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7 Areas Of Personal, Social And Emotional Development You Should Explore In EYFS

Continuing her exploration of children’s holistic development, Kathy Brodie explains why PSED plays a fundamental role in early learning

  • 7 Areas Of Personal, Social And Emotional Development You Should Explore In EYFS

Personal, social and emotional development, or PSED, is all about helping young children to develop a positive sense of, and belief in, themselves; positive relationships with, and respect for, those around them; and the ability to manage their feelings and behaviour.

As one of the prime areas of the EYFS, it’s fundamental in supporting other areas of learning and development – however, making the links explicit between secure PSED and other areas can sometimes take a bit of reflection.

Some attitudes, such as having good self-esteem or being resilient, for example, are likely to be a benefit in all areas of learning and development; but as the following pointers illustrate, some areas of PSED can be more closely linked to specific areas of the EYFS…

1 | Express yourself

Helping children to understand and express their feelings is a core part of their emotional development. These are essential skills for children to be able to predict how characters are feeling in stories, to understand characters’ motivations and to anticipate their actions. Empathy and related skills help children to enjoy books and encourage them to improve their literacy skills. Without them, children are unlikely to feel the building of tension or excitement, for example, within the narrative, so are less likely to persevere with a storybook.

2 | Taking turns

Holding a verbal conversation is a complex process. Children must be able to take turns, and both listen and think about a response – all of which takes practice! Language development and conversations can be improved by affording children plenty of experience of turn-taking games, for example, board games or ‘ready, steady, go’ games. Creating situations where children have to wait their turn and listen as well can also help foster these skills. For example, a supportive circle time can be both a social activity as well as a turn-taking and language activity.

3 | What’s appropriate?

Often ‘language’ and ‘communication’ are used interchangeably as terms, but much of our communication is situational and social. Children must understand that the type of language you use depends on the situation you’re in, or who you’re talking to. Therefore, part of children’s PSED could include having experiences in different social situations, discussing social norms in stories and considering the types of responses that would be appropriate for the circumstances. This can give children the confidence to be able to communicate in suitable ways.

4 | Playing together

Some of the best physical development requires collaboration, for example, ring games, parachute games and team games. Therefore, children need to know how to share, work together and cooperate as part of their social development to make the most of these activities. Many of these games also benefit from a good imagination and compassion for others – another essential PSED skill.

5 | Confident movers

Sticking with physical development, children need to have self-confidence in their movement skills and abilities. This can be achieved through positive encouragement, and by providing physical activities that are challenging but achievable. This may include being confident in asking adults for help, for example, if children are setting up an obstacle course or are climbing up high.

6 | Mastering maths

Mastery disposition – where children believe they’re able to do something and are happy to try new activities – is useful in many other areas of learning and development. However, it’s particularly valuable when it comes to maths because children may not have many positive role models in this area of learning and development. Being able to predict the next colour in a sequence or spot patterns is a key mathematical ability, and if children believe they’re able to do this, they’re more likely to achieve and master these skills.

7 | Feeling anxious

Children are likely to be able to identify the activities that they like, or don’t like, as part of their PSED when managing their feelings and behaviours. This also means that they may start to avoid, or express anxiety over, certain activities – possibly messy play, risky play or some sensory activities. Whilst it’s desirable for children to be able to voice their opinions and have free choice, it’s also desirable that they experience the whole curriculum and develop the confidence to overcome their fears.


Social skills

Part of PSED is giving children opportunities to relate to other children, and to form positive relationships with a wide range of adults and children. In this way, they can start to:

  • appreciate other cultures and communities, as well as other perspectives and viewpoints in general;
  • recognise similarities between themselves and other children; and
  • identify traditions or cultural artefacts that are different.

These are part of understanding the world and appreciating people and communities.


Kathy Brodie is an Early Years Professional and trainer based in East Cheshire. She has worked in both nurseries and schools, and today specialises in the Early Years Foundation Stage and special educational needs. For more information, visit kathybrodie.com.

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