Recognizing the Importance of Social and Emotional Learning in Early Childhood Education

Helping young children build the skills today to develop positive relationships, feel confident in themselves, identify and manage their emotions, and stand up for what is right, will help them to succeed in school and transform them into the leaders and change-makers of tomorrow (C. C. Raver, 2002).

Social and emotional learning is an essential component of the Educare school curriculum. Recently, two Educare schools in Nebraska—Educare Winnebago and Educare Omaha—implemented an innovative conscious discipline approach that emphasizes teacher and caregiver well-being alongside children’s development.

The program, called Mindfulness and Mastery, was launched through an Acceleration Grant from the Buffett Early Childhood Fund.

Mindfulness in the Classroom

New mindfulness-inspired supplies, including brain games, breathing balls and pinwheels, funded by the Acceleration Grant help early childhood teachers, parents and caregivers better support young learners while minimizing their own stress.

“Our focus started with our staff,” noted Amie Coomes, school director at Educare Omaha. “It’s a high-stress role to be an early childhood teacher. We were looking for curriculum and materials that would help our teaching staff maintain calm and experience less anxiety.”

At Educare Winnebago, “We also searched for a different way to handle behavioral situations center-wide—a strategy, from infancy to preschool, that could carry over into kindergarten and beyond,” said master teacher Brittney Stansberry.

Conscious discipline promotes empathy and recognizing feelings—big milestones that Stansberry and Coomes believe kids should progress toward before kindergarten.

“Through the grant, we are able to send a lot of the classroom materials home,” said Stansberry. “We record clips of kids doing an activity and post them on our school Facebook page so families can learn and incorporate those ideas as well.”

Watch one classroom at Educare Omaha engage in a breathing exercise:

Both schools have observed substantial progress in children’s behavior and reductions in anxiety among staff since starting the program.

For the Educare leaders, positive feedback from parents and their school communities further confirms that “what we’re doing is working. Conscious discipline is truly life-changing for the children as well as the adults who grow with them.”

A New Online Resource

The Educare Learning Network is proud to build and sustain national partnerships that support social and emotional learning for teachers, children and families in the classroom and at home. We’re excited to team up with Noggin and Sparkler on Big Heart World, a new initiative providing free and publicly available resources to help children develop critical life skills.

Each month, the initiative will share new content in English and Spanish, focused on three core areas of emotional learning:

  • Learning About Me: Awareness of self: identity and belonging, feelings and self-regulation
  • Learning About You: Awareness of others: empathy, appreciation of diversity
  • Learning About Us: Relationships with others: interpersonal strategies

Visit to discover more about conscious discipline and similar approaches. Check back often for the latest articles, activities, videos and tips from experts in the early childhood education field!