Like “NO”, “Mine” is the universal signal of a young preschooler on a learning adventure. Both words tell parents and leaders where a child is on the social, emotional and cognitive learning curve.

We’ve all watched an infant’s limited core body movement and his surprise when his own hand flashes by. His body is developing controlled muscle movements from the center outward. Emotional, social and cognitive development works the same way. It’s how we’re designed.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Social and emotional development begins with the center of my world: ME.

We help children with muscle development and dexterity by playing with them. Playing and talking WITH preschoolers helps them develop in all areas of life.

We know what to expect and how to encourage a child to grow when we understand the stages of social development.

ME & Mom

  • The time frame varies for each infant.
  • Mom is part of who I am. Her touch, fragrance and presence are critical to my sense of well-being.
  • This is why some babies have a hard time in the nursery. Most infants and toddlers go through stages of push you / pull you to mom. One week baby Abby is fine. The next week she’s a crying mess. This growth transition is the time for Dad to drop her off.

I connect with the people who care for ME, LOVE ME & think I’m adorable.

  • YOU help me understand comfort and trust.

What I do creates a cause and effect.

  • I cry, you respond.
  • I cry longer or louder and you try something different.

I learn to mirror you.

  • You mirror my actions.
  • From now on, I’m ready to learn from your example.

I see you playing beside ME. I don’t play with you.

  • This is an important time to play WITH babies, toddlers & two year olds.
  • You show them how to do things and model how to play.
  • Let your “child-side” out and get on the floor to play.
  • Infants through five year olds learn as they play. It’s their most important work.
  • During play you can demonstrate sharing, caring, cooperating and talk about many of the other abstract concepts you’re teaching.
  • Between ages 2 and 2½, kids begin to play with each other, not just side by side.

All things I see are MINE.

  • I want what you have. It’s MINE.
  • Now is the time when you need two or three of each favored item in the classroom.
  • I take what you have. It’s MINE.
  • Distraction is the best tool to divert the child who grabs for the toy in another child’s hand. “Here is a toy for you to play with. It’s her turn to play with that one.” Introduce a concept in context way before a child can understand it or perform it. Then repeat, repeat, repeat.

Never punish a child for not sharing when he is not developmentally ready to understand the abstract concept.

I want to please YOU, the leader.

  • At about age 4, a child who has consistent, loving leaders will want to please you.
  • They try to do what they think you want.
  • Observe the kids at play and comment when they share. “Noah, I liked the way you shared the truck with your friend, Harry!”
  • Use the word “share” in context at the exact moment it’s noticed and it becomes relevant and observable.
  • That’s “REAL” to a preschooler.

Finally, when a child is about 5 years old he notices the needs and desires of others.

  • He isn’t waiting for kudos from a leader.
  • He acts with kindness and shares because he sees a need and knows he can help.
  • This characteristic is on again, off again as he exercises his social muscles.
  • Words and hugs are the best praise for him.
  • If this child is really tuned in, he discovers that sharing has benefits: “Other kids like me. They want to play with me and we have a good time with little drama. I know I am doing what is right!”


We truly are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” As leaders we have the privilege and joy of encouraging parents and guiding little learners to be all that God created them to be.