Think about the amount of screen-time our kids get these days, at home and school. It’s up to us to make sure there are enough Social Emotional Learning activities or SEL activities at home to balance the effects of technology everywhere. We’re raising kids, not robots, right?
First things first, What are SEL activities? They’re simply social-emotional learning activities that help your kids (and incidentally, the adults in the family too) learn a few very important skills, such as:
- How to understand emotions & how to manage them
- How to set positive goals & achieve them
- Empathy for others
- How to show empathy
- How to build healthy relationships
- How to make responsible choices
Teaching social-emotional skills to our preschool and kindergarten students are a must as these are the part and parcel of their lives, in other words, Social-Emotional Learning activities help your child become more self-aware and socially aware. It can teach them valuable skills for self-management and positive relationship-building.
And if you’re looking for ways to teach your child these skills, look no further. We have done the hard work and collected a helpful selection of exercises for you.
Here are some engaging and fun social skills activities you can enjoy with your toddler. They will set off important conversations and help your kid develop a deeper understanding.
You can get the whole family to join in. Or make them a part of playtime with your child’s friends.
One of the easiest places to start with social and emotional learning is having conversations as a family. You don’t have to try to get your kids to talk to you for hours. A brief dinner-time chat or a chat on a drive can be enough.
The goal is to draw your kids out. And get them to take their eyes off their screens for a short while. Your toddlers may be eager to join the conversation. But you’ll find even your teen may enjoy the opportunity to talk.
You can start by making (or collecting) a list of prompts. Here are a few examples:
- What do you want to do when you’re older?
- If you could choose a name for yourself and all your family members, what would they be and why?
- Is there someone who always cheers you up?
- If you were an animal, what creature would you be? Why?
- Who is your best friend? Tell me about them.
- If you had a magic wand, what would you wish to happen?
- What is the best thing about school?
- If you were president for a day, what would you do?
You get the drift, right? There are questions on the list to engage the imagination and encourage self-awareness. But there are also questions to help you find out more about their feelings about things. Keep the chats brief, and you’ll still achieve what you set out to do.
Encourage your child to hone their problem-solving skills. Ask your kid to pick a challenge from a list you’ve made (or collected) in advance. After a set period, ask them to share their solution with you and their reasons for choosing that solution.
Here are some examples:
- You want to invite this new kid in class to your birthday party. But you’re afraid they will say no. What will you do in this situation?
- You took the school bus to school today, and everyone was pointing at you and laughing. When you reached school, you went to the toilet and found gum all over the back of your shirt. What can you do in this situation?
- You’re taking a test, and you’re not allowed to talk. But while you write your answers, your pencil breaks. What will you do?
- You didn’t do your homework, and your teacher was upset with you. What should you do?
- A boy keeps pushing you down at the sandpit and making you mad. What should you do?
- You forgot your lunch at home. What would you do?
- You were sitting in class doing your work, and the fire alarm goes off. What should you do?
Give your kids some positive mantras to take them through life. You can draw these up as social skills worksheets.
You can print these out and hang them up on various walls around the house. You can hang some up in your child’s Calm Down corner. Put one on the door, so they see it every time they enter their room.
Encourage your kids to repeat these positive affirmations.
Think of quotes such as:
- I am kind
- I am loved
- I am enough
- Today will be a great day
- I can get through anything
You can build a weekend activity around creating colorful posters of positive quotes.
You can also have your toddler print these phrases on sticky notes. Let them paste these notes in random places where they’ll find them. Such as in their books. Stick a few inside their cupboards so they can see them when dressing for school in the morning.
How about encouraging your kids to write a poem using only positive affirmations? You could give them a list to choose from. Or they could make up their phrases.
We hardly have an idea of what they go through until we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, though most of the things we tell ourselves are negative, experts say. That’s why it’s important to teach your kids to be kind to themselves. So they can make it a habit.
Read At Bedtime & Anytime.
