Children's Development

Supporting Social and Emotional Growth in the Classroom

Developing strong interpersonal skills helps kids manage academics, social, and extracurricular pursuits. Since school is one of the principal opportunities where kids learn social emotional skills, many classroom activities focus heavily on this topic.

As many kids readjust to learning in person, social emotional learning (SEL) is more important than ever.  Here are 7 activities that teach, model, and provide opportunities to practice these skills in the classroom.

1. Interactive Play

Puppet shows and dramatic play encourages empathy and realizing how one’s actions affect others. Role play allows kids to see something from another’s perspective.

2. Use emotion toys to teach kids to identify emotions

Start the day with an emoji sharing circle where kids can express their mood. Creating social awareness helps students get into a routine of checking in on their emotions. Being able to name feelings is the first step to recognize what to do with big feelings.

3. Construct a calm down corner

Teach kids to cope with emotions and sensory overload by providing a space to step away and engage in soothing activities. Train little ones in breathing and calm down techniques. Learning to regulate emotions will have a positive lifelong impact.

4. Promote collaboration

Assign jobs that require kids to work together, find solutions, and share responsibilities. Classroom jobs teach accountability and generate opportunities for decision making.

5. Play games that have clearly set rules

Kids will encounter situations that demand compromise and strategy. Arranging ample occasions to play with children their age will help develop self-control and self-esteem.

6. Carve out time for unstructured play, without rules or an agenda

Free time offers many chances to interact with peers and develop self-management and relationship skills.

7. Create a culture of kindness with a firm anti-bullying stance

Have available resources to refer kids for counseling services as needed. Present activities that support compassion and relationship building such as compliment circles or kindness webs.

Stephanie Standley M. Ed. is a mom, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast. She received her undergraduate degrees in Sociology and Psychology as well as a Master of Education-Literacy from the University of San Diego. Stephanie has 12+ years of classroom experience as a teacher and currently supports students in Special Education. She is inspired to use evidence-based practices to educate children in creative and engaging ways.