School’s in session, and the opportunities for Social Emotional Learning have multiplied many times over as kids spend their entire day with 15-30 other children, some they’ll love, some they’ll like, and well, some we may never find out about or hear complaints about way too often.

How can you maximize these opportunities for learning if you’re not in the classroom?

Bring the classroom home!

The following art project is a fun way for your family to spend time together and really get to know your child’s daytime world, more so though, it creates a platform for your child to practice self awareness, empathy, and conflict resolution in a safe space, before heading back out into the classroom and handling any challenges that may occur.

LXLMS​​

See below instructions for art project, as well as ideas for how to use them to practice each social emotional learning skill mentioned above.

Materials you will need:


  • Wide popsicle sticks

  • Pipe Cleaners

  • Yarn or construction paper (brown, black, yellow or beige) or Construction Paper

  • Markers

  • Bits of torn cloth (old clothes is great for this)

  • Craft Glue

  • A thin paint brush

Instructions:


  1. Ask your child how many children in the class they’d like to start with, (make sure they include themselves) building an entire class can be a great challenge, some children may be up for it, but others may want to start with their table, or their row, or some other preferred group. Encourage your child to pick outside their circle of friends only. This activity works well because over time, it should include everyone, and you’d really like to get them to appreciate the differences between them and the children they may not end up being so close too. If your child is new to this school, or has never been in a class with these group of people, then this activity could be helpful in exercising conversation starting with potential friends.

  2. Make a list of all the children in the class, and circle those you have decided to start with.

  3. Start crafting! Use a marker to write one of the names chosen on the back of each popsicle stick until you have gone through your list.

  4. With the markers, draw a face on the first person, ask your child to think about eye shape, eye color, nose, mouth, this encourages awareness of others.

  5. With the yarn or construction paper, cut hair and stick it to the top of the popsicle stick, again, ask them to think about this person’s hair, do they wear it in a certain style? Is it short, long? If they don’t know, its OK, they can always change it later. Getting to know the people in your environment is a great way to facilitate social awareness.

  6. Use pipe cleaners to make the arms and legs by wrapping them around the popsicle sticks and stretching them out.

  7. Cut pieces of cloth to make tiny shirts, shorts, pants, skirts, or dresses.

  8. Spread glue over the pipe cleaners and visible parts of one side of popsicle stick where clothes will be laid down.

  9. Press clothes on to your popsicle stick person on one side. Let dry for 5 minutes.

  10. Repeat step 8 on second side.

  11. Press clothes down on 2nd side, let dry for 20 - 30 minutes so glue sets.

Activity for Self Awareness

How was your day?

Ask you child to act out parts of their day with their popsicle sticks classmates, as they act out, see if you can gauge what they were feeling at that time and start a conversation about it. If they act out a positive part of the day you can say something like, I bet you felt really inspired (or whatever feeling you noticed in their acting) when that happened! This will help them connect to their positive feelings about situations. Do the same for negative situations. The idea in this activity is for them to start to notice what feelings they have about situations in their day to day life.


Activity to Develop Empathy

I feel you…

This is a great activity to help your child step into other people’s shoes, may it be classmates or the teacher. During times where your child is being challenged by someone, or they share a story of how other people are having challenges, use your popsicle classroom to develop empathy by asking some of the following questions about situations.

  • How do you think that person felt?

  • What led you to believe that, was it their tone of voice? Their facial expression?

  • Do you think there is something you or someone else could have done to help?

Practicing this will help children to learn how to understand emotional cues in their environment, be sensitive to others, and be able to either give them the space they need, or lend a helping hand.


Activity for Conflict Resolution

Hash it Out

Often times children have confrontations or uncomfortable situations with classmates they may not be equipped to handle, turning into avoidance, resentment, and frustration. This activity gives them an opportunity to play through possible resolutions.


1. Ask your child to act out the uncomfortable situation they are facing. 2. Ask them how it makes them feel & how it makes them want to act. 3. Explore the results/consequences of those actions together. 4. Ask your child for 2 or 3 other ways to handle this situation and have him/her act it out. 5. Support your child in deciding the best way to handle this situation, and try it in real life. 6.Make sure to follow up and celebrate their effort, and remember, even if it didn’t work out the way they planned, it is their effort in positive conflict resolution that matters.


Enjoy working with your kiddos!


