There are so many articles and tons of data to support that social-emotional learning (SEL) is highly important for children. I was fortunate enough as a teacher to experience the power of SEL firsthand. The school I taught at implemented a character education program that combined many aspects of social-emotional learning, such as promoting kindness, meditation, mindfulness, and more. It was amazing for me to watch some of my most challenging students connect with their own thoughts and emotions like I had never seen before. This experience is why I’m so passionate about social and emotional learning.
With this big push behind implementing social-emotional learning in schools, I found that there was a huge piece missing – the school-to-home connection. I can see how wonderful it would be for parents to do SEL at home with their kids. However, many parents have yet to find out about it or experience this learning method. Without seeing firsthand what students were doing in school, many parents could not try these practices with their children. Let’s change that right now.
Below are some ideas for you to bring social and emotional learning into your home. Each of these SEL activities for kids are easy to do and they provide you with an opportunity to learn more about your child.
1. Emotions Check-In
It’s important for parents to be aware of how their children feel each day, as it will often reflect in the quality of their schoolwork. Have your children start each day with a drawing of a face that shows the emotion they are experiencing in that moment. An artist pad and colored pencils or crayons are ideal for this exercise.
If your kids are able, have them name and write the emotion below the drawing. Then, as the day goes on you can revisit that picture and talk about how easily emotions can change. At this time, have them draw another picture of their current emotions. You may find that this new drawing shows a different emotion than the earlier one. However, that’s not always the case. This is a great time to talk to your children about strategies to change their emotions — especially if the emotions are causing negative feelings.
Below is an example of what your child’s drawing might look like:
2. Create a Calm-Down Corner
Find a space in your home where your kids can go when they need to escape. Treat this space differently than a time-out area, because you want your children to understand that having different emotions throughout the day is normal. It’s important that your kids use this space to find which coping strategies work best for them. Here are some ideas of what to include in that area:
- A comfortable place to sit
- Fidgets or a calm down jar
- A journal and a writing utensil
- Drawing paper or a coloring book
- Books (preferably related to emotions, self-worth, kindness, etc.)
Note: You do not have to have all these items to create a calm-down corner. Add what you have, and your calm-down corner can still serve its purpose. Below is a picture of the calm-down corner I created in my home. As you can see, I added a comfortable spot to sit, a tennis ball to use as a fidget/stress ball, books, paper, markers, and colored pencils.
Let your child decide which item to use while there since this is there space and time to relax and reflect.
3. Have Meaningful Conversations
In my experience as a teacher, I found that four topics always helped my students be their best selves. Those topics are: Positive Self-Talk, Coping Strategies, Kindness, and Goal Setting. All of these things can be at the core of their SEL at home experience. Below are a few examples of what your conversations could be like:
- Positive Self-Talk – What is your favorite part of you on the inside?
- Coping Strategies – Practice mindful breathing together
- Kindness – What could you do to thank a community helper?
- Goal Setting – Child’s Goal: I will say sorry when I hurt someone’s feelings. Conversation Topic: How will this goal affect others?
For more conversation topics and questions, check out our Really Good Stuff® SEL Conversation Cards For Home.
4. Read Together
Reading with your child can teach them much more than reading skills. They can learn a lot about taking turns, listening, having conversations, relating to and understanding characters, and more. There are tons of books out there that fall under the social-emotional learning category, which will be the most meaningful for your little one.
Click the link to see social-emotional books for primary grades.
5. Take Action
Sure, it’s great to teach your child about being kind, having good character, and so on, but it’s a whole different learning experience when you act on it. Below you will see some ways that you can model SEL core principles and teach kindness:
- Write kind letters to people. There are so many people that need this right now, like nurses, doctors, police officers, etc. Write letters with your child and email them so these hard-working people can feel acknowledged ASAP. Another option is to make homemade greeting or cards or postcards and mail them or hold onto them until it’s safe to be out and about.
- Talk to your children about donating by explaining different struggles people are experiencing, on top of dealing with COVID-19. We sometimes forget during these hectic times that people are experiencing hardships other than getting the virus, such as unemployment and financial struggles. There is no better time than right now to teach about giving.
- Teach your kids to offer help at home by modeling what that looks like. For example, if you see that mom is doing the laundry, simply go over and start helping. Then, give your children jobs such as putting the clothes in the correct pile. Kids tend to follow the actions of those around them, so this is one you can teach without having to say much!
As always, our Really Good Stuff® team is here to help. For free resources to help teachers, parents, and children navigate this unprecedented time, check out the Really Good Stuff® Resources tab. You can also search our blog for more free tips and ideas from real teachers.
By Nicole Morelli
Nicole Morelli formerly taught first, second, and third grade. Before teaching, she was a paraprofessional, where she assisted in multiple elementary grades and a special needs class. Nicole has worked at Really Good Stuff for a little over two years as a Product Developer and Content Manager. Her specialties are STEM education and social-emotional learning. She has a lot of fun developing products for those topics!