The American Rescue Plan Act from 2021 identifies “families” and the alignment of their efforts in social-emotional learning (SEL) with SEL in the classroom and community centers as one of the three most important areas of future development.
The family is the place where K-12s spend at least one-third of their time. Parents and guardians are the ones to whom K-12s look up for support, guidance, and learning. Families are the building blocks of our community. Quite naturally, it is exactly the family which is best suited to integrate social-emotional learning.
Social-emotional learning in the classroom and in other community institutions (sports, arts, and other extra-curriculum places of activity) may be quite formal on occasions. However, it is the family who can teach social and emotional skills to youngsters most informally. It is exactly this informality, which can most easily find a way to the child’s heart, mind and eventually become a habit.
What better way to teach SEL within the family than through recreational activities? And what better time to do this than during the warm days of the summer? Actually, due to summer vacations of schools, kindergartens, and most extra-curriculum activities, the summer is the season when families can spend more time with their young ones. This is both an opportunity and a responsibility.
Elders need not only to spend time with the K-12s, but they also need to be at the very least aware of some SEL techniques and ways on how to translate these into SEL for their kids.
What is more, these efforts need to be aligned with the efforts of the schools, kindergartens, and other community establishments, in order for the “message” and “habits” to be consistent. This couldn’t be stressed enough as a prerequisite for getting the required results from SEL.
We are here exactly to facilitate this process and help the elder members of the family, parents, and guardians be most efficient in teaching SEL. Here are but a few:
We have collected a multitude of social-emotional learning resources and social-emotional skills lesson plans which will facilitate the parents and caregivers prepare and be most efficient;
We have collected examples of social-emotional development activities to help families get some ideas, some motivation and see results;
We have compiled special SEL programs for all age groups: starting from pregnancy and parenting, moving through the baby’s first year, to family events and holidays;
Should some of the elders within the families wish to expand their SEL knowledge, we have developed an inspiration and mindfulness section to assist this process;
And of course, we have many social-emotional skills practice activities, which are best suited for family practice in the summer months (and not only), some of which we will suggest in this article.
In order for families to be most efficient in teaching SEL using summer activities, we need to set the stage by elaborating on the five key competencies which SEL aims to build. Families and caregivers need to have these in mind while organizing all SEL activities.
Knowing these families and caregivers can easily expand or even create new SEL activities, further to the suggested ones by us. While teaching SEL, we aim for our kids to achieve:
This is the art of feeling well in one’s own skin. By “skin,” what it means is the whole Self – body, emotions, feelings, thoughts, and values. By developing Self-awareness, a child will learn how to identify her own strengths and weaknesses.
This, in turn, can help to make positive changes by emphasizing the strengths and remedying the weaknesses. SELf-awareness will help your kid identify and overcome prejudices and biases. It will build honesty and integrity.
Self-awareness is the key competence, or else said, the main building block of SEL. All other competencies stem from sound SELf-awareness.
Self-management is the competence directly resulting from Self-awareness. Having identified the elements of the Self, now our child will learn how to manage and eventually master his own emotions, building self-discipline, growing Self-motivation, setting personal and collective goals, taking action to achieve the latter.
Social awareness is a continuation of the above. Understanding one’s own Self and mastering self-management will naturally bring us to what our actions will trigger in other members of the community – what feelings, emotions and thoughts.
Our children will start to realize the diversity of our planet. She will ignite empathy and concern for others. Social awareness is the foundation for future healthy relationships.
This stems from social awareness. They include the abilities for active listening, emotional understanding, clear communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. Leadership skills and the capacity for asking and providing help when needed also fall in this competence. As humans are social animals, these skills are probably the most important for the child as it matures.
This is the culmination of competence, which includes the ability to making caring and helpful choices for one’s personal behavior and being mindful of its impact on the rest of the community.
There are many seasonal activities which you can practice with your kids. Here are our top 14 suggestions on how you can teach SEL to your kids during the summer months using informal activities:
Reading is a self-awareness tool. Children’s literacy has always been a major part of education. Reading will help kids of all ages build their own personal, cultural, and linguistic capabilities.