We’ve all heard that old age adage, “Children are like sponges”, and while they are often colorful, soggy, and unfortunately often smelly, this is not what


this statement means to point out. Kids do though pickup on everything we adults do and say, which is why teachable moments are so valuable.


A teachable moment is an organic moment in time in which the opportunity to teach a lesson becomes available.


As a character education teacher, I sought out teachable moments as I if I was searching for nuggets in a gold mine. I knew that if I could capture that one moment one of my students was acting out of character and show compassion instead of stern judgment, I had scored! I had in fact given them a nugget of gold, an experiential lesson in SEL that they could, from now on carry in their own toolbox for dealing with challenging moments.


One of the greatest things about family life, is that almost every moment is a teachable moment!


By simply tapping into what you’re feeling or facilitating your children to tap into their feelings and talking about it without judgement, you’re already on your way to creating self-awareness a part of your day.


It can be as simple as saying, “I woke up before my alarm this morning and it makes me feel so much better about myself, it made me want to make a special breakfast!” or “ I slept past my alarm a few times this morning and I’m feeling a little sluggish, it was pretty hard to get going. ” you’re already modeling self- awareness for your kids.


When it comes to your kids, instead of just asking how was your day, you can ask:


What was your favorite part of the day?

  • What was your not so favorite part of the day?

Follow up with questions like: How’d that make you feel?

  • What did that make you want to do?

  • What did you do when you felt ___?

And respond with empathy and positive reinforcement or encouragement:

  • That’s great! I bet I would feel ___ too!

  • I’m sorry, that doesn’t sound like much fun, but I am very proud you chose to ______ you handled it very maturely.

  • I'm sorry, it sounds like that was a challenge for you, it would have been for me too, what do you think you would try to do if something like this happens again?

Taking advantage of your family’s teachable moments is a powerful tool for creating a sense of well-being, for managing stress, and for creating overall good health.


I wish you all fun and insightful moments together, Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey!





In speaking with parents who are new to the term, I am often asked, “What is the whole child?”

Over nearly the last 100 years, our idea of success and focus in both educating and raising our children has been placed in preparing our children for success in their careers through studying, getting good grades, raising to the top of their class, graduating with an above average GPA score, and landing that dream job.

Over the last 20 years, research has taught us that while educating the mind is important, it is not necessarily enough to guarantee success.

The Whole Child is both, mind and heart.

Studies have shown that children’s social and emotional functioning and behaviors begin to stabilize around the age of eight and can predict the state of their behavior and mental health later in life. In other words, if children learn to express emotions constructively and engage in caring and respectful relationships before and while they are in their lower elementary grades, they are more likely to avoid depression, violence, and other serious mental health problems as they grow older. Research suggests that helping children to develop social and emotional skills early in life makes a big difference in their long-term health, well – being, success in career, greater life satisfaction, and happier relationships with peers, friends, family, and spouses. 1

Social Emotional Learning skills nurture the while child through teaching 5 skills: 2


  1. Self-awareness: Recognizing one’s thoughts feelings, and how these encourage or challenge one’s choices or actions.

  2. Social Awareness: Identifying and understanding the thoughts, beliefs, and feelings of others. Respecting and appreciating diversity. Understanding the effect of one’s actions.

  3. Self Management/Motivating Oneself: Setting and achieving goals while delaying short term gratification and impulses that may distract from goal achievement.

  4. Responsible Decision Making: Evaluating internal motivations, information, and external outcomes of choices before acting, taking responsibility for all outcomes once choices are made.

  5. Relationship Skills: Communication, listening, sharing, and negotiation skills that encourage positive, healthy, rewarding, and long term relationships with individuals and groups.

Social emotional learning goes beyond the mind, and educates the heart. Combined with traditional education, this indeed is a formula for success, the stuff the most inspiring and effective leaders, managers, parents – adults are made of. Preparing a child for life, is both, mind and heart, this is the whole child.

Sources:

1. Huesmann, L. R., & Guerra, N. G. (1997). Children’s normative beliefs about aggression and aggressive behavior Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72 (2), 408-419. 2. Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence: Why It can matter more than IQ. New York: Bantam Books. 3. Fredericks, Weissberg, Resnik, Patrikakou, & O'Brien, Schools, Families, & Social Emotional Learning. University of Illinois, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.

Sources:

Fredericks, Weissberg, Resnik, Patrikakou, & O'Brien, Schools, Families, & Social Emotional Learning. University of Illinois, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning

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