Social and Emotional Development - Part 1

Social and Emotional Developmental Expectations in Early Elementary School Aged Children

Social and emotional development is critical for children.  Children who are on the right track for social and emotional development can make connections with peers and adults, can manage conflict effectively and are more easily able to focus in school on their education.  

I thought it would be helpful to lay out some expected social and emotional development for elementary school aged children. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is the “nation’s leading organization advancing the development of academic, social and emotional competence for all students”.I’m using their framework as a basis to discuss expected social and emotional development.  CASEL identifies 5 main areas of social and emotional competence.  These are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

Of course, like all developmental expectations, every child has their strengths and weaknesses, temperament, personality and gets to different stages at different times.

Early Elementary School (K-2)


  • Describe self based on external characteristics (physical attributes, possessions, age, behavioral characteristics and traits)
  • Recognize and accurately label simple emotions
  • Start to identify personal competence (“I’m good at math”) but it’s not always a realistic assessment
  • Rely on adults for a sense of security, but own self-worth and security in self is emerging


Social and Emotional Development Part 1
  • Can describe steps of setting and working toward a basic goal
  • Regulate and control impulses in most situations
  • Can use calming strategies

Social Awareness

  • Can identify cues to indicate how others feel and the consequences of those feelings
  • Will notice how their own behavior has an effect on others
  • Show more complex emotions over time

Relationship Skills

  • Develop close friendships that are mutual, based on time spent together, shared attributes and overlapping interests
  • Playing together can include imaginative, dramatic play and games with rules (board games, sports games)

Responsible Decision Making

  • Identify a range of decisions they make throughout their lives (what to eat for lunch, what games to play at recess, what to participate in after school, etc.)

 **This is the first of two posts. Next time I’ll focus on late elementary school age children**


Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). Enhancing students’ social and emotional development promotes success in school: Results of a meta-analysis. Child Development, 82, 405-432.,

National Education Goals Panel. (1995). The national education goals report: Building a nation of learners. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

National Research Council. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

National Research Council. (2012). Education for life and work: Developing transferable knowledge and skills in the 21st century. Committee on Defining Deeper Learning and 21st Century Skills, J. W. Pellegrino & M. L. Hilton (Eds). Board on Testing and Assessment and Board on Science Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Wang, M. C., & Walberg, H. J. (Eds.). (2004).  Building academic success on social and emotional learning: What does the research say?  New York, NY:  Teachers College Press.

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