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18 Fun Social-Emotional Activities For Preschoolers

Are you ready to engage in fun social-emotional learning activities for preschoolers that will nurture your child’s relationship skills? Well, you are in the right place!

We’ve gathered over 18 simple yet powerful activities to help build important skills such as identifying their emotions and understanding the feelings of others. We’ve included fun games that teach sharing, taking turns, cooperation, and making friends.

Get ready to discover the world of social-emotional learning with your curious and energetic preschooler!

social emotional activities for preschoolers-two young girls caring for a doll
“If You Want To Be Happy, Practice Compassion” – Dalai Lama

Social-Emotional Skills: Feelings And Emotions

Let’s start with the all-important emotions and feelings. Your emotions affect how well you relate to others. Toddlers and preschoolers are ruled by their emotions. They have BIG feelings and very little impulse control.

Just telling your child to be kind, loving, and caring isn’t enough. We need to show them! One of the best ways to model understanding and empathy is during playtime

Empathy May Be The Single Most Important Quality That Must Be Nurtured To Give Peace A Fighting Chance.

Arundhati Ray

Benefits Of Social-Emotional Learning Activities For Preschoolers And Toddlers

Engaging in social-emotional learning activities for preschoolers and toddlers promotes the following benefits.

  • Recognizing and naming the core emotions builds emotional awareness and empathy.
  • Connecting feelings and colors gives visual cues.
  • Naming or labeling emotions gives children the vocabulary words to express their feelings. 
  • Role-playing how to react to their BIG emotions teaches self-control.
  • Social-emotional activities create a safe place for open communication about their emotions and feelings.

How To Support Social And Emotional Development In Preschoolers And Toddlers

Identify, express, and model emotions with young children to help them become socially and emotionally competent. Additionally, reading books, playing games, singing songs, and social-emotional activities for preschoolers and toddlers, such as imaginative play, are other ways to practice their skills.

how to support social and emotional development in preschoolers and toddlers-mother and toddler making loving faces at each other
“The Best Thing To Hold Onto In Life Is Each Other” – Audrey Hepburn

Identify Emotions

Let’s look at the five core emotions: joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust. The Pixar movie “Inside Out” does a beautiful job of characterizing these emotions. We especially appreciate the correlation between colors and feelings. Meet the 5 character emotions from the movie.

After you watch the movie with your children, discuss the different characters and the feelings they represent. Talk about body language and facial expressions. Encourage your child to identify and express the moods by asking them to draw and “color” the various emotions.

Model Emotions 

Set an example by modeling an appropriate way to express our emotions. Kids need to see our feelings, and it is perfectly natural for adults to be happy, mad, or sad. It’s what we do with those emotions that matter. Take the time to share with your child what made you feel the way you did and how you worked through it.


Kids are bound to have conflicts when playing together. Your role is to support them and, if appropriate, help them find a solution. For example, they both want the same toy:

  • You might suggest a similar one
  • Or perhaps they could take turns or play with it together
  • Talk it through to see if they can resolve it on their own

Read Books About Emotions

Reading stories to recognize, understand, and express their feelings helps develop their social-emotional skills. Further discussion allows them to connect their emotions to a variety of characters. Here is a list of books to get you started:

  1. Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat
  2. Calm-Down Time by Elizabeth Verdick
  3. Empathy Is Your Superpower: A Book About Understanding the Feelings of Others by Cori Bussolari
  4. F Is for Feelings by Goldie Millar
  5. Feelings to Share from A to Z by Todd Snow
  6. I’m Sorry by Sam McBratney
  7. In My Heart: A Book Of Feelings by Jo Witek
  8. Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney
  9. Have You Filled A Bucket Today? : A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids: 10th Anniversary Edition by Carol McCloud 
  10. Lots of Feelings by Shelley Rotner
  11. My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
  12. The Great Big Book of Feelings by Mary Hoffman
  13. The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions by Anna Llenas
  14. I’m Not Scared, You’re Scared by Seth Meyers
  15. The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
  16. Today I Feel Silly, & Other MOODS That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis
  17. Waiting by Kevin Henkes
  18. When I Feel Worried by Cornelia Maude Spelman

Play Games

Good old-fashioned games are a great way to encourage taking turns, cooperation, and patience. How about a weekly game night with the family?

Role-Play With Puppets

Puppets are a fantastic, non-threatening way to explore social and emotional scenarios. They help kids identify, understand, and examine how to regulate their feelings and manage social situations. For example, puppets can role-play how to handle a “problem” with a friend.

Such as, “I wanted to play with Hannah today, but she was playing with Sarah and said I couldn’t join them.” “What should I do?”

Social-Emotional Development Activities For Preschoolers And Toddlers: Feelings And Emotions

Fun, social-emotional activities for preschoolers and toddlers encourage awareness, understanding, and self-expression.

social-emotional development activities for preschoolers and toddlers-box of emoticons
Toddlers and preschoolers have BIG feelings and very little impulse control.

