As a parent, are you worried about giving your children the right tools to fulfill their dreams and live beautiful life? As you might know, there are gaps in school education related to the social-emotional learning activities needed to navigate through life.
Can we, as parents, do something about it and better prepare our children for their adult life? Moreover, can we help them be grateful and appreciate beauty every day, and strong enough to cope with the bad times?
If these ideas have been on your mind lately and you want to take immediate action to help them in their journey, you came to the right place. We, as a team of worried parents like yourself, went the extra mile on the topic and found a handful of great solutions for you.
Once you finish this article, you’ll have not only a clear understanding of why to do the best social-emotional learning activities with your children but also a social-emotional learning activities pdf you can print out and start right now.
Are you ready to take your children’s social skills to the next level? Let’s do this.
What Is Social And Emotional Learning?
Although SEL or Social Emotional Learning has been in the mouths of most people lately, not everybody knows how to practically approach it.
Furthermore, teaching social-emotional skills to young children like preschool and kindergarten students, or even middle school students in the classroom is never enough to properly address such a structural issue for your children’s growth.
To put it in other words, social and emotional skills are the backbone on which the rest of the knowledge will be built. SEL is divided into five main competencies we all need to master in our lives to thrive.
- Social awareness
- Relationship skills
- Responsible decision-making
These competencies are nothing but the capacity of understanding our emotions and being able to practice empathy to better relate to the world. In other words, the main tools needed to live a fulfilling life. SEL education at a young age could be a game-changer for your kids.
But don’t just take our word for it. Let’s see what scientists found out after extensive research about SEL in the classroom and out of it.
Scientific Evidence About The Importance Of SEL
Let’s take a look at two main studies carried on in an astonishing number of children to see how SEL impacted their academic and non-academic life.
A Meta-Analysis Of School-Based Universal Interventions
Five professionals from different universities in Chicago got together to analyze the impact of SEL on children’s behavior and academic skills.
The program involved 270,034 children from 213 different schools ranging from kindergarten to high school.
The testing was made with a control group that didn’t receive any SEL. As a result, the children who received social and emotional learning demonstrated:
- lower levels of emotional distress
- fewer conduct problems
- more enhanced social-emotional skills
- more positive social behavior
- an 11-percentile-point gain in academic achievement
A Study On The Long-Term Effects Of Social-Emotional Learning Activities
As a follow-up to the previous study, another meta-analysis was published in 2017 to review the long-term benefits of SEL in the classroom.
This new assessment was done over 97,000 students that had finished their SEL education from six months to eighteen years ago.
SEL participants demonstrated:
- a 6% increment in graduation rates among high schools
- an 11% increment in graduation rates among colleges
- less likely to have mental health issues
- lower rates of STDs and pregnancies
These numbers you just read are just the impact of SEL lesson plans given at schools and kindergartens. Can you imagine the positive boost on these numbers if you also make an effort at home? Moreover, what would happen to your community if all parents took the same initiative?
Let’s dive right into the best 5 emotional learning activities you can start with your children today so, together, we can make this a better world for them.
The Best 5 SEL Activities To Get Started Today
We know that the internet can turn out to be a great tool or a completely mesmerizing labyrinth of links that take you nowhere.
Thud, we’ve gone the extra mile for you and searched relentlessly for the best activities to get started today and bring that extra push to your children’s education.
All you need to get started is just a paragraph away. Read on, apply judiciously, and watch your children grow healthier and wiser.
Number 1 – Start A Gratitude Journal.
Journaling is a great tool for everybody to reflect on feelings and trying to understand emotions better. Indeed, it is something that most psychologists recommend for people of any age, and it is always better to start that journey as a child.
This will not be just any journal, but a gratitude journal to foster feelings of self-management and self-awareness aiming for emotional learning.
Also, it is a great way to practice empathy since it might teach them to be grateful for what they are lucky to have in life and not take it for granted.
In other words, it is a great way to teach our children to understand the true value of life’s everyday gifts.
This will not be just a general journal in which we will allow our children to write general words like “food,” “warmth,” or “family.” We need to make an effort and take them one step beyond and be grateful for a definite thing every day.
With this goal in mind, we need to ask the right questions so that they can work as guidance for their answers that will then go into the paper.
Some questions might be:
- Name the three people that made you smile today/you’re grateful for
- What was the meal you are thankful you had today?
- What skill/body part (jumping, running/strong legs, strong arms) are you grateful for having?
The list could go on forever, but the idea is to narrow down their scope to be the most precise possible. The more unique the answer is, the easier it will be for them to direct their gratitude to a specific person or asset. With time, as they grow up, they’ll be able to do it even more precisely by themselves.
Consistency Is Key
Social skills activities require consistency; it is absolutely crucial. To ensure success, they have to do it daily. If you skip days with them, they might just lose interest and give up on the routine.
