March 2022

Why social and emotional learning is top of the class

Social and emotional learning helps children grow up healthy, happy and smart. Find out why, and check our playful learning tips for the classroom.

The LEGO Foundation

Since the pandemic, there’s been lots of talk about helping children “catch up” on the lessons they missed in lockdowns. But the secret to better learning isn’t extra hours in front of textbooks. It’s play.

Teachers, parents and the latest research all agree: to learn well and grow up healthy and happy, children’s social and emotional learning needs a boost, too. That’s where play comes in.

What is social and emotional learning?

Unsurprisingly, it’s any learning that helps children hone their social and emotional skills. These are the skills that help us handle the ups and downs of everyday life and get through the kinds of uncertainty and anxiety we’ve all lived through in the pandemic.

Here’s a bit more on why those skills are so important:


Social skills help us work with others

They include working together, communicating thoughts, sharing ideas, negotiating rules and seeing things from someone else’s perspective. Children pick up so many of these skills as they play. Even deciding who goes first in a boardgame takes negotiation! Mastering these skills makes playtime more fun. It sets children up to have happy, healthy relationships with friends and family. And it even helps them work with and learn from others more easily.  


Emotional skills help us understand others (and ourselves)

They include handling and expressing emotions, managing impulses and being self-aware enough to see how our behaviour affects others. Emotional skills also help us stay motivated – such as sticking with a tricky puzzle until you solve it.

When children have strong emotional skills, they can relate better to their friends and family, and rise to the challenges adult life throws at them.

UNESCO’s recent publication 'Rethinking Learning' agrees that social-emotional learning is essential.

Here’s what they found.

"[...] students’ social and emotional competence not only predicts school success, but also predicts a range of important outcomes in late adolescence and adulthood, including high school graduation, postsecondary completion, employment, financial stability, physical health, and overall mental health and well-being."

The results also found that:

  • students who took part in social-emotional learning programmes outperformed students who didn’t by 11 percentile points
  • countries that don’t invest in social-emotional learning are 29% less productive that those that do
  • giving every child the chance to hone strong social-emotional skills is good for the whole country’s economic health, too.

Here are five ways educators and schools can use play to bring social and emotional learning to their lessons

1. Bring joy to the classroom
2. Let students get creative
3. Tackle real-life problems
4. Make learning collaborative
5. Get moving

Do you have bold ideas to support children's social-emotional learning?

Then you might be interested in our 900million DKK Build A World Of Play challenge.

Coping with Changes: Social-Emotional Learning Through Play

Thousands of people have signed up to our nine-module, learn-at-your-own-pace online course. You’ll look at life from your child’s point of view, and get plenty of practical tips for helping them manage emotional ups and downs through play.

Enroll here

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