Feelings Charades

The game is all about emotions. Write down some different feelings on index cards. If you want to elaborate, you can have your kids draw feeling faces on the cards to match the emotion’s name.

Next, have one child pick a card and act out the emotion listed on the card. The rest of the players need to try and guess which feeling they are mimicking.

Feeling Face Mats

  • Create some “Feeling Face Mats” using paper plates or paper circles.
  • Either print out emoticon faces from the internet and glue them on. Or have your child draw faces on the plates showing a variety of emotions.
  • You can choose to incorporate color to represent feelings. For example, a red face might represent an “angry” face.
  • Start with the simplest ones, like happy, sad, scared, or angry. Use more or fewer emotions based on your child’s age and stage of development.
  • The mats are perfect for the following games.

Feelings Hop

Tape the “Feeling Faces Mats” to the floor with painter’s tape (please check your floor before taping them all down.) Then call out a feeling and have your child jump or hop to the correct emotion.

Once there, have them tell you, “What makes them feel that way? “ Or, “How do their bodies feel when they experience that feeling?” Keep it to a few “Feeling Face Mats” on the ground for those just learning about their emotions. 

Feelings Bean Bag Toss

In this version, instead of having your kids jump or hop to the “Feeling Face Mats,” have them toss a bean bag to the emotion you called out. Then, have them describe a situation where they felt that emotion.

Musical Feelings Game

Like musical chairs, use the “Feeling Face Mats” and tape them down on the floor in a circle. Then play some music. Next, have the children walk around the ring. When the music stops, have each child act out the emotion or feeling they landed on.

Emotions Stress Balls

All you need for a fun craft and activity is five balloons, a Sharpie, and some homemade playdough or uncooked rice.

  • First, create small balls of playdough and stuff them into the balloons. You can hold open the balloons while your kids stuff in the playdough.
  • Once full, push out any air and tie off the balloons.
  • Then, draw faces with a Sharpie on the balloons representing happy, sad, angry, scared, and surprised.
  • As an alternative, you can fill them with uncooked rice. Why not try both for a comparison?

Emotion Masks

Kids enjoy crafts, so why not create some masks to help explore their feelings?

  • Here, you need paper plates, Popsicle sticks, tape and markers, crayons, or paints.
  • Cut each plate in half and tape a Popsicle stick to the rounded edge of each half plate.
  • Have your child draw a mouth and a nose on each mask.
  • Now, get exploring some emotions. Be silly and mix up the feelings; for example, your child could give angry eyes with a happy face mask.

Social-Emotional Skills: Cooperation

The ability to work with others is a fundamental skill that is necessary for building a community. Cooperation requires preschoolers to learn how to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate toward a common goal. They must work together!

block activities-tow young boys paying with blocks for toddlers
Block Activities Inspire Children To Engage in Collaborative Play

Typically, young children do not have the skills to work together until about three and a half. At this time, you will begin to see them engage in cooperative play, whether playing a game or building a tower out of giant blocks.

This is a time when you might see leadership roles emerge. Regardless, cooperation requires mutual respect, discussion, compromise, and understanding. 

Block play activities are excellent for inspiring children to engage in child-centered, collaborative play. Playing in a group encourages both communication and social skills. Children begin to relate to a common goal, and therefore it is easier to build relationships.

Throughout life, kids will be asked to be a part of a team. Therefore, it is essential to communicate and model the importance of working together. What better way than for the family to work as a “team.”

Consider assigning everyone an age-appropriate chore that creates more time for “family fun.” Or what about dinner time? Give each person a task to help get dinner on the table. Focus on the importance of cooperation and how it makes things work better.

A Good Compromise Is One Where Everybody Makes A Contribution.

Angela Merkel

Sharing And Taking Turns

How do you positively reinforce these skills? One by modeling them. It can be challenging for youngsters who want their magnetic blocks all to themselves.

Yet, children are inclined to imitate the behaviors they see. So set a good example when interacting with your friends and family. Let them see you sharing. For example, you can say to your child, “I will share my orange with you. Here is a section for you and one for me.”

Another way to support these skills is through praise. When you see kids sharing and taking turns, praise them. By bringing attention to their good behavior, they are more likely to repeat it because they like the good feelings it brings.

Both role-playing and talking to your child about sharing are beneficial. Explain why it is important to share—for example, asking how they feel when their sibling or friend does not share with them.

When all else fails, use a timer. Despite your best efforts, there are times when kids will not want to take turns or share. Using a timer like a stopwatch can help them get excited about the next activity and prepare for the change. When they hear the timer, they know it is the next person’s turn. 

The actual concept of sharing doesn’t really develop until about age 5. So keep in mind the age and development of the child to be sure your expectations match their capabilities. 

Sharing And Turn-Taking Activities For Toddlers And Preschoolers

One of the essential skills connected to cooperation is sharing. Taking turns and sharing does not come easily for children; they need a lot of practice. Furthermore, they actually have to be taught, so start small with a few activities below.

sharing and turn-taking activities for toddlers and preschoolers- two young boys playing together
When You See Kids Sharing And Taking Turns, Praise Them!