This way, you will not only be failing to build the skill but also undermining the true power of journaling for years to come.
A great way to do it is by letting them choose an appealing notebook and pen and setting a specific time and space for it. This way, they’ll take ownership of the moment, and consistency will be easier.
Number 2 – Make A Glitter Jar.
The glitter jar is a way to help them cope with their own emotions. In other words, it is a great way to work on their self-management. Although its shape will work better on infants and can also translate into a cool, shared art project, it can be the canvas for a healthy way of coping with emotions. It can be a life-changer.
What do you need?
- A jar with an airtight lid
- Some glitter of your child’s favorite color
Once you’ve done the art project and you have the glitter jar, it is going to act similarly to what you would expect from a sand clock.
You can use the time it takes for the glitter to settle to help your child better cope with his or her strong current emotions.
How Does The Glitter Jar Work?
Glitter jars work on children similarly to how mindfulness and meditation work on adults. When emotions overwhelm us, rational thinking and decision-making are out of reach.
The glitter jar can be a great way to calm down and be more present at the moment.
So, in those times in which we can’t reach them with words, you need to give them the jar and a sentence, something like:
- “Let’s not talk right now; once the glitter settles, you can tell me what is going on.”
- “You’ll know better what you feel when the glitter is still at the bottom, and then we can have a talk about it; take deep breaths while we wait.”
- “Do you feel a little confused? Don’t worry; once the glitter settles, we can talk; think about what you feel in the meantime.”
The time that goes by between the initial shaking of the jar and the moment it all settles in the bottom shall be enough for our children to cope with emotions.
In a way, it is a metaphor for their mood: they will feel that their shaken-up emotions are settling down, and this will leave room for rational thinking so you can have a talk with them.
Repetition Of The Mechanism
Although it is a really effective tool for moments of rage, anger, or emotional outbursts, its true power lies in repetition.
Doing it every time they feel emotions are out of their control will reaffirm the mechanism and the idea that there is a way to cope with those moments.
Moreover, you’ll be introducing the time factor, which is crucial for dealing with emotional peaks. They will know from a very early age that allowing a little time to settle down is a great way to cope with such moments. These social-emotional learning strategies will accompany them for a lifetime.
Number 3 – Write A Letter (Or Draw A Picture) For A Loved One
Developing relationship skills and social awareness as a part of SEL activities at home is crucial. One of the best ways to do so is to acknowledge positive social connections.
Even if our children are just at home with us, reflecting on the positive people in their lives as a reason for joy and fulfillment can do wonders.
The most effective activity to let them acknowledge and act upon these positive relationships is by drawing them something (social-emotional activities for toddlers) or writing them a letter (social skills activities for preschoolers).
Narrow It Down To Increase Effectivity
Just like we did with the journal, it is important that you narrow down the list of people and that each effort is directed to one person in particular. To achieve this goal, you need to ask the right questions and guide them.
- “If you had to thank for one person that makes you happy in your life, who would that be?”
- “If you could make someone smile right now, who would that person be?”
- “Who do you miss and you would like to give a surprise to?”
Once you’ve narrowed down who the drawing or letter will be for, it is time to start developing it. In the case your child can’t write independently yet, you can write it for him or her or just allow them to draw something. If they can write, try to direct them to write something full of light and joy, a text that represents gratitude.
On the other hand, if it is to be a drawing, try to choose bright, happy colors so that children learn reflect a feeling of gratitude, hope, and joy.
You could use statements like:
- “If you would have to tell him/her how happy/grateful you are to have them in your life, what would you write? Would you like me to help you write it down?”
- “Can you make them a beautiful drawing so they will feel as happy as you are now? What colors would you like to use?”
Saying these positive statements will encourage them to a positive state of mind. From there, you can work translating that joy into words and colors. That simple exercise is great for their social-emotional skills.
Number 4 – Make A To-Do List Or Schedule.
A structured approach to life nurtures a sense of stability and predictability that foster feelings of safety. Moreover, a structured approach to time is a direct path to learning self-management and responsible decision-making.
To support social-emotional learning activities addressed in this article, we are about to review a way to introduce the notion of time management at an early age. This way, we, as parents, also teach them to make responsible decisions with their time, reflect on them, and repeat or change.
These are SEL lessons that will accompany them for a lifetime. Furthermore, with time and consistency, they can turn into a competitive advantage in the grown-up world.
Choose A Fun, Attractive Template.
First of all, just like with the journal, having a fun notebook to write on is crucial to keep them interested in the task. The best bet is to find a design that includes colors and has the same spaces to fill with activities day after day. Also, it should have some daily conclusions at the bottom of the page to reflect on the day that just went by.
How To Do It?
First, write down with your child everything he or she would like to do in the day. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the amount of tasks is feasible; just focus on his or her desires and write them down one by one.
