SEED: Social-emotional education and development in preschool

The SEED project aims to improve the psychosocial, also known as emotional-social, well-being and health of pre-school children (aged 2.5 to 6), especially those growing up in difficult circumstances.

What is the purpose of the SEED project?

The SEED (Social and Emotional Education and Development: upscaling awareness and skills in ECEC practice) project, which ran from 2016 to 2019, aimed to improve the psychosocial, or emotional-social, well-being and health of pre-school children (aged 2.5 to 6), especially those growing up in difficult circumstances. To this end, we first assessed the psychosocial well-being of 5-year-old children by means of the UPSI -5 questionnaire, which was completed by the kindergarten teachers caring for them. In addition, short background interviews were conducted with the participating kindergarten teachers and heads of institutions. Building on the results, we coordinated a professional development process based on the Belgian-developed WANDA case discussion method. The aim of the professional training is to help practising pre-school teachers to become more aware of their own scope for action, i.e. to see in practice what they can do to enable children to develop sustaining relationships with their peers and the adults around them, and to express and learn to regulate their feelings. Another aim of the project was to put children's psychosocial well-being high on the agenda of local, national and European politicians.

What is psychosocial or social-emotional well-being?

The ability of a child to develop close and secure relationships with peers and adults, to express and manage emotions appropriately, and to explore and learn in the context of family, community and culture, between birth and age 5 (Center on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, 2008).

The project involved organisations from 6 European countries:

Belgium mainly contributed its methodological knowledge on the WANDA case talker, while the other countries mentioned above also participated in the research and development part. The primary target group of our programme is teachers in kindergartens, through whom we want to have an impact on the socio-emotional well-being of preschool children. Finally, we were able to involve nursery school leaders who, seeing the empowering power of the WANDA method, invited us to a non-educational working day where we worked with all the professionals working with children, nursery school teachers and nursery nurses on specific professional stumbling blocks.

However, through our dissemination events, we have also reached a wider range of early development professionals (practitioners, researchers, teachers, policy makers, etc.).


About our research:

The five-country study provided insights into the socio-emotional or psychosocial well-being of five-year-olds. But what do we mean by the term? Children's developing ability in the following areas:

  • Building safe and close relationships with peers and adults
  • To live, express and regulate their emotions, in a way that is appropriate to the culture and society
  • Exploring your environment in a safe learning environment

Why is it important to deal with this?

There is a growing focus on this issue as we face more and more challenges:

  • social inequalities
  • family conflicts
  • abuse at home and in nurseries and schools
  • changing communities.

The aims of our research were:

  • Mapping the institutional context in five countries, for five-year-old children
  • Find out how professionals working with young children understand the concept of social-emotional well-being in practice
  • Getting a picture of five-year-old children's social-emotional well-being in 5 countries
  • Sensitising decision-makers on the importance of social-emotional well-being

However, the research instruments, the UPSI-5 questionnaire and the interviews with teachers and managers, did not attempt to make an individual diagnosis. The UPSI-5: a one-page list of 29 statements describing the behaviours and emotional reactions of five-year-old children. NOT a diagnostic tool, it describes groups and makes it comparable with other groups.

And the measures used in the research are not suitable for socio-historical analysis. Our research involved 52 kindergartens or equivalent institutions, 73% in urban settings, 195 children, 46% girls, 54% boys, 140 teachers and 44 managers (all women except Norway)

Results of the questionnaire survey:

  • overall, 24% of children are of concern (average of 5 countries)
  • There is a wide variation between countries, with Croatia at the two extremes with 7% and Hungary with 37%, but also a wide variation between institutions.

The result of the interviews:

  • Preschool teachers and managers are aware of the importance of social-emotional well-being, but there are factors beyond their control (too many children in a group, inadequate adult-child ratios, large differences within a group due to social inequalities).

In the second half of the project, we looked at the factors that kindergarten teachers can influence. The kindergarten teachers involved in the research will be able to participate in a group reflection process, using the WANDA case discussion methodology. Throughout the seven sessions, the following questions were addressed through concrete, real-life cases, using the power of the group:

  • How can the principles of social-emotional well-being be put into practice?
  • Where is the competence of teachers in developing children's social-emotional skills?
  • How can you work closely with parents and co-professionals?
  • How can children's social-emotional well-being be reconciled with the institutional environment and facilities?
  • How can we improve our relationships through respectful communication, empathy, acceptance, understanding?
  • How can I put inclusion into daily practice and how can I turn individual differences to the benefit of the group?

We have been working with the WANDA methodology since 2015, and feedback from participants is that the group's retention, the safe and accepting learning environment and the use of creative tools to explore the perspectives of those involved are very valuable.


SEED research report in English

Here you can read the Hungarian, shortened version:

SEED research report summary Hungary


What are the results?

  •  During the research part of the project, we collected data on 200 children in Hungary, in about 10 institutions, using the UPSI-5 questionnaire, originally developed in the Netherlands, which was completed by kindergarten teachers. A total of 1000 children in the 5 participating countries were surveyed using this method.
  • During the development part of the project, the WANDA case discussion method was used to involve, train and develop 40 kindergarten teachers in Hungary and around 100 in the 5 countries.
  • Through dissemination, we have reached more than 200 early childhood development professionals, researchers, higher education teachers and policy makers in Hungary.
  • The 7-month WANDA group reflection process has given a lot to the participants, tell us in their own words:

"We talk more and more about feelings in our group and I see that the children feel more and more safe in the group."

My relationship with my parents has improved a lot, I feel much more in tune with their difficulties and I find opportunities where we can connect better."

"I am a dedicated WANDA fan. Virtually every dilemma I have, I run a mini WANDA in my head, where I consider what the actors in a situation might be feeling, thinking, what they might need, and make decisions based on that."

"The accepting atmosphere of the group helped a lot, it was very good to feel that we are not alone with our difficulties and that our efforts are seen. After all, we are always working for the children. This is something that all teachers should experience."


  • The guidelines that bring together professional work and early childhood organisations should enable staff to question, enrich and renew their own pedagogical practice.

  • It is the responsibility of policy makers and organisations to. create a conditions to enable staff to regularly meet and work together reflect on their own practice. This is vital, especially for the social-emotional well-being of children.

  • Through group reflection, practitioners (nursery teachers, nursery nurses, psychologists, social workers, heads of institutions) will gain a clearer understanding of their own professional role in the lives of children and families. Developing empathy skillsand are more appreciative of the views and feelings of others.

These are a change magvai, which can have a significant impact on on the social and emotional well-being of young children in early childhood care and education settings, Across Europe.

Who supports?

- Project/Support Programme name: SEED (Social and Emotional Education and Development: upscaling awareness and skills in ECEC practice
- Project ID at the donor: 2017-1-NL01-KA201-035191
- Collaborating partners: International Child Development Initiatives, Netherlands; Center for Education Initiatives, Latvia; Queen Maud University College, Norway; Open Academy Step by Step, Croatia;VBJK, Belgium;Windesheim University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands; Partners Hungary Foundation
- Duration start/end: 01 November 2017 - 31 October 2019
- Budget amount, currency: € 296028 - of which Partners Hungary Foundation grant: € 32135

- The programme was funded by the European Union.


More information about the programme:
Bacsó Flóra
Phone: +36204483737

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