top of page

Understanding the EYFS: Personal, Social, and Emotional Development Explained

Throughout January and February, we are taking a deep dive into each of the areas of learning within the Early Years Foundation Stage or EYFS.

In short, the EYFS is how the government and early years practitioners describe the time in your little one’s life between birth and age 5.

It’s a legal framework to ensure a high quality of care and safeguarding for your child. You can click here to find out more.

There are 7 areas of learning to explore in total, and we are continuing today with Personal, Social, and Emotional Development – let’s dive straight in!

Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED) is all about helping children in:

  • developing a positive sense of self,

  • having confidence in their own abilities,

  • forming positive relationships and developing respect for others,

  • understanding appropriate behaviours in social situations,

  • and developing social skills and learning to manage feelings.

PSED is all about helping your little one develop into a balanced, healthy person who is caring, confident, respected and respectful.

Personal development focuses on your little one's development of their personality and interests.

Social development focuses on developing relationship skills like turn-taking in conversation and just being a good friend.

Emotional Development focuses on your little one understanding their own and others’ feelings as well as learning self-regulation (click here for a full guide to self-regulation).

Experts explain that children who develop well in these areas cope better with life challenges. They are more likely to not give up when things get tough and bounce back in the face of adversity.

Focusing on helping your little one develop these skills gives them a greater chance of enjoying their time in education and succeeding later on in life!

What you may not realise is that you’re already helping to support this development every day…

You talk to your little one about the things they enjoy doing e.g. going to the park or shops. This helps them understand what they enjoy and tells them that you’re interested in them.

You may also do this by reminding them about funny things they’ve done or telling them anecdotes about them. Through this, they develop self-awareness.

Now let’s look at personal, social and emotional development separately to see why each of these is important and how you can support each at home.

Personal Development

Every person is totally unique. There are no two personalities (or people!) totally alike.

But did you know that personal development actually begins before birth?! In the womb, your baby shows their character e.g. if they’re more lively or sedate.

After birth, you can notice physical characteristics and a temperament which distinguishes your little one from others.

This type of development is important because having their personality acknowledged gives your child the confidence and strength to grow.

You can support this at home by:

  • Let your child join in with daily tasks – this can be cooking, shopping, cleaning etc. It gives them the self-assurance that they are capable and competent.

  • Share memories! Show your child photos of events, places and people that are special to you. This will help them develop a sense of belonging and help them better understand the culture around them.

  • Give your child choices. This can be anything from choosing a bedtime story, to what to wear to planning a dinner list! Start small and give them 2 choices to pick from. This will give your little one a sense of control and makes them feel more respected.

  • Talking to your little one about their favourite activities. This will help them feel proud of themselves and confident about the things they enjoy and can do. This is a good starting point to help your child feel like they can do anything!

Social development

Social development helps your little one be part of a family or group and make friends with others. The feeling of acceptance and belonging will help to support their mental health and help them make their own way in life later on.

It’s also important as it assists your child in learning the social rules or customs of their culture including how to treat people appropriately.

You can support this at home by:

  • Show your child how to be sensitive to others – storybooks are a good way to do this click here for some examples.

  • Showing your little one the benefits of teamwork. Young children can often find sharing difficult, but they can learn by being shown how to enjoy doing something together by adults.

  • Supporting your child in doing things for others e.g. making a birthday or get well soon card, giving toys or clothes away etc.

Emotional Development

Emotional development helps your little one understand empathy towards others as well as learn that all feelings are valid, making them feel reassured, loved and cared for.

It also helps to understand that talking about feelings can be beneficial when feeling overwhelmed, worried or stressed.

You can support this at home by:

  • Share storybooks! Books that focus on emotions will help your child apply what they are learning to a safe made-up scenario, giving them practice. Click here for a list of recommendations.

  • Talking to your child about their feelings – whatever they are. Dismissing fears or anxiety often only amplifies those feelings but acknowledging that feelings exist and are okay reduces them and makes them more manageable.

When your little one expresses their feelings, help them understand that this is only temporary and that talking about them can help manage their emotions.

Additional Resources


bottom of page