By reading stories from across the world, youngsters can learn about various emotions, which the heroes have. Then they can relate to their own emotions – be it romance and love, be it curiosity and investigative urge, be it even sadness and fear.
What literature does for us and our kids as well as to help us link feelings, values, and prejudices. Last but definitely not least, books help kids develop interests and a sense of purpose, which most likely will stick with them all through their lives.
Setting up a routine works
Make a routine. For young children – read to them. For teens – they can read to you. Get cozy. Choose books that focus on SEL skills …. no, no, not textbooks on the topic. Choose books where the heroes are emotional. Choose books with cultural diversity. Choose books with linguistic richness.
Read some, and then discuss what you have read, what you have understood, and what you have felt. Ask questions. Let your kid talk. Books make us think. Encourage discussion on what you have read and how it made your kid feel. Teach them how to reflect correctly and enjoy the stories.
By doing the above, a side effect is developing yet another element of SEL – you will be teaching kids about self-control.
She will be learning ways of self-expression (initially by mimicking favorite heroes and gradually growing the Self). She will be learning cultural competency. She will be reading about positive relationships (parents will make sure of that) and will be trying to recreate them in real life.
Going On A Mindful Walk
This is a social awareness exercise. It could be in the park or down the street of your neighborhood. The “mindful” part is important here SEL-wise. Do not just walk or get from point A to point B. Look around. Encourage your kid to do so.
What does he see? What does he feel for others around him (see that homeless lady sleeping in the park)? Help your kid understand the diverse social norms which are in abundance around us. Focus on the good ones, but do not overlook the negative examples (a father is yelling at his toddler). How do they make your young one feel? What does he think that the others are feeling? Why so? Provide guidance and wisdom (if needed, provide charity). Discuss how our community is organized (what are these fancy buildings) and how the various systems function (what does this policeman do).
Focus on one sense at a time. Try not to overwhelm. Build your kid’s social awareness gradually. Mindful walks will become a great anti-stress habit, make your kid aware of details, and of course – remember these hours spent with you.
This is one of the easiest yet complex activities SEL-wise, which you can engage in with your kid. Plant some flowers, herbs, or other plants (for beginners, find some more sturdy crop). Now have your kid take responsibility for the plant, water it, feed it, learn what it likes (this falls into the “responsible decision-making” group).
This will build interest and a sense of purpose in your child – after all, the plant is fully dependent on him. The latter falls into the Self-awareness category. To top it off, gardening is a perfect stress redactor, which can grow into a wonderful hobby in later years. Hence it also falls into the “self-management” category.
Should you choose to grow fruit or a vegetable, just imagine the pride of accomplishment when you pick the first produce!
This is both self-awareness and social and emotional learning activity. By visiting museums with your child, you will help her discover for herself the cultural differences within the world. By examining what was before, how civilization developed and considering what today is, museums also foster the development of a growth mindset. And, of course, museums are a great place to develop interests in various fields of science and developing a sense of purpose.
Write A Creative Story
This is a relationship skills-building activity. Following any of the suggested activities, further to your discussions with your child, provide her with prompts to write a short story on the subject – what you saw, what you felt, why was this so, what did the other people feel. This pleasant task will develop critical thinking and help your child communicate efficiently in the future.
This is a self-management practice. Initially, you may practice yoga and have your kid watch. You will be surprised, how from a very early age, yoga poses will come instinctively to your young one. Soon he will be joining you and offering the poses for the flow. Encourage this. Start with just a few minutes and gradually increase to full-length yoga practice. Move from the physical exercises through the breathing practices and gradually introduce meditation and mindfulness.
Yoga will help your child manage its own body and emotions. The daily yoga routine will build self-discipline and self-motivation. Yoga will provide a perfect stress-management technique for the later years of your kid.
Watching movies with your child is again both self-awareness and a social-awareness exercise. Just chose the films which will help your cause. Movies help your kid grow its own personal, cultural, and linguistic capabilities. Youngsters can learn various emotions, which the heroes of the movie have. They can develop their empathy for unjustly tormented heroes.
Movies also offer a blueprint for the development of good relationship skills and help with managing emotions.
By watching the characters in the film, kids can initially copy some solutions, and gradually they will develop their own cultural competencies and conflict resolutions skills.
