The Importance of Physical Development and Social-Emotional Development in Kindergarten

At this level kids are exploring, working together and learning to communicate with one another. They also become more independent and confident, taking on new challenges that help them develop their thinking skills.

Kindergartners learn to identify two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes, and begin the early stages of writing. They also start to count using objects like blocks, beads and stickers.


Many kindergarten teachers use a combination of play and structured, academic activities to teach their students. They may help children identify letters, count objects, build structures, and sing songs. Kindergartners are also encouraged to express their ideas creatively, so they might paint, draw, or even invent stories. Some schools offer sports programs for kids in kindergarten, too.

In kindergarten, kids learn to respect the teacher’s authority and follow rules. They work on verbal communication skills by listening carefully and asking questions. They also practice problem-solving and teamwork. Teachers support their emotional development by helping them recognize and talk about their emotions and show concern for others.

Some parents and educators worry that kindergarten classrooms have become too academic, and they are concerned about the effect of this trend on children’s well-being. However, recent research supports the stance that challenging academic content in early grades isn’t at odds with children’s social-emotional development. In fact, it can be just as important.

Social & Emotional Development

Children who have healthy social-emotional skills are better able to form and maintain close relationships, soothe themselves when they’re upset, share and play well with others, and enjoy exploring new environments. Their ability to do so also predicts their academic success in school and life beyond.

Help your child practice social-emotional skills at home through conversations, questions, role play and activities with friends. Download the Thinking About Social Emotional Development handout from Penn GSE to learn more about 14 social-emotional learning skills that your kindergartener will be working on throughout the year, and ways you can reinforce these skills at home.

One of the first big lessons for your kindergartener is how to share appropriately with classmates. They will need to share toys, materials and attention with their peers in the classroom. It’s normal for preschoolers to struggle with this initially, but you can work with them on how to express their emotions verbally, and encourage them to try more constructive ways of handling conflict with peers.

Physical Development

Physical development encompasses the growth of children’s bodies as well as their ability to use and control them. This includes both gross (large muscle movements) and fine (small movement) motor skills. Children develop these skills when they play with the environment, move around and engage in physical activities like running, jumping, hopping and throwing a ball.

As infants and toddlers learn about the world around them, they explore it through their physical senses of sight, touch, smell, sound and taste. They also begin to develop their motor skills through everyday experiences such as sitting, standing and walking.

As children grow, they develop their coordination and physical abilities by engaging in enriching experiences, such as playing sports and dance, exercising regularly and participating in other physical activities. Learn more about the typical physical development milestones for each age range and how to support children’s needs in the classroom by reviewing the resources outlined in the reference section of this lesson.

Independence & Self-Assurance

Children love independence and it’s important for their confidence and self-assurance. Fostering independence can also help kids become empathetic by understanding the impact their actions have on others. This maturity is crucial for social and academic success throughout childhood, adolescence, and beyond.

A good place to start is to give your child small tasks to complete independently. This can be anything from packing their own lunch to choosing what outfit to wear. Give them short periods of time to practice and struggle, but be there to support them and validate their emotions.

This will allow them to solve problems on their own and grow from the experience. It also helps them to view challenges as puzzles that they can solve rather than feeling like a setback. By building this confidence and independence, you’re setting them up for a successful future full of possibilities.

The Importance of Physical Development and Social-Emotional Development in Kindergarten
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