What Social-Emotional Learning Activities Can Kids Do in Quarantine?
During quarantine, kids can miss out on the social benefits they typically get from interacting with others in a school environment, which could set them back in terms of social-emotional learning (SEL). SEL involves skills that build up a child’s confidence, help them develop relationships and promote their use of cognitive thinking to work through various social situations. And success in this process stems from collaboration, teamwork, the development of empathy and the healthy navigation of feelings — a level of emotional maturity that kids often learn from interacting with others in a classroom setting. But even if your child isn't learning SEL in school or from other social situations while you’re sheltering in place, you can still assist them from the comfort of home.
A child’s SEL needs continual stimulation so they can develop these critical skills. Fortunately, many of the activities kids can do at home to facilitate better SEL are things they can do with parents — that may even be beneficial for parents as well. If you want to promote this learning at home, take a look at SEL activities you can do with your child to encourage their mental well-being and help them develop essential life skills.
Practice Mindfulness and Positive Self Talk
Mindfulness isn’t just a concept that’s helpful in the context of meditation like many people might imagine it is. It’s also a skill children and adults alike can use all throughout their daily lives. Although younger children might find it challenging to sit still for a long period of time, you can practice mindfulness with alternate activities that promote this type of healthy awareness about what they’re feeling.
Teach your child how to be present with their thoughts and emotions by acknowledging them. One of the best ways to do that is to schedule time for reflection each day. Spend some time talking with them about their emotions. Ask them how they felt during a specific time period and what led up to that feeling. If your child becomes frustrated or upset during the day, pause your activities for a moment and talk about these feelings, emphasizing that they pass and while it’s important to recognize them, your child doesn’t have to act on them. This will also allow your child to develop empathy for themselves as well as others.
As adults, we’re often hard on ourselves, and children can mimic this behavior. Quarantine is a perfect opportunity to show your child that sometimes things like outside events aren’t in their control — but that the way they respond to their emotions is and that we’re all doing our best to manage. A fantastic way to become less critical of yourself — and help your child develop better self-esteem, too — is to introduce positive self-talk and affirmations and to start each day with a motivational quote. Your child can even stand in front of the mirror with you as you both repeat affirmations that encourage confidence and positivity.
Incorporate Games and Art
It’s important to engage a child’s brain during quarantine with thought-provoking activities, not just digital devices and time spent looking at screens. While it may be tempting to let your child watch a couple of movies to stay occupied, this won’t contribute to their SEL. However, you can easily promote that mental stimulation through fun SEL games and activities you might both enjoy. From setting up a scavenger hunt to designing a vision board to writing letters to mail to friends and family, there’s a lot you can do to enjoy some creativity together.
Schools often let children explore their artistic sides in more ways than one and allow them to get creative. Make sure you continue these efforts during quarantine. Get hands-on with creating art — you might use Pinterest to find various projects and try to recreate them with your child. Try to keep these activities fun and engaging, and have regular check-ins with your child to gauge how they’re feeling about the projects and whether they want to switch things up.
Keep in mind that you can find plenty of affordable art project ideas online that can still fit into your budget. You can also use whatever’s available at home and turn it into art, which will encourage creative problem solving and improve your child’s imagination.
Teach Them How to Manage Strong Emotions
The American Academy of Pediatrics acknowledges that redirecting unwanted behaviors is much more effective than outright punishment. Sometimes, kids act out and can say or do hurtful things to others when they’re unsure how to manage emotions and events. Creating a corner where your child can wind down after doing something they shouldn’t allows them to regain composure and become more self-aware. You might put together a meditation corner with stuffed animals and a chart that shows various feelings. When your child misbehaves, you can go to the corner, let them have a quiet moment and discuss what led to the behavior by utilizing the feelings chart. This, in turn, helps your child get familiar with their emotions and the emotions others experience — an essential component of SEL.
Kids have feelings too, and as parents, we might forget to acknowledge that what they’re feeling is completely valid. They’re still building awareness around their emotions — they don’t understand things in the same context we do — and feeling something for the first time can be overwhelming for kids. Quarantine itself can be an incredibly stressful experience for children, which is why you want to provide a physical and emotional check-in. This will not only strengthen your family bond, but it will also ensure your child isn’t under immense pressure. Sometimes kids need a mental health day, too.
Although all of the above will contribute to your child’s development of stress-management skills, it’s also important to acknowledge one of the most beneficial stress-busting activities: exercise. Even in quarantine, your child needs a constructive outlet for their energy to release anxiety and enjoy better cognitive function. Don’t forget hugs; they’re proven to lower stress levels for your child and for you.
Create a Chores List
Although this may not be one of the things your child looks forward to most, having a chore list is one of the most important because it teaches responsibility. But instead of creating a list and giving it to your little one, collaborate and create one together. This way, your child can be involved in responsible decision-making and see the value of teamwork.
Writing a diary as a daily "to-do list" is also a good therapeutic activity for managing feelings. It allows kids to put their thoughts on paper, which sometimes brings a much-needed emotional release. Encourage daily journaling with various prompts. It could be as simple as starting a gratitude journal in which your child answers questions such as "What makes you feel thankful today?" Focus on specific things that encourage deeper thinking and allow your child to express themselves through writing if they’re old enough to do so.
It’s important to note that SEL activities shouldn’t feel like chores. Instead, they should be exciting and stimulating. Only this way will they help bring out your child’s full potential and allow them to thrive emotionally and socially. Although quarantine is a stressful time for everyone in the family, it’s essential to take some time to address and look after your child’s emotional needs — and your own.