Early Years Podcast

Nurturing Social and Emotional Wellbeing

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Topic Round-up: Emotional Regulation & Building Resilience with Samantha Dholakia

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Take a deepdive into the topics covered on our podcast with learnings, tips and resource recommendations from our in-house expert, Olivia Haslam.

Topic overview and key takeaways

Alistair Bryce-Clegg is joined by Samantha Dholakia, a renowned Behaviour and Oracy Specialist, Consultant Trainer, and Creator of The Balance System. Throughout the four episodes, Alistair and Samantha review emotional intelligence and regulation in the Early Years and advocating for a deeper understanding of how children process and express emotions. The pair also highlight the accelerated brain development in early years and the necessity of establishing strong neurological foundations for effective emotional regulation.  

Throughout the discussion, the pair challenge conventional norms of compliance. They discuss creating conducive environments that encourage authentic engagement and promote intrinsic motivation. Sam expresses her belief that emotional intelligence is a vital skill to impart to the little learners, as it underpins their actions, thoughts, and responses. They discuss the importance of self-awareness, self-regulation, effective communication, and social skills in a child’s emotional development. The conversation delves into the significance of understanding emotional regulation and how it contributes to building resilience in young children.  

Alistair and Sam highlight the importance of co-regulation to create a safe and connected environment. Sam shares her personal experience of how her high energy level affected her classroom dynamics and stresses the need for adults to be aware of their own emotions and regulate them, as children naturally mirror the adults around them, adults’ regulation, energy levels, and mood influence the emotional atmosphere in the setting.  

Supporting children’s and colleagues’ emotional regulation and resilience is vital, Alistair Bryce-Clegg and Samantha Dholakia delve into the significant aspects of emotional regulation along with practical ideas to aid children in regulating their emotions and energy levels throughout the day, including key concepts such as creating accessible spaces for children to engage in high-energy releases and providing diverse options to manage their emotions effectively.   

Throughout all episodes Samantha highlights the significance of nurturing habits that foster emotional awareness and resilience in both children and adults. 

Key tips & guidances

By switching your practitioner lens and focusing on development rather than disobedience, you switch your perspective and understanding of children’s behaviour therefore encouraging self-reflection and a different approach to behaviour which will in turn give you a different response from the child.  

As educators it is important to understand regulation is achieved through self-awareness. It is part of an educator’s role to support children in developing self-awareness to therefore ensure they can then manage and regulate their own behaviour with the self-awareness skills they have learnt. 


Modelling self-awareness

  • Use everyday moments to show children how to appropriately handle situations. 
  • When experiencing emotions, talk about those feelings and how to overcome them. 
  • Create opportunities for calm-down time for both educators and children such as practicing mindfulness or having an energy release break.  

There are huge benefits of having regular energy release opportunities during the day to support children in their regulation, some suitable energy release activities you could implement: 

  • Dancing  
  • Running, skipping, hopping, balancing 
  • Musical instruments  
  • Change of environment such as moving outdoors.  
  • Resources, games or activities.  
  • A calming box or sensory collection to engage with such as fidget.  
  • A distraction such as a song or story.  
  • Most physical activities whether indoors or outdoors are a great way to release energy and support regulation. 

Set up the environment within a behaviour balance system using behaviour balance zones including activities, areas, resources and collections that calm the nervous system or generate energy where necessary in the separate zones. This will encourage children to develop self-awareness and regulation skills which in turn will manage and deescalate behaviour. 

Regulation is key for adults too, if we’re dysregulated as adults, that is going to feed into the dysregulation of the children around us because they are little mirrors and reflect our feelings and the feeling of the environment which as educators we create. A self-regulated Educator can also serve as a model to label and express emotions in a way that is effective, kind, and conducive to an optimal learning environment. 

Olivia's recommended resources

Calming Kittens (SD10629) I would recommend for self-awareness and regulation as they offer children in early years a toolkit to understand and manage their emotions. Through engaging strategies, children learn to calm themselves and gain better emotional self-control. The activity cards assist practitioners, teachers and parents in discussing emotions with children. By using these tools, they can help children understand that feelings are natural and guide them in developing effective coping methods and encourage co regulation.  

Each kitten symbolising a calming activity: controlled breathing, singing, chanting, repetitive actions, and exercise. These activities are designed to teach effective coping methods while ensuring they have fun. When children enjoy themselves, their bodies release oxytocin – a hormone that boosts feelings of happiness and well-being. 

Potion bottles (EY12223), a cross curricular versatile and open ended resource, this engaging resource will excite and encourage imaginations to soar as well as developing fine motor skills.  

Children can explore and experiment, fill with found materials, magical mixtures, an array of ingredients from glitter, petals, leaves, stones etc. Add a sense of awe and wonder to experimenting and exploring encouraging Sensory play, which will help children develop mindfulness skills and can also be excellent for helping to calm a child who may be feeling anxious or angry. Sensory play builds observational skills and abstract thinking and encourages experimentation. 

Games (SD09163) can be the perfect tool to introduce and teach social emotional learning skills. These are the skills that support children to become more self-aware, develop positive relationships, show empathy towards others, manage emotions, use self-control, resolve conflicts, and make positive decisions. This is why the Social Skills Games I recommend as a comprehensive approach to promoting social and emotional skills.  

Mini Eco Daisies (AD45173) I recommend as I believe in encouraging children to make their mark! Children have a natural desire to explore and experiment. They relish in the sensory and physical experience of mark-making which of course has a calming and regulation affect. Giving children the opportunity to explore different mediums of mark-making, engages them in sensory play and allows them to discover new exciting materials. This enhance a child’s critical thinking, language development and brain development therefore encouraging development in self-awareness and regulation.  

Samantha's episodes are now CPD accredited - listen now!

Use the link below to re-listen to all 4 of Samantha's episodes, take the CPD assessment, and get your certificate.

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