Teaching Practices

Social and Emotional Learning

Positive social and emotional development and learning in the early years provides an important foundation for lifelong learning and development, including mental health. Building social and emotional learning every day starts with relationships and supportive learning environments. Once in place, all children can learn social skills (such as friendship skills), emotional literacy, self-regulation, and problem-solving. Teaching social skills and fostering emotional literacy can also prevent behaviors that are challenging to adults. Explore the resources found on this page for more information about social and emotional development and learning. This page aims to provide equal access to resources and supports that can lead to positive social and emotional outcomes for all children and families.

The Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF): Ages Birth to Five describes the skills, behaviors, and knowledge that programs must foster in all children. The Effective Practice Guides provide information about domain-specific teaching practices that support children’s development. Follow the links to explore the Approaches to Learning and Social and Emotional Development ELOF domains in the Effective Practices Guides.


Staff member holding a sleeping infant.Responsive and positive relationships are the foundation for learning. Relationships between children and education staff, education staff and families, and children and families are important and support children’s social and emotional development. Secure, consistent, and trusting relationships help children feel comfortable learning new social and academic skills and strategies. Use these resources to learn more about building and supporting relationships.

Supportive Environments

Young girl looking at various smiley faces.Consistent, predictable, and supportive environments create a safe and secure place for all children to learn. Supportive environments promote engagement for every child. These environments provide consistent and predictable routines, clear expectations for what is going to happen, and developmentally appropriate choices so children are ready to learn. In these resources, explore how to set up supportive and engaging environments for children ages birth to 5 to support social and emotional learning.

Social and Emotional Skills

Teacher and children bundled up on a chilly day on the playground.Children develop social and emotional skills throughout childhood. When children learn social and emotional skills at an early age, it helps them have stronger skills for a lifetime. Building in social and emotional learning every day creates many opportunities for education staff and families to teach and model social and emotional skills. Friendship skills, emotional literacy, self-regulation, anger management, and problem-solving are all skills children can learn and practice. Explore these resources to learn more about teaching social and emotional skills to children that they can use for many years to come.

Behavior Support and Challenging Behavior

A teacher reassuring an upset young boy.Behavior has meaning. Children often exhibit behaviors that can be challenging to adults when they don’t have words or skills to let others know what they want or need. Teaching social and emotional skills can help children to efficiently use words and actions to get their needs met. Check out the resources in this collection to find information on how to support children exhibiting challenging behavior.

Additional Resources

A boy and girl pretending to wipe away tears from a doll's eyes.Find more information and resources on social and emotional development.