August 22, 2023

The Well-Rounded Three-Year-Old: How Preschool Plants the Seeds for Success, Part III

In Part 2 of this series, we discussed how preschool attendance builds social skills…but a huge part of social success starts with self-regulation and emotional development. Like adults, children need to learn and practice how to manage their emotions, but they’re tasked with doing so minus the vocabularies, maturity, experience, and self-awareness that their parents and caregivers possess. So how can the  preschool experience best help them?

Building Emotional Understanding

Think of a time when you were at a loss or completely off-base in a social interaction: Perhaps you couldn’t find the words to comfort a grieving coworker, or mistook your sibling’s gentle teasing as an all-out attack. It’s difficult enough for adults to navigate such experiences and relationships, but it’s even harder for children. But helping them to identify and name their emotions, practice working through their feelings in a healthy manner, apologize when wrong, and bounce back quickly are key to long-term growth.

In this four-part series, we’re looking at how preschool programs plant the seeds for success in various areas, and why every child should be given a chance to grow further with a strong socio-educational foundation. For Part 3, we’re looking at emotional development and understanding, and how a preschool setting with peers can grow three-year-olds’ self-regulation skills and self-esteem.

The Top 5 Emotional Benefits

Just as with math or reading, children need to be taught to label, process, control and respond to emotions; then, practice makes perfect. Preschool is the perfect training ground for three-year-olds to learn to identify and handle their emotions more constructively, which results in greater:

  1. Emotional resiliency: In preschool, children are bound to experience some conflict; they’re having to learn to wait, be told “no,” do things they’d rather not, and negotiate their needs with others’. Such experiences boost the ability to self-regulate and manage disappointments.
  2. Problem-solving skills: From solo activities (e.g., puzzles) to group efforts (putting on a show), those in preschool gain real-life skills in both tenacity and teamwork.
  3. Self-awareness: Preschool offers myriad choices daily, so three-year-olds build their agency and awareness by deciding which activities to do, which classmates to play with, etc. Ultimately, they learn about themselves, their likes and dislikes, and their unique interests and talents.
  4. Self-esteem: In the same vein, preschool encourages and empowers children to try new things. With every success, they build their confidence; with every do-over, they gather evidence that they can indeed try, fail, and try again—all without quitting.
  5. Trust: Early childhood education helps kids build trust with those beyond their primary caregivers, and preschoolers have been shown to manage their separation anxiety far better and thrive in the care, interest, and support of safe adults.

Read Parts 1 and 2 of The Well-Rounded Three-Year-Old: How Preschool Plants the Seeds for Success for the top five cognitive, social, and physical benefits of starting schooling sooner.