Promoting Social and Emotional Learning in Preschool

Students holding emotion masks.

Emphasis on social emotional learning (SEL) in preschool can enable children to thrive academically, mentally, and physically in kindergarten and through to adulthood.

The Issue

An important component of early school readiness and healthy child development is meeting a child’s social-emotional needs in preschool. Preschool social-emotional skills include being able to get along and cooperate with others, manage strong feelings, focus attention, and persist at challenging tasks. These skills deserve focused attention during the preschool years because they are critical for long-term school and life success.

Key Findings

  • Early social-emotional skills are linked with a wide array of positive adult outcomes, including positive mental health, interpersonal relationships, educational attainment, civic engagement, productive employment, and physical health in later life.

  • These skills can be promoted during the preschool years with the use of evidence-based programs.

  • Skill-based SEL programs that are combined with professional development for teachers and with academic enrichment programs optimize social-emotional growth.

  • The benefits are even greater for children with delays in social-emotional skill development associated with early socioeconomic disadvantage.


To promote school readiness, preschools need to focus strategically on social-emotional development. Preschool SEL programming has the potential to reduce the school readiness gap and help children become healthy, thriving adults.

About The Pennsylvania State University

Founded in 1855, The Pennsylvania State University is a renowned public research university that educates students from around the world and collaborates with partners to share valuable knowledge that improves the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. For more information, visit To learn more about the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, go to