is crucial because it lays the foundation for children's social and emotional well-being. It is during this period that children develop the ability to recognize, understand, and manage their emotions. When children can manage their emotions effectively, they are better equipped to handle social situations, form healthy relationships, and make good decisions. In contrast, children who struggle with emotional regulation may experience difficulties in social situations, have trouble forming relationships, and may engage in risky or impulsive behavior.
Furthermore, emotional development is critical for children's overall mental health. Children who have healthy emotional development are more resilient and better equipped to cope with stress and adversity. They are also less likely to develop mental health problems later in life. In contrast, children who experience emotional neglect or abuse may suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
In conclusion, emotional development is a critical component of early childhood development. It impacts children's social and emotional well-being, as well as their overall mental health later in life.
Key Developmental Milestones in Emotional Development
Emotional development in early childhood is a complex process that involves many developmental milestones. Some of the key milestones include:
Recognizing and Identifying Emotions
At around six months of age, infants can start to recognize basic emotions, such as happiness and sadness. By the age of two, children can identify a range of emotions, including anger, fear, and joy. This ability to recognize emotions is essential for children's social development as it enables them to communicate their emotions to others.
Regulating emotions is the ability to manage and control one's emotions. It is a crucial skill for social interaction and can affect children's relationships with others. Children who can regulate their emotions effectively are better equipped to handle stress and frustration, while those who struggle with emotional regulation may have difficulties managing their behavior.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person's feelings. It is a crucial skill for building relationships and developing social competence. Children who can empathize with others are better equipped to form healthy relationships and have better social skills.
In conclusion, emotional development in early childhood involves many key milestones, such as recognizing and identifying emotions, regulating emotions, and developing empathy. These milestones are essential for children's social and emotional well-being.
The Impact of Early Childhood Experiences on Emotional Development
Early childhood experiences can have a significant impact on emotional development. Children who experience positive interactions with caregivers and have their emotional needs met are more likely to have healthy emotional development. In contrast, children who experience neglect, abuse, or trauma may struggle with emotional regulation and have difficulties forming healthy relationships.
Research has shown that early childhood experiences can shape the development of the brain's emotional centers. Children who experience chronic stress or adversity may have a heightened stress response, which can negatively impact their emotional development. In contrast, children who have positive early experiences may have a more robust and resilient stress response, which can promote healthy emotional development.
In conclusion, early childhood experiences can have a significant impact on emotional development. Children who have positive experiences with caregivers and have their emotional needs met are more likely to have healthy emotional development and be more resilient to stress and adversity.
The Role of Caregivers in Promoting Emotional Development
Caregivers play a critical role in promoting emotional development in early childhood. They provide children with the emotional support and guidance they need to develop healthy emotional regulation and social skills. Caregivers can promote emotional development in many ways, such as:
Providing a Safe and Secure Environment
Children need a safe and secure environment to develop healthy emotional regulation. Caregivers can provide this by creating a predictable and stable routine, setting consistent limits, and responding sensitively to children's emotional needs.
Encouraging Emotional Expression
Caregivers can encourage emotional expression by validating children's feelings and modeling healthy emotional expression. They can also teach children coping skills to manage difficult emotions.
Providing Opportunities for Social Interaction
Social interaction is crucial for emotional development. Caregivers can provide opportunities for social interaction by arranging playdates, enrolling children in social activities, and modeling healthy social skills.
In conclusion, caregivers play a critical role in promoting emotional development in early childhood. They provide children with the emotional support and guidance they need to develop healthy emotional regulation and social skills.
Strategies for Promoting Emotional Development
Promoting emotional development in early childhood requires a multifaceted approach. Here are some strategies that caregivers can use to support emotional development:
Engage in Emotional Conversations
Caregivers can engage in emotional conversations by asking children about their feelings and validating their emotional experiences. This can help children develop a more nuanced understanding of their emotions and how to express them.
Model Healthy Emotional Expression
Caregivers can model healthy emotional expression by expressing their emotions in a healthy and appropriate way. This can show children that expressing emotions is a normal and healthy part of life.
Teach Coping Skills
Caregivers can teach coping skills to children to help them manage difficult emotions. Coping skills can include deep breathing, mindfulness, and visualization.
Provide Opportunities for Play
Play is crucial for emotional development as it provides children with opportunities to explore their emotions and learn social skills. Caregivers can provide opportunities for play by creating a safe and stimulating play environment and engaging in play with children.
In conclusion, promoting emotional development in early childhood requires a multifaceted approach. Caregivers can engage in emotional conversations, model healthy emotional expression, teach coping skills, and provide opportunities for play to support emotional development.
Common Challenges in Emotional Development and How to Address Them
Emotional development in early childhood can be challenging, and caregivers may encounter difficulties along the way. Here are some common challenges in emotional development and how to address them:
Tantrums and Meltdowns
Tantrums and meltdowns are a common occurrences in early childhood, and they can be challenging for caregivers to manage. Caregivers can address tantrums and meltdowns by remaining calm, setting limits, and validating children's emotions.
Separation anxiety is a common experience for young children, and it can be challenging for caregivers to manage. Caregivers can address separation anxiety by providing a consistent routine, preparing children for separations, and validating their emotions.
Aggression is a common behavior in early childhood, and it can be challenging for caregivers to manage. Caregivers can address aggression by modeling healthy conflict resolution skills, providing opportunities for social interaction, and setting consistent limits.
In conclusion, emotional development in early childhood can be challenging, and caregivers may encounter difficulties along the way. Addressing common challenges, such as tantrums and meltdowns, separation anxiety, and aggression, requires a patient and consistent approach.
Resources for Parents and Caregivers to Support Emotional Development
Many resources are available for parents and caregivers to support emotional development in early childhood. Here are some resources that caregivers may find helpful:
Parenting classes can provide caregivers with practical strategies for promoting emotional development and managing common challenges.
Books and Websites
There are many books and websites available that provide information and resources on emotional development and parenting.
Early Childhood Programs
Early childhood programs, such as preschools and childcare centers, can provide children with opportunities for social interaction and emotional development.
In conclusion, many resources are available for parents and caregivers to support emotional development in early childhood. Parenting classes, books and websites, and early childhood programs can provide caregivers with the knowledge and resources they need to support children's emotional development.
The Long-Term Benefits of Healthy Emotional Development
Healthy emotional development in early childhood can have long-term benefits for children's social and emotional well-being, as well as their overall mental health. Research has shown that children who have healthy emotional development are more likely to:
Form Healthy Relationships
Children who have healthy emotional development are better equipped to form healthy relationships with others. They have the social skills and emotional regulation necessary to navigate social situations and build strong connections with others.
Achieve Academic Success
Children who have healthy emotional development are more likely to achieve academic success. They have the emotional regulation and social skills necessary to handle the demands of school and form positive relationships with teachers and peers.
Have Good Mental Health
Children who have healthy emotional development are less likely to experience mental health problems later in life. They are more resilient to stress and adversity and have the coping skills necessary to manage difficult emotions.
In conclusion, healthy emotional development in early childhood can have long-term benefits for children's social and emotional well-being, academic success, and mental health.
Emotional development is a critical component of early childhood development. It impacts children's social and emotional well-being, as well as their overall mental health later in life. Caregivers play a crucial role in promoting emotional development, and many strategies are available for supporting emotional development, such as engaging in emotional conversations, modeling healthy emotional expression, and teaching coping skills. Addressing common challenges requires a patient and consistent approach, and many resources are available for parents and caregivers to support emotional development. Finally, healthy emotional development in early childhood can have long-term benefits for children's social and emotional well-being, academic success, and mental health.