Parents and teachers are talking a lot more about Social Emotional Learning (SEL for short) these days. Social emotional learning is the process of developing self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills children need through school and beyond.
Growing up can be tough, and strong SEL skills help children (and adults) cope better with challenges and everyday problems, work more cooperatively with others, and develop healthy interpersonal relationships. Bringing social emotional learning into the home lays the foundation for emotional growth and development throughout your child’s life.
What is social emotional learning?
The Early Intervention Foundation explains that social emotional skills are important for a child’s future success in school, work and life. The foundation sums up SEL as five interrelated sets of behavioural, emotional, and cognitive competencies:
- Self-awareness: Recognising emotions and thoughts about the behaviour of others and understand how they influence your behaviour in situations.
- Social awareness: Being able to empathise, and understand and respect others.
- Self-management: Effectively regulating your emotions, thoughts, and behaviours, whatever the situation you’re in. Self-management skills are what help you manage stress, and control impulses.
- Responsible decision-making: Making healthy, constructive, respectful choices.
- Relationship skills: Creating healthy, rewarding relationships by being able to cooperate, negotiate, communicate clearly, and listen well.
As your child’s first and most important teacher, you lay the foundations for their social emotional learning at home. You can do this through social emotional learning activities, books, games, and toys that help to build your children’s relationships and expand the foundation of their future social emotional health. By laying this foundation, you’ll set them up to be more resilient and confident and keep them exploring and developing.
Strategies for social emotional learning for home
- Explore feelings through play. Try puppets or use your child’s character toys to create and play out a story about your child’s feelings.
- Spend time with your child talking about what’s on their mind and what might be troubling them.
- Routines and the stability can reduce your child’s anxiety and help you with SEL. Routines including mealtimes and bedtimes create a safe and open space for your children. Try to stick to these routines as any significant change in routine can be a source of stress for children.
- Model the behaviour you want your child to learn – your child learns by watching you.
- The best way to build confidence is through positive reinforcement. If your child shows kindness, cooperation, following the rules, or sharing, offer praise and support for these positive behaviours.
- A very important step in SEL is the expression of emotions. Encourage your child to express their emotion and tell you what’s wrong. You can help them manage these emotions by asking them to express what is causing them, and then offering a solution to responding to those feelings.
- Teaching your child how to manage their emotions and cope with their feelings promotes healthy expressions and emotions. Together, you could practise a calming breathing exercise or another mindfulness activity to help them stay calm and in control.
- Offer encouragement to your child when you see them struggling with a task or situation, this will help them to believe in themselves and will build their self-esteem and sense of optimism.
Explore social emotional learning through play
Ideal for children as young as three, these sturdy foam cubes help preschoolers learn to identify and express emotions. Roll the emoji face cubes and see if your child can name or show the emotion. Roll the prompt cubes and encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling. These cubes can also be a useful way for your child to show or tell you what’s wrong if they’re reluctant to talk about it, just ask them to choose an emoji cube which best suits the situation. Set includes two emoji face cubes and two written prompt cubes.
Get the conversation started with Let’s Talk Cubes. These large foam, child-friendly dice feature a conversation prompt with every roll and are aimed at children aged five and up. Playing with them is a fun, engaging way get your child talking, sharing, and learning. They also help your child develop language skills along the way. The cubes are colour-coded to make it easy to find the icebreakers and conversation prompts you’re looking for. Plus, they’re easy to roll and made from soft foam for quiet play.
Conversations can be hard for some kids. Conversation Cubes feature 36 questions to teach children how to start a conversation by asking a question, how to listen and engage, and how to answer a question when they’re asked. Prompts such as “What foods do you like?” and “Where would you like to travel?” also allow children to express their creativity and personality.
From a young age, children begin to understand their place in the world through learning about their families. This set comes with grownups and kids, and lets children identify family members and develop their own personal identity. It’s also a fun set to teach colours, sorting, and matching. It even comes with a cute family cat! Check out the All About Me Sorting Neighbourhood Set that includes houses and a family dog.
Kids have so many feelings! Learning to identify feelings in themselves and others is an important part of your child’s social emotional development. See My Feelings Mirror helps children do just that. The child-safe mirror comes with six slide-in photos of real children expressing real emotions: happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, silliness, and anger, and features a corresponding emoji. The Activity Guide includes four activities to help you get started.
Help your child set goals and feel a sense of accomplishment when they’re completed goal using the Good Job Reward Chart. Establishing this behaviour sets them up for success at school and beyond. The chart is customisable and allows you to select the tasks you’d like your child to focus on. Alternatively, you could sit down with your child and discuss the goals they would like to set for themselves. This will help your child become independent and in control of their learning. Track their performance with motivational tiles and store small toys and treats inside the reward box for when a goal is reached. This set also includes tiles perfect for positive reinforcement including ‘You were a good listener!’ and ‘You used good manners!’.
Some children struggle with transitioning from one activity to another, especially if the transition involves an abrupt ending such as the end of a TV show before bedtime. Having a visual cue such as a timer can help children prepare to move from one activity to another. Our Time Tracker Mini is ideal for use at home and you can set a timer for five minutes to up to two hours. It’s easy to use – simply set it and go.
Mesmerising motion inside the Sensory Fidget Tubes offers children a soothing visual distraction to help them focus and calm down. These fidget toys have been specially developed for kids, are easy for little hands to grip, and are permanently sealed. Each tube has a unique motion: soothing gravity spinner, fantastic fidget tube, calming glitter tube, and magical reverse hourglass. They’re so hypnotic, adults will love them, too!
Social emotional learning through games
Playing games is an important part of a child’s social emotional learning. Through playing one-on-one with a parent or sibling, or in a larger group setting, children practise valuable skills including taking turns, interpersonal skills, fairness, and how to lose gracefully. Read more here about 10 family games for the whole family to enjoy, with options for children as young as two.
More SEL at home ideas and resources:
- Print and cut out your own Responsibility Chart with this free printable. It’s ideal to stick up in a visible area, and use it to prompt good behaviour through positive enforcement and goal-setting.
- Help your child learn to identify expressions with this Look at Me printable sheet featuring pages for your child to draw expressions, and pictures of real children showing real emotions.
- This Emoji Cubes Printable is a fun activity sheet to identify emotions words with pictures of emojis.
- Download your free Emotions Snowman printable from Red Ted Art. This printable colouring sheet is an ideal way to allow for mindfulness time and offers children the opportunity to discuss and express feelings.
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