8 simple ways to boost social emotional learning for kids

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Social emotional learning (SEL) is an important part of both education and kids’ development. It’s comprised of five core competencies, or areas of focus: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, social awareness, and relationship skills. Together, these skills are proven to lead to positive outcomes—from improved well-being and behavior to better academic performance. Developing these strengths helps kids manage their emotions, feel empathy, set and meet positive goals, maintain healthy friendships, and cope with stress.

SEL Day was created to bring awareness to SEL’s critical role in kids’ lives—so if you haven’t already been working toward strengthening these skills with your kids, now is a great time to start! Better Kids, experts at creating interactive evidence-based digital games and hands-on activities that engage kids in learning social emotional skills through play, shared with us four simple but fun activities you can try today.

Help kids identify their support system

We all need a reliable support system of loved ones, particularly kids during the isolation and upheaval of the pandemic. This drawing exercise helps kids recognize who they can rely on in their lives to support different needs.

Help kids find their “happy place”

You’ve probably been told at some point in your life to mentally go to your “happy place” when you need a moment of serenity. Having this go-to visualization of a place that gives you joy is a surprisingly useful mental health tool. You can share the gift of a “happy place” with your child so they can also enjoy the benefits of this coping strategy!

Help kids learn to solve their own problems

Parents are world-class problem solvers. In addition to the countless decisions we have to make every day for ourselves, we’re also usually the first place our kids go to get help with their own problems.

The five steps in this printable, “Be a problem solver!”, can help take some of that responsibility off your shoulders by giving kids a simple plan to follow to find their own solutions. This can help teach your children to become excellent problem solvers and independent thinkers—skills that will benefit them their whole lives.

Use the arts to explore SEL

The arts allow us to see things from other points of view, celebrate our similarities, and appreciate our differences. These five art activities will build your child’s social awareness, help them learn to express emotions, and engage their sense of creativity. Whether they enjoy drawing, acting and drama, singing, storytelling, writing, or arts and crafts, there’s something here for every child to love.

Thanks again to our friends at Better Kids for these great tips! You can check out their website and download their free, fun social emotional learning game, Wisdom: The World of Emotions, for more engaging games and activities to empower your kids to better manage their emotions.⁠⁠

Robyn is Editor-in-Chief at ParentsTogether and is co-author of several NYTimes bestselling anthologies. She lives in southern Michigan with her husband and five children.