Early Childhood and SEL
  • By admin
  • October 1, 2019

By Grace Shelton



As summer has faded and a new school year is well underway, it’s time to look ahead on what will be the top education issues facing teachers, administrators, and policymakers in the coming months. At least, that’s what this Forbes article indicates.  According to the author, there are many topics in education that remain pertinent, even if they’ve lost some steam over the years. The piece dives into issues like Common Core, promoting equity, High Stakes Testing, and more. However, the author states that what seems to be gaining the most traction in educational debates is what to do with the “littles”. In other words, younger children are being asked more and more to forgo developmentally appropriate activities in favor of rigorous academic work in order to prepare for the testing they will inevitably partake in. Backwards planning from Common Core standards indicate that Kindergarteners can go longer spend large portions of the day engaging in play. Instead, many of these young children are now asked to spend hours sitting still in their seats in order to meet academic demands. 

Consequences of Increased Demand on Younger Students?

So, what are the ramifications of demanding so much of such young kids? Are children suffering from the increases in structure and decreases in free time? This author at the New York Times says yes. In fact, according to the psychologist cited in the piece, children are more depressed than ever, with childhood depression rates skyrocketing 60% from 2009 to 2017. The author posits that much of this can be attributed to “a fundamental shift in the way we view children and child-rearing, and the way this shift has transformed our schools, our neighborhoods, and our relationships…” To put it simply, the author believes that the shift away from creative play and towards academic rigor has diminished children’s social-emotional health. She states that children have fewer opportunities than ever to practice social-emotional skills and compares childhood to “one long unpaid internship meant to secure a spot in a dwindling middle class.” This statement, while quite dismal, highlights the important work of organizations like Student Success Network (see: article) and other Resonant Education partners in seeking ways to incorporate SEL in schools and after school organizations. This work is urgent, and it is clear that students need stimulation outside of academics now more than ever. 


Kids, especially our youngest students, need the freedom to play and explore. They need time during the day to socialize with peers. They need to learn to develop as people in communities. They need, as the Times author states, “a greater emphasis on social-emotional learning.”