Read aloud with your kid. Bedtime is a great time for reading. But so is any other time. The whole family can be around for these read-aloud sessions.
Reading will engage the imagination and distract from the television before bedtime and students learn a lot with this.
You can choose a picture book. Or you can choose a book from a list of books that focus on SEL, such as these for elementary school kids:
- Hair Love, by Matthew A. Cherry
- Julian is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love
- Don’t touch my Hair, by Sharee Miller
- All Are Welcome, by Alexandra Penfold
- The Big Umbrella, by Amy June Bates
- A Box of Butterflies, by Jo Rooks
Your kids need to move to get rid of pent-up energy. They need to develop the habit of physical exercise. This will help them counter the effects of stress further down the line. It will also help kids be more physically healthy.
Here are some ideas to play.
Try to imitate the movements of different animals.
Play balloon soccer if you have a large space available
Practice balance poses like standing on the tips of your toes, arms stretched overhead
You can find more ideas at this link: Display Activity – Active For Life.
Breathe To Cope With Stress
It’s hard to get a child to take pleasure in the kind of breathing exercises you use for stress relief.
Your kids can have more fun when you dress up breathing exercises with imaginative storytelling.
There are many fun breathing exercises for kids to help them develop ways to cope with stress. Coping skills can be valuable lessons they take into adulthood.
Here are five ways breathing exercises can be made more enjoyable for kids:
- Let your child imagine they are blowing all the candles on a cake. Let them breathe deeply in and out through the mouth as they blow the candles out.
- Sniff quickly thrice through the nose and blow out through your mouth. Doesn’t the sniffing remind you of a rabbit?
- Let your child place a hand on their chest and another on their belly. Let them breathe deeply for four counts, then slowly exhale through the nose. Let them pay attention to the rise and fall of the belly. They could imagine themselves to be great big whales in the deep ocean as they breathe.
- Sit comfortably, with your legs crossed. Cup your hands around your mouth. Breathe in deep through the nose and slowly blow out through your mouth. Imagine you’re blowing a gigantic hot air balloon. Once the balloon is as big as you can make it, exhale. Then sway lightly from side to side and admire your balloon as it flies in the sky.
After a breathing exercise, your preschooler is more likely to be willing to settle down with a Numbers & Quantity lesson worksheet.
Yoga For Healthy Fun
At a young age teaching kids, yoga can give them a valuable tool for adulthood. Yoga will teach them to regulate their bodies. Other kinds of physical activities can also work. But yoga is an excellent option as well.
You can try some easy yoga for preschoolers on weekend mornings as a family. This is going to improve bonding.
You can also check out the Cosmic Kids yoga channel when you can to find instructional videos. These exercises will help your child hone their focus and encourage movement.
And there are other benefits of yoga that you probably already know: such as strength, balance, endurance, and aerobic capacity.
There’s also growing evidence to show yoga is good for self-esteem, lower anxiety, and better academic and classroom performance.
These are all reasons to have your child do some fun yoga from an early age!
Make this a family exercise if you can. Ask a reflective question or offer a prompt. Have everyone write their thoughts on the subject. Then encourage everyone to share and discuss.
If you need a start with prompts, you can try:
- ‘Your perfect day’ – describe a perfect day. What do you do? What is the weather like? What do you eat? Is there anyone with you? Who are they?
- What are the top 5 qualities of a good friend? Now list five qualities you show to your friends.
Journaling will give kids the space to make sense of things. If they put events and observations down on paper, they can try and understand what’s frightening or bewildering them.
Play (Off-Screen) Games
Get everyone together to play some physical games instead of video games. Play is great for bonding, easing stress, building self-awareness, and other wonderful things.
And you don’t need to be out on a playground to play. Here are games your kindergarten students can enjoy at home. All you need is a little space.
For Kids 3+
Play this when your child’s friends come over. Or get the whole family involved. Mark a designated area where over five players can walk around. If you don’t have enough space, the kids can also play this sitting down.
