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Social, emotional and cognitive Development (3-5 yr children) An early childhood educators guide utilizing NQS & EYLF frameworks

Social, emotional and cognitive Development

Social, emotional and cognitive developmental milestones are the key indicators of the normal range that a child should develop certain traits in, and within a certain age bracket. Whilst some children maybe quicker than the age bracket provided for the milestone, others maybe slower. This essay will investigate the implications that typical development has on children aged three to five, how they can achieve it and how it effects their development.

Children three-five years.


Enjoys interactions with peer group

May form stronger bond with one friend

Engages in smiling gestures and is cooperative within peer groups

Mutually manipulates items in interactions with another one or two children

Independence develops

Social skills develop in learning and required tolerance of others in schooling environments (Faragher, 1985). (ACECQA, n.d).


Greater understanding  of others when hurt and tries to comfort

Knowledge of gender- recognises that they are either male or female

May exhibit a preference with own sex play friends

May engage in gender related role play with friends

Maybe prone to exerting periodical aggression with or around  peer group

Enjoys reciprocal affection with parents

May commend them self and boast of achievements (Faragher, 1985). (ACECQA, n.d).


Understanding of what opposites are (big/small) and understanding of positional word use (start, middle, end)

Constructs and builds utilizing varying materials e.g. blocks, lego, clay, water, sand

Constructs block towers to achieve height of eight-ten blocks

Can answer easy questions

Is able to count numbers of five to ten items

Shows a longer span of engagement and attention

Engages talking to self throughout play to help aid what they do e.g. girls and doll play, boys and car play

Is able to follow easy instructions

Is able to follow easy rules and enjoys aiding others

May exhibits a small degree of writing letters and numbers

Enjoys a flair for dramatic play

Engages in pretend imaginary role play e.g. super hero's

Event recall accuracy

Starts to count utilizing touch e.g. moves objects as they count them

Is starting to comprehend numbers and items/object relationships

Is able to remember and express events of a recent activity or story

Can visualize and copy letters and maybe able to write some (Faragher, 1985). (ACECQA, n.d).

The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) is a document relating to the developmental principals, practices and outcomes for children in schooling and care environments.  Outcome 1: Children have a strong sense of identity, defines that children develop social developmental milestones through their building of relationships with people, culture and places. With these connections, experiences are shaped (The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, 2009). According to Erikson's 8 stages of childhood psychosocial learning and development, when children have the continuity of positive reinforcement through the actions and the responses of others, they achieve an understanding that they are significant in the broader sense, and thus obtain a greater sense of independence. On the flip side however if adult influencers are overly controlling of children and inflict punishments for active exploration and learning, children will inevitably exhibit feelings of guilt and wrong doing, instead of being inquisitive and inventive in their exploration (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2016). 

Positive implications when typical age range developmental milestones occur according to Outcome 1- 'Children learn to interact in relation to others with care, empathy and respect' of the ELYF, is that children are able to develop confidence in who they are, and feel respected by those around them. They have new knowledge for explorative and dramatic play, whilst sharing cultural traits and values with others. Children become social butterflies reaching out to others for assistance when required, for comfort when needed, and companionship when desired (The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, 2009).  

Quality areas 1, 5 & 6, of the National Quality Standards (NQS) of childhood education and care, deals with the social developmental milestone obtainment. Quality area 1 aims to ensure that educational institutions provide programming and content that stimulates, nurtures and engages, whilst enhancing children's potential to learn and develop life skills (ACECQA, n.d.). Successful programs build emerging autonomy in children, they are able to approach new environments with vigour and persistence when failures arrive, they are able to self regulate their behaviour and cope with unexpected changes. Good programming allows children to reach their milestone potential (The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, 2009). 

Quality area 5 of the NQS encourages respectful and receptive relationships with children in order to provide children with the freedom to engage and explore their environments whilst learning through play (ACECQA, n.d.). The implications of achieving this milestone is so that children feel safe, supported and secure enough to build relationships whilst exploring confidently social environments (The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, 2009).

Quality area 6 of the NQS encourages the connective collaboration with families and communities in order to achieve positive developmental outcomes for children (ACECQA, n.d.). ELYF Principle- Partnerships: states when educator's value and respect the knowledge and input of families and communities, children thrive in their developmental milestones because both families and educators can build programs and play experiences based on each other knowledge of the child's likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. (The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, 2009).  

A pedagogical strategy that could used for the social domain, and that takes into consideration room for considerable growth and development in this key area, would be to use a child centred pedagogy approach. This focused practice allows the child to direct their learning based on their needs, ability and interests, and creates an environment where the teacher acknowledges and responds to the child's vision for learning, based on their individualised characteristics. Educators utilize their skills and knowledge of child development to create interactive learning environments and experiences that focus on learning through play and discovery through play both alone and with peers. In this style of learning known as 'active learning', children have the freedom of exploration, they can explore their environments and make social connections independently, and build upon their view and understanding of the world through their interactions (Ryan, 2005).