- “What are the things you would like to do today? Let’s make a list!”
Second, after the list is ready, help him or her adding some quotidian tasks such as meals, a bath, and such. Once the list is ready with all the things he or she wants to and has to do, it is time to organize them in the schedule. Divide them between the morning and the afternoon.
- “What would you like to start the day with?”
- “Would you like to play with that in the morning or in the afternoon?”
- “Is there someone you would like to visit today?”
Third, after the day has gone by, help them reflect on it. Moreover, allow them to reflect on what their favorite tasks throughout the day were, which the ones they had more problems with were, and what was left out of the schedule.
- “We did a lot today! What did you like the best?”
- “Let’s write down for tomorrow what we couldn’t do today.”
Finally, this is another great moment to mix the social-emotional learning for kids and link this step with step number one, asking them what it is they are grateful for reflecting on the day.
Number 5 – Resetting The Body.
The emotional response is not only a mental thing for humans; it is also a physical matter. Therefore, understanding and addressing the impact of our emotions on our bodies is crucial to living a better life. In other words, the social-emotional learning activities we do with our children can’t exclude their bodies.
In this case, practices like breathing exercises and stretching routines can help our children develop their self-management and self-awareness. Learning to deal with the physical aspect of their emotions is vital for successful social and emotional learning.
Grounding And Loosening Up
Two major goals can be accomplished when resetting the body. On one hand, the breathing exercises can provide grounding and allow your children to regain focus if emotion is overwhelming them or if they’ve had a long day. In those cases, sentences like these can help:
- “Are you ready for bed? Would you like to calm down and get ready to sleep with some breathing exercises?”
- I can tell you’re feeling (insert strong emotion). Would you like to do some breathing exercises together?
On the other hand, stretches can be a great way to loosen up the body and get it ready for bedtime. This physical aspect of it is no less important than the mental aspect. Plus, if you verbalize the word “reset” for the body, your child will comprehend that tomorrow will be a fresh start.
You can use sentences like these:
- “Tomorrow is a brand new day full of adventures! Let’s reset the body with some stretches to start fresh.”
- “After such a long day we had, why don’t we stretch and relax to have a nice sleep and start supercharged tomorrow?”
- “Let’s reset our bodies before bed; we’ll sleep much better.”
You Can Use An App
There’s an app for everything in the world, and social awareness activities are no exception to that rule. The SEL app called “Wisdom: the world of emotions” can walk you and your child through an augmented reality breathing exercise and a grounding game.
This might be a fun way to keep them engaged doing something positive before going to bed with the guidance of an app.
As A Summary…
So, let’s see what we have after reading the article.
First, we found out why SEL education is such an important part of our children’s upbringing. Moreover, we studied how it can impact their future career professionally and socially.
We understood that it could make our society a better place if all of us parents make a similar effort.
Secondly, we went through some specific, tried-and-true ways to address social-emotional skills with some groundbreaking social-emotional learning activities we numbered from 1 to 5.
Plus, you got a printable to follow at home and make every day a valuable lesson in their path to adulthood.
Finally, you got some expert tips, model phrases, and an app to make all these activities fun and easygoing for your children and also for you.
Let’s Recap On Each Activity.
- The gratitude journal – The gratitude journal is the best way to address self-awareness and self-management as well as empathy. Putting into words gratitude towards specific aspects of life helps our children become more aware of life’s beauty and not take it for granted.
- The glitter jar – The glitter jar is a great approach to teaching self-management in a fun way. Plus, it can be a great shared art project that will leave them a lesson for years to come.
- A letter or drawing to a loved one – Writing a letter or making a drawing for a loved one teaches our children social awareness as well as relationship skills. We learned to make it specific so they can target the person they love.
- A schedule or to-do’s list – The schedule we did as the fourth activity was great for teaching our children responsible decision-making and self-management. Reflecting on the past day also proved to be a great way of exercising gratitude.
- Body reset – By learning how to get the body reset, we are taking care of the physical impact of emotions. Moreover, these techniques also teach our children self-management and self-awareness.
Throughout this post, we learned the importance of social-emotional learning activities as a canvas for our children to paint a bright future on.
We also learned why they are the backbone, the structure for their life, and that learning strategies to cope with emotions at an early age can result in a life-changer.
It is our responsibility as parents to make sure they get the best education possible both at home and at school. Sticking to these routines will encourage them to be more accountable for their own feelings and prevent outbursts.
Hopefully, by now, you have a clear idea not only about why social-emotional learning is important but also how to go about doing it starting today.
Did you find the article helpful? Have you been doing other tasks with your children that were successful for you? Feel free to tell us all about them in the comments and share how your little wonders responded to these activities.
Creating a better world for our children is a shared responsibility all parents have; let’s do our best every day.
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