Then, start the game. Choose a leader. Players walk around the area according to game rules (slow-mo, zombie, etc.) When the leader says, ‘I see, I see,’ the players must freeze. They will ask the leader, ‘What do you see?’ The leader will say ‘I see _______’
Whatever the leader sees, the players have to act it out in the marked area. So, if the leader says, ‘I see a dolphin in the ocean,’ all the players start behaving like dolphins in the ocean.
After the actions are completed, the game continues with different actions.
For Kids 5+
Any number of middle school students can play this game. You can even play it alone. All you need is a softball.
Find a place to make a circle. You can play outside too. Start the game by having one person throw the ball in the air, clap once, then catch the ball. Pass the ball to the next person and let them try.
After one round where everyone’s tried, you go on to level two. At level two, clap twice before catching the ball.
In this way, young children can keep playing endlessly! There are plenty of other games you can try at home, such as these fun math games for older preschoolers.
Use Videos For Transitions
There are times when technology can come in handy for teaching social-emotional skills, especially in today’s online learning era.
One of the hardest times in your child’s daily routine is transitions. And parents of sensitive kids having trouble with change will surely welcome this advice.
Use videos to ease your child through a transition. How about using a short, lively video from GoNoodle to make this transition easier? On the flip side, when you want your child to wind down after an energetic day, how about showing them the Bring it Down video?
Use Stress Snowballs
Build healthy relationships with them and help them to find their calm down corner by getting them into activities like playing with stress snowballs to manage stress.
The game of stress snowballs is fun. And it can give your child an outlet for all that pent-up energy! Stress snowballs are simply pieces of paper in which kids write down their stressors and throw them like snowballs!
This exercise will do a few different things:
- Teach kids how to identify stress
- Teach them how to cope with it
- Teach empathy
- Have fun while practicing social-emotional learning
Here are the steps to the exercise:
- Let everyone write down on slips of paper what stresses them (Let the notes be anonymous. Have everyone in your family play, the more, the merrier.)
- Then crumple the notes.
- Get ready to throw them and have fun!
- The idea through the exercise is to move, laugh, and enjoy yourself. It doesn’t have to be a long exercise.
- After everyone’s thrown their snowballs, let everyone pick up a snowball and read out what’s on the note.
Group activities like this exercise can get discussions started and build a sense of community.
The Bottom Line
On a positive note, Well-adjusted kids make well-adjusted adults. It’s very important in this day and age to focus on the social and emotional aspects of a child’s development.
Spending too much time on mobile phones, television screens, and other such technology often has the effect of isolating kids. When they’re glued to a screen from a young age, they may not develop their people skills very well or their ability to empathize with others. This will be a problem when they’re older.
This article probably makes it clear that family can play a huge role in building a child’s social-emotional learning skills.
The key to building social-emotional learning skills is to:
- Knowing what you and other family members can do with kids at home
- Brainstorm methods with your child’s teachers and find ways to deal with your child’s specific circumstance
- Prepare yourself with printables and resources you can reach for when you need them
- Celebrate success from time to time in the family. Are things going great with bonding at the dinner table? Are you able to regularly check in on how your child is feeling? Don’t forget to celebrate the progress.
- When you involve family or kids in the playing of social skills games, try to be as empathetic and equitable as possible as a leader. Connect authentically with your child.
It can help to let other family members know more about social-emotional learning activities. If everyone is on board, it will be easier for your child and you to make progress.
And note it’s not just your child who will benefit from these exercises. Families also learn to bond better. You contribute towards creating a healthy & happy community by practicing such relationship skills.
This list covers the basics. For a shorter list to print out and keep handy, you can request our printable for social-emotional learning activities at home. We’ll send it to your inbox, ready to print!
For more fun activities for children, check out our 14 Easy and Fun Summer Activities For Social-Emotional Learning
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