What are Social Emotional IEP Goals for Preschool?

preschool social emotional

What are some social emotional IEP goals for preschool?

Social Emotional Learning goals and standards are probably the most important focal areas in the preschool years. Becoming a good community member, developing play and social skills, and growing social competence will help a young preschooler be successful in the years to come. With autism rates now as high as 1 in 44 in the U.S. and with social communication and interaction skills being one of the pillars of the diagnosis, we are ever more aware of the need to develop strong and relevant goals in this arena. That, and it’s just good practice to teach our littles to be kind and responsive to one another!

There are many more goals than the ones available in my resource HERE, but I hope they give you some good ideas to get going! Read ahead for some sample ideas.

IEP Goals for Preschool

One important note (before sharing some ideas) is to remember that IEP stands for INDIVIDUALIZED Education Plan. This means that getting ideas as a jumping point is great, just remember to ALWAYS work it like playdough to fit your actual student! Massage the heck out of it until it’s the right shape! Check out this BLOG on how to write a great IEP goal or this one on how to write the Progress Report

The following are some ideas for Adaptive IEP goals for preschoolers and Kindergarten students. 

Looking for help with IEP goals and objectives tracking for early childhood education? Need fresh ideas for preschool, Kindergarten, or 1st grade IEP progress monitoring? This resource is perfect for busy teachers looking to save time and simplify the task of writing IEP goals.

“This is one of the best purchases I've made! Great goals, user friendly, so helpful for teacher writing goals for IEP. If you need examples to get you started, this is amazing!”

Play Goals

Play goals can be anything from the most basic, solo play to sociodramatic and imitation or shared imagination play. Think about your student and where they are developmentally. If they are still in the solo or parallel play stage, then focus on developing those skills that will lend well to the next stage of simple shared play. Also, and I can’t stress this enough, choose ideas and toys that align with the interests of your child as much as possible! If they already like cars, use cars in your play! If they like vacuum bags, you can get creative! Make a pretend vacuum store! In other words, start where they are and build from there, both developmentally AND their interests.

Goals in this area may include parallel play, outdoor and indoor activities, playing with toys as designed, playing with toys related to a theme, simple ball games, coordinated play with a peer, motor games, and board games.

Here some sample IEP goals to target preschool play skills:

preschool play near peer

Allows others to touch toys

When given an opportunity to play with toys, STUDENT will allow adults and children to be near them while playing with toys and occasionally manipulate toys during the interaction improving play and leisure skills from BASELINE to 4 out of 5 consecutive opportunities on three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

Independent play with verbal behavior

When given an opportunity to engage in toys, STUDENT will engage in verbal behavior while playing improving play and leisure skills from BASELINE to at least 10 verbal responses in a 20-minute period across 3 data collection days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

preschool play talking

Kids need visuals! This is a set of functional communication prompts and autism visuals that are portable communication boards. Great for preschool, speech students, or a functional life skills classroom.

preschool play sociodramatic pretend

Sociodramatic play

When given an opportunity to play, STUDENT will act out roles of characters or activities improving play skills from BASELINE to pretending to be or do at least 10 characters or activities for 10 minutes over 3 data collections as measured by staff observation, daily tasks and data records.

Board games

When given an opportunity to play a board game with a peer, STUDENT will play the game independently improving social interactions from BASELINE to at least three board games without assistance across three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

preschool play board games

Social Interaction Goals

Social interaction goals for preschoolers are less focused on the PLAY but now focusing more on the back-and-forth with a partner. Watch any playground or preschool classroom, and you will see a broad range of skills, from kids who don’t interact much with their peers to full, planned out, and coordinated imaginary play schemes. Again, find where your student is developmentally, and build from there!

Goals in this domain may include appropriate behavior near a peer, showing interest, initiating an interaction, imitating a peer, greetings, sharing, attention seeking, interactive verbal behavior, joining an interaction, adjusting behavior according to peers, stating what others like/dislike, delivering a message, waiting to interrupt, holding a conversation, identifying social scenarios, peer conflict debrief, and participating in non-preferred activities. So much you can do!

Here are a few sample IEP goals to target social interactions:

Appropriate near peer

When given an opportunity to be near a peer, STUDENT will engage in appropriate interaction behavior while in close proximity (without engaging in maladaptive behaviors) improving social interactions from BASELINE to at least 30 minutes on three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

preschool social skills
preschool play greetings

Returns greetings

When given a greeting from a familiar person, STUDENT will return the greeting (verbal or non-verbal) within 5 seconds independently improving greetings from BASELINE to returning greetings from peers without prompts in 4 out of 5 opportunities across three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

Check out this exciting preschool social emotional learning social narrative and activity! This is an ORIGINAL social learning story with original artwork. The story is presented in a choice format with the reader making choices when given a simple scenario. Bonus activity social skills story and activity I Can Greet.

Waits for break in conversation to interrupt

When given an opportunity to enter a conversation, STUDENT will wait for a break in an on-going conversation before attempting to speak with one of the people involved improving social conversation from BASELINE to 4 out of 5 opportunities across 3 data collections as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

preschool play conversation skills

This short social narrative and SEL activity is titled I Can Ask a Friend to Play. The student helps the friend in the picture ask his or her friend to play (or join play) by moving their body close to the friend. In doing so, they get the audio, “Do you want to play?” or “Can I play, too?” Very simple for early learners! 

preschool play peer conflict

Peer conflict debrief

When given a peer conflict and teacher coaching, STUDENT will list or draw the situation in a behavior map format (what happened before, what the conflict was, what the expected and unexpected behaviors are and their results) improving social cognition from BASELINE to 3 out of 3 opportunities across 5 consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

Looking for a social skills story and activity around being friends with everyone? This short narrative and digital and print activity helps preschoolers share their space with all kids and activities. It’s simple enough for your youngest learners.

Non-preferred activity

When given an unstructured peer opportunity (e.g., recess), STUDENT will engage in and sustain a peer interaction in a less-preferred activity (e.g., [add examples here]) improving peer relationships from BASELINE to a duration of at least 10 minutes in 4 out of 5 opportunities across 3 data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

preschool play nonpreferred activity

Find some great visuals and task analyses in this bundle to help with some of these grooming and other life skills. Tons of great stuff, here!

Remember! This is not an exhaustive list but just some ideas to get you going! Trying to make teachers’ and clinicians’ lives a little easier because coming up with fresh ideas can be hard! 

This is a set of IEP goals WITH instructions and broken down into editable objectives for the domain of SOCIAL EMOTIONAL. Other domains also available (Adaptive, BehaviorCognitiveLanguage). Includes bonus daily raw data collection forms.

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Hi! I'm Audra!

I am a special education teacher, behavior analyst, and parent to an autistic adult. I love sharing the insights and resources I have gleaned over the past 25 years. Thanks for being here!

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