Share a Snack

Have your child help you prepare and pass out a snack. For example, give them some boxes of raisins and have them pass one out to each person. Using verbal cues like “One for your sister, please.”

Bean Bag Conversation

Create a circle. Pass the bean bag to the youngest child. Ask, “What is something you would like to share with your friend or sibling?” After they share their answer. Have them toss the bean bag to another child. Play until everyone has had a turn.

Share A Story

Create a circle. In this activity, you are going to tell a progressive story. Decide together how the story will start. Hold the ball, narrate the story’s beginning, and then add one thing that happens next.

Roll the ball across the circle to the next child. Each child adds one more thing that happens to the story. Use questions to help prompt those struggling with ideas. For example, “Where did he go?” or “What did she do?”

Self Portrait Sharing

Inspire your child to draw a picture of themselves. Have them include friends or siblings. Expand the drawing by asking them to show themselves sharing.

Painting Together

Here is an easy and creative way to model sharing. Grab your painting supplies and a large sheet of paper. Decide together what you will paint. Next, start painting.

Ask them to “Pass you the red paint?” Also, share your tools with them. This type of activity helps “sharing” become a natural part of daily play. 

Social-Emotional Skills: Friendship

Having friends is important at any age! Everyone wants and needs friends. Some friendships will last a season, and others a lifetime. Regardless, the value of friendship is priceless. It provides experiences and builds memories—that is why teaching kids about friendship is essential. 

Sometimes making and keeping friends can be a challenge for kids. Regularly talk with your children about friends. Ask them, “Who are your friends?” or “What do you like to do together?” Talk about “What makes a good friend,” and “How can they be a good friend?” 

To have a friend, you must be a friend. For example:

  • If you are kind to others, they will be kind to you
  • Friends play together and work together
  • They are someone you enjoy spending time with
  • Friends are kind, caring, and gentle
  • A friend is a “pal” or a “buddy.”
  • You can laugh or cry with a friend
  • Friends make you feel special 
social-emotional skills: friendship-two young girls crossing a bridge holding hands
You Have Been My Friend. That In Itself Is A Tremendous Thing” – E.B. White

Social-Emotional Activities For Toddlers and Preschoolers: Friendship

Discuss some of the keys to friendship. For example, friends should be respectful, kind, helpful, forgiving, generous, and patient. This means that your child needs to learn these valuable qualities, too. 

Try out some of these easy social-emotional learning activities for preschoolers and toddlers.

What Is A Good Friend?

This is an easy activity that discusses “What Makes A Good Friend?” Work with your kids and create a list of the qualities that they think make a good friend—like someone who shares, who is kind, or who makes you laugh.

Once your list has been completed, have your kids draw pictures for each of the qualities. Then post it somewhere as a reminder of “What makes a good friend?”

Please Pass The Ice Cream

Based on the book “Should I Share My Ice Cream?” by Mo Willems.

  • Create cones from brown cardstock rolled into the shape of a cone, one for each player.
  • Use a lightweight ball, like a plastic softball, foam ball, or ball pit ball. Make sure that the ball fits inside of the cone before you start.
  • Put the ball into one of the cones to represent the “ice cream.”
  • Pass the “ice cream” from cone to cone, having each child share it with a friend. Encourage them to use “please” and “thank you” when sharing.
  • For instance, one child asks, “Would you like to share my ice cream?” Another child answers, “Yes, please!” or “No, thank you!”

Matching Game

This game is a fun way to introduce “new friends” and the concept of having more than one friend. Each child is given a magnetic wooden block. Make sure you have enough matching blocks so that, in the end, every child will find a partner.

Have the kids move around the room looking for their “friend,” the child with the matching block. Once they find their “buddy,” they click their blocks together, link arms, and stay together until everyone has a “pal.”

That’s Me!

Kids love this fun and interactive game. Create a circle. One child stands and tells one thing about themselves: their favorite food, color, or animal.

All the other children who share the same favorite things stand and shout, “That’s me!” The person who shared then chooses one of the kids who stood up to lead.

Say Something Kind

Another circle game. Do you see a theme here? Circles have no beginning or end and are inclusive. They are a great way to build community.

Have your kids form a circle. To start, have an adult toss a beach ball to one of the children, saying something kind about them. When the child catches the ball, they toss it to another kid, saying something kind to them. Make sure everyone has a chance to say something kind.

At the Zoo (or other familiar places)

Encourage your children to work together in their block play area to build a zoo!

  • Prompt them with questions like, “When they went to the zoo, what did they see?”
  • They can build enclosures for the animals. 
  • Get creative and use pieces of fabric or paper for water.
  • Include natural elements like stones, leaves, and small trees for creating animal habitats.
  • Add some books about the zoo, block play people, animals, signs, and vehicles.

Easy social-emotional activities for preschoolers and toddlers are an exciting way to help children learn about their emotions, cooperation, sharing, and friendship. For more activities that support social-emotional development, check out our “Easy Social Activities For Toddlers And Preschoolers” post. Until next time, leave a comment about what you are building, playing, and practicing.