Social understandings and behaviours are closely interwoven with emotions, temperament, values, attitudes,knowledge and skills.

Children are born social. Social capacity develops as children interact with supportive, stimulating, safe people and places. Tuning in, listening and watching closely can help adults to understand what might be giving rise to a child's behaviour. It can help to think of behaviour as the tip of an iceberg—there’s usually an emotional base hidden underneath.

Social competence is about the ability to recognise, interpret and respond to social situations in ways that society sees as appropriate. It is a known protective factor for children's mental health and wellbeing. 

Behavour can be a good indicator of mental health status. Children change over time as they grow, and many behaviours are very typical at certain ages. Children can have trouble finding the words to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Instead, they often express their social and emotional experiences through behaviour.

Find more information about social development

The early childhood years are not only a time for taking first steps or for saying first words. They are also a time when children are building expectations about their world and the people in it.

Social and emotional development in the early years

Growing together in relationships

It's good to be me!

Getting along with others

Feelings matter

Getting along: further resources

Supporting children’s curiosity and confidence 

Curiosity drives children to explore their surroundings and try new things. Children begin to see themselves as capable and having control when they see their actions affect their world and the people in it. This process helps children feel good about themselves and builds their self-confidence.

Curiosity: Confident children are eager learners

Curiosity: Encouraging and praising children

Curiosity: Suggestions for families and staff

Curiosity: Resources for families and staff

Helping children make decisions and solve problems

Children often focus on their immediate wants and struggle without considering all consequences―this ability develops over time and with support.

Children need adult guidance to develop their decision-making skills and understand the consequences of their actions. 

Helping children choose wisely

Assisting children as they learn to make good decisions and solve problems

What families and staff can do to support children in their decision making

Is there any where else I can go for further information

Developing positive separations

Children's levels of emotional sensitivity vary. Some worry about lots of things, while others are more carefree. Most are somewhere in between. Differences in emotional sensitivity can be noticeable at times of separation. When children notice their parent or carer is leaving, some become very distressed and others seem to hardly notice.

For further information about:

Being away from one another

Ways to help understand and manage separation distress.

How to  help children cope with separation distress

Finding more information about separation distress

Finding, making and maintaining friendships

The ability to make and maintain friends is an important part of a child's daily life and future success as an adult.

Children are not born with friendship skills, they  develop over time with regular support, guidance and practice and contribute to a child's mental health and wellbeing. These resources explain how young children find, make and maintain friendships:

Everyone needs a friend

Friendships: Learning positive friendship skills

Friendships: Supporting children to develop friendships

Friendships: Resources for families and staff