Social Goals for Preschoolers (A Guide For Parents)

Creating a safe open environment at home is the best way to foster social emotional growth in your preschooler.

Preschoolers are rapidly developing social-emotional skills as they interact with other children.

This frequently requires kids to learn to share, set boundaries by saying no, and learning to name their own emotions. 

This article will give an overview of social emotional development in preschool and some tips for developing your own social-emotional goals. 

Social Goals for Preschoolers: What Are They?

You can set social goals for your child by understanding how they are developing and by helping them understand their emotions. 

Preschool age children are most impacted by their caretakers.

Having caretakers who are calm and comfortable talking about emotions promotes positive social emotional growth. 

Social-emotional growth is one of the biggest goals of preschool programs. 

Social emotional growth can look different in every child, but the normal development in a 4 year old will likely include:

  • Preferring to play with other children rather than alone
  • Engaging in pretend play 
  • Cooperating with other children 
  • Talking about what they like and dislike 
  • Taking Turns
  • Show concern for a crying friend 
  • Having a “best friend”

We look to see these normal social emotional skills develop as your child spends more time interacting with children around their age. 

With disruptions in schooling or other changes in your child’s life it is normal to see a change in their social-emotional skills and how they relate to you and their peers.

Be sure to always treat your child with respect and allow them to tell you about any feelings they may want to share. 

The interruption in schooling prompted the Department of Education to release resources to help parents and educators support social emotional development in children.

You can read more of their recommendations in the linked PDF. 

Many states have provided social emotional learning goals as part of the curriculum as well, you can ask your child’s school if they can provide you with a copy or send you a link. 

Examples of Social-Emotional Goals

Social-emotional goals are set by parents and teachers when they notice that a child is not developing appropriate social skills. 

Social-emotional goals can also be set to monitor the development of social skills in children.

This allows parents or educators to monitor how the child is growing and changing. 

Parents may choose to make social emotional goals for their children.

These goals can help you build your child’s confidence and build their social skills. 

Examples of Social-Emotional Goals for Preschoolers:

  • Take turns with friends without adult direction
  • Respond to directions appropriately 
  • Maintain appropriate space when talking to a peer or adult
  • Ask questions and listen to answers
  • Initiate imaginative play 
  • Seek help from the teacher when necessary
  • Say no to peers when appropriate 

How do you set social goals?

Setting your own goals for your child’s social development is the best way to create goals that are perfectly suited to your child. 

Although it may seem overwhelming you can reach out to your support system and work together as a team to create meaningful social emotional goals. 

Consult Your Pediatrician

Describe the behavior that is causing you concern to your pediatrician.

Keep notes and be as detailed as possible.

Your pediatrician is trained to know what normal development in children should look like. 

They should provide you with resources for next steps. 

If you disagree with your pediatrician, ask for a referral to a specialist. Early intervention is important. 

Consult the Preschool Staff

Your child’s preschool should keep a record of any concerning behavior they observe at school, so set up a meeting before or after school to discuss any concerns you have about your child’s social development. 

If you are noticing behavior at home that is not being replicated at school, you can bring this up with your pediatrician. 

Plan Actions

When you have clearly defined goals it is time to pair those with actions. 

Giving your child more time around peers to develop their social skills is an important action item.

You may do this by visiting local playgrounds frequently or joining a more structured class or club. 

You may find library books that support the social skills you are working to develop.

These can be great tools to start talking about emotions and social situations with your preschooler. 

It may be recommended that you find other professional support.

This can be challenging, but a call to your insurance provider is a great first step. 

Many insurance providers can send you a list of providers that can provide the support you are looking for, start calling down the list until you find the perfect provider.  

How to Support Your Preschooler’s Social Development

Simple adjustments to your daily routine can support social development.

Consider incorporating these things into your daily routine:

Respect Your Child’s Feelings

When your child is expressing emotions, listen and allow them to process their feelings. 

Try to resist the urge to ‘sush’ your child’s big emotions and allow them to cry or get angry.

When they are calm, discuss what they are feeling. 

Help your child put words to the emotions they are experiencing. 

Spend Time with Other Kids

Practice makes progress, so allow your child to spend plenty of time with peers. Give them space to problem solve. 

If they come to you upset about something that was said, brainstorm with your child about ways they can solve the problem on their own instead of stepping in to solve it yourself. 

Read Books Together 

Reading promotes empathy which is a huge social skill.

Talk about the characters that you are reading about and ask your child how the character may be feeling or how they may be able to solve their problems. 

Talk About Your Emotions

Modeling healthy emotions is very important.

Talk to your child about how you are feeling when they see you upset or happy. 

“I was so frustrated when I could not find my keys.”

“I am so excited to see my sister today.”


“I am sad that my favorite mug got broken.”

Talk Through Difficult Feelings

When something bad happens we tend to shield our kids from the bad feelings.

The truth is that hard emotions are part of life and by talking about them we give our kids tools to deal with them. 

Avoid adding a silver lining to every statement.

Sometimes you are just mad or just sad. You can talk about how these feelings will pass with time. 

Setting Social Goals for Preschoolers

Creating a safe environment in your home is the best way to support your child’s social-emotional development. 

An interruption in schooling or a change in your child’s life may warrant a closer look at their social emotional development. 

If you are concerned that your child’s social development, start by talking to your pediatrician. You may have filled out a questionnaire about your child’s development that should signal any red flags. 

You can find developmental questionnaires which are a part of the Bright Futures program by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

You can then set some goals to monitor your child’s progress towards healthy social emotional growth. 

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Social Goals for Preschoolers