During the 3-5 pre-school phrases emotional traits change dramatically. The implications of reaching emotional developmental milestones are that emotional growth then remains in line with the social and cognitive realms. Due to all the domains being interrelated, where one relies heavily on the other, it is essential to overall growth that all develop in unison. Emotional growth development expands rapidly during this phase and includes how children understand the use of emotions in both reading of other people's expressions, and producing their own in line with thoughts of jealousy, embarrassment, being sad, proud or elated. This allows children to interact with others in a more refined and expressive way (Dehart, Sroufe & Cooper, 2004).

Emotional regulation develops in this phase and grows alongside learning tolerance of others and the ability to contain frustration, for e.g. when a toddler wants a treat at the shops but can't have it may go into a tantrum, where as the preschoolers is growing in their ability to regulate their frustration at not being allowed the treat, and is able to construct a more appropriate delivery of behaviour to deal with the situation (Bridges & Grolnick, 1995).

Emotional expression showcasing tolerance and flexibility in scenarios where ego resiliency occurs begins to develop in situations requiring self restraint, over being impulsive or overly expressive (Block & Block, 1980). Children grow in how they internalize standards, and how they self-evaluate. They also show changes to outward aggression and pro-social actions towards others or someone else's possessions (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998).

The implication for reaching all emotional developmental milestone achievements are that the child becomes more independent, expressive, they cooperate with others, they start to tackle mental health challenges and demonstrate trusting bonds with others (Early Childhood Matters, n.d).

An emotional pedagogical strategy for educators is to initiate emotional word use into everyday play and learning scenarios, for e.g. "Kelly it is nice to see you so happy with your big smile", said the teacher whilst pointing to her own mouth and smiling. By engaging children into emotional language learning whilst in play, teaches them facial gestures and the associated words for emotional configuration at a later time. When a child understands that smiling means happiness, and crying means sadness and angry means a forehead frowns, they can start to comprehend the differences in emotions. This will allow children to learn about emotions and convey more easily to others how they are feeling, and also see others and understand how others may be feeling (Joseph & Strain, n.d.).

Cognitive Development deals with a person's ability to process the world around them, to reason how things work and come together. It's how they think about, understand and comprehend varying tasks, and how they remember and recall specific events. According to Piaget there are 4 stages of cognitive development: Sensorimotor stage (0-2 years), Preoperational stage (2-6 or 7 years), Concrete Operations stage (7- 11 or 12 years), and Formal operations stage (11 or 12 - adulthood) (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2016).

The culture and values of a child's family and community can determine whether developmental milestone occur within the typical age ranges. In countries where schooling is not seen as a priority for children, conservation can be slower to develop than in Western societies, and operational reasoning may never develop at all. In some countries such as Asia, logical thinking skills are not always seen as important skills, and thus are not nurtured in schools as Asian thinking leans more towards concrete truths rather than applying logic to artificial situations. So even though Piaget's theory of development exists, cultural determination can factor into why a migrant or refugee child for example may be delayed in achieving certain developmental milestones (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010).

Outcome 5 of the Early Learning Years Framework (ELYF) expresses that children need the ability to communicate effectively utilizing a range of expressive qualities such as sounds, gestures and language, for effective cognitive milestone development to take place.  This underpins a child's sense of belonging, who they are and what they will become, it is about achieving an identity. Children feel valued when their language and communication styles are validated by those around them, and they will continue to thrive and develop competency in this area when they feel confident in their ability, and when they have the trust and support of educators, carers, family and community (The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, 2009).

Article 6 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC), states that government parties must ensure to the best of their ability that the development and survival of children is of the highest priority. Article 29(A) States that government shall ensure that a child's education consists of developing their personality, mental ability, physical and talent abilities (Australian Human Rights Commission, 1990).

Reaching cognitive developmental milestones are important, and the implications can be destructive if governments don't ensure adequate quality teachers and policies that meet the needs and requirements of children in centres and schools. The failure to compensate and attract good teachers to education sectors may lead to developmental delays not just in the cognitive realm but also the social and emotions domains as well. It has been advised that governments increase teacher support and build their skills, through professional pre-service and post service training to educate teachers and carers how to recognise developmental delays in children, and how to manage programs to achieve better and more effective results in children. (Barnett, 2011).

One pedagogical strategy to employ with children to nurture their cognitive development would be to pair under developing children with over developing children. According to Vygotsky, by pairing children together who have differing development levels to do varying tasks, would actively help the under developing child to reach higher developmental potential and learning outcomes within the collaboration. Vygotsky found that children were able to complete more difficult tasks when partnered than they were able to by themselves (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010).

In conclusion educators need to do everything in their pedagogical power to create positive and trusting environments for children, so that children can live up to their potential and reach their developmental milestone goals. Through collaborative partnerships with families and communities, educators can identify specific ways that children best learn individually and in a group. They can utilize skills in developmental outcomes to monitor and identify under developing children so they do not fall further behind and become isolated and problematic learners. Through diverse learning and respectful interactions with children in engaging environments educators can provide the maximum programming to engage children in their social, emotional and cognitive development.


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