To foster these positive outcomes from just watching a movie, make your own routine. Cuddle together. I may have some popcorn. Watch a movie with strong characters, strong emotions, challenging circumstances. You may easily start with cartoons – sometimes, they offer the full depth of human emotions.
Following the film, encourage a discussion with your kid. Talk about what you saw, what both of you felt, how the issue was resolved, what did the characters in the movie feel, why did they act in the way they acted, is their justification for the actions of the bad guy. Encourage your kid to talk. Movies trigger many emotions and will get us thinking.
Teach your kid how to be mindful while watching films and how to enjoy the movies.
Make A Scrapbook
This is a self-awareness activity. Older people write memories. Youngsters should have scrapbooks. Scrapbooks are a place where the child may record her activities, friends, feelings, and thoughts. When one puts pen to paper, we also reflect on what has happened and why. Maybe our actions were unjustified and hurt someone.
Looking back at own actions, feelings and community will help the child grow. Developing this mindfulness and self-awareness by just having a scrapbook will also facilitate the development of relationship skills in the future.
Further scrapbooks are great fun to read when the youngster is all grown up, and maybe considering writing a novel about her life story.
Create A Chore Chart
This is a responsible decision-making activity. First, explain that looking after things at home is a collective endeavor in which all family members participate. Then let your kid decide on the things they will be accountable for.
Now help them create a chore chart for the things they will be responsible for. Now ensure unobtrusive monitoring of the chore progress.
Prompt when necessary and emphasize the responsibility and dependence of other people on the chores in the chart. Reward meticulous execution. The rewards need not be material. A smile, a kiss, and thanks will more than suffice.
Executing the chores in a timely manner will help your child identify and reflect on his own role in the family in promoting his own personal as well as family wellbeing.
Chore charts may also have positive results in supporting self-management in his adult years, where the whole chore list may be his responsibility (if living alone).
Cooking And Baking
Cooking and baking build relationship skills. Get your children in the kitchen and encourage them to cook or bake. This will build their teamwork, collaboration, as well as collaborative problem-solving. This activity can also facilitate your children to seek or provide help when it is needed. Last but not least, you will have a freshly cooked home meal.
This is both a relationship skill and a responsible decision-making exercise. From the activities above, your kid realizes already that it is part of a larger community.
She has already taken responsibility for the smallest of communities – the family. Now engage her with the bigger picture. Visit and offer support to an elderly home or endeavor to clean up the park near you.
With volunteering, she will be empowered to provide help when needed. She will be supporting the rights of other, less fortunate members of the community. She will be able to reflect on her own role in the bigger picture and the overall wellbeing of the community.
Paint And Draw
This is another relationship skill and self-awareness exercise. Just like writing a creative story above, ask your child to draw or paint his feelings.
For some, this may come easier than writing a story. Whatever the talent pool, contemplating one’s own feelings and emotions or these of others will build the relationship skills needed.
As many artists suggest, painting and drawing are be rewarding emotional experiences.
Plan Park Playdates
This, of course, is both social awareness and a relationship skill exercise. Further to the development of motor skills, all games are social-emotional skills games (even darts). All games are emotional games. All games are great SEL lessons.
Encourage your kid to engage with peers in playing their favorite game out in the open. This will undoubtedly build your child’s relationship skills. Games will help set personal and collective goals.
Then games will enable practicing teamwork and collaborative problem-solving. Games will help your kid seek and provide help when necessary.
Lastly, it just may happen that games will help your kid grow her leadership skills.
Make A Vision Board
This is responsible decision-making and social awareness exercise. The vision board is the opposite of the scrapbook. Now you are supporting your child in dreaming, aiming, and strategizing for reaching future goals.
Decide and visualize, together with your child, what he wants to achieve the following school year. Discuss what feelings these accomplishments will trigger. Visualize them. Then consider what emotions these will generate in others.
Visualize these too. Parts of your vision board may go to your kid’s scrapbook next year.
Always remember that before painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo had visualized the whole thing in his head … well, he may have had a visual board too.
Learn more about social emotional learning for kids, read These Are The 5 Social Emotional Learning Activities Your Children Need
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