Social emotional learning doesn’t stop because it is summertime. In fact, it’s easy to argue that the summer is a great time to strengthen many of these skills, when there is less pressure for academic work. Social emotional learning encompasses a large subset of skills and competencies including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and decision-making. With so many skills to work on, there are many opportunities to work on them any time of the year, even in the summer.
Whether you are a parent with your own kids or an educator teaching a group, you can use some of these ideas and techniques to integrate SEL into your summer routine.
Ideas for SEL Summer Learning:
Integrate SEL in every day activities. So many every day activities use social-emotional skills; that’s because SEL skills are life skills for success! Be intentional by talking about the SEL skills as you use them. For example, cooking a meal together requires lots of self-management skills, including planning and time management. Taking a walk or gardening can be a healthy way to practice coping skills. The limits are endless!
Add a fun theme. Give a twist to your summer learning by adding a theme to what you are doing. Instead of calling it summer school, which can sometimes have a negative connotation, give it a special name like SEL Summer Camp or Study Skills Superheroes. If you need something ready to go for you, get started with these Camp SEL worksheets and activities.
Write stories. Have kids use a SEL topic to create their own story. Some topics might include kindness, honesty, fairness, making good choices, and perseverance. Learners can write and illustrate their stories before presenting them.
Start a challenge. Kids and teens are often drawn into the idea of a challenge. Make it something they have to accomplish in a given time frame. For example, you might start with a kindness challenge where kids need a complete a certain number of kind acts. Another favorite is a coping strategies challenge where learners need to test out 30 different coping skills.
Write sidewalk messages. Write positive affirmations and inspirational messages with sidewalk chalk. Use this list of 100+ positive affirmations to start the discussion and decide what self-talk statements to write out.
Play board games. There are so many different games that lend themselves to learning social emotional skills. Pictionary is great to work on teamwork while chess works on planning. Learn more about some favorite games to practice social emotional learning, or grab this SEL games set to get started with skills like empathy and social problem-solving right away.
Start a community project. Have kids apply their social emotional skills by doing something good for the world around us. Consider hosting a park cleanup, raising funds for a local pet shelter, planting trees at the school, or gathering supplies for the soup kitchen. Read more ideas for community projects here.
Use art activities. Art lends itself so well to teaching social emotional skills. Create a self-collage to work on self-awareness. Draw different faces to match emotions. Come up with colors for different feelings. There are so many options! Learn more about some ideas for integrating art and SEL, or use these Social Emotional Learning Act Activities to cover 40 different SEL art activities.
Color posters. This idea seems simple, but it can be a great teaching tool! One of my favorite teacher hacks is to find black and white posters. Kids can color the posters in as you discuss the topic. Learners will feel like it’s a fun art activity while gaining critical skills they need. Try this free ABCs of Social Emotional Learning poster to start. You can hand out the black and white version and use the color as a model!
Use digital workbooks. Digital materials are a great way to engage kids and young adults. Use this interactive social emotional learning workbook to teach empathy, perspective-taking, choices, and more.
Play interactive games. Besides board games, other more interactive games can help build SEL skills too. Try “I Spy” to work on focus and mindfulness. Play “Simon Says” to work on attention and self-control.
Use read alouds. Literature is one of the most simple and effortless ways to integrate social emotional skills. Just read a short story and discuss the SEL skills that best apply. One of my favorites is “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” This short story can focus on how we cope when things don’t go our way, being flexible, and starting fresh every day. The options are really endless and most kids really do love a good read aloud. If you need more ideas for SEL read alouds, I have a whole list of books to support social emotional learning.
Integrate movement. We all need movement breaks, and movement is often an excellent way to integrate social emotional skills at the same time. Use sports to build skills like teamwork and sportsmanship. Practice yoga to work on focus and self-control.
Use crafts. Hands-on crafts are often a great option because they can teach skills while you do art together. Talk about the skills and integrate them as you make the crafts. You can make a coping strategies wheel or create emotion faces with pasta shapes. Make a birdhouse to show empathy for the environment or make a rainbow blower to practice deep breathing. Check out some more summer craft ideas here. Another perfect summer craft are always these cool coping strategies!
Learn a new skill. Learning something new requires lots of social emotional skills from self-awareness to perseverance. Try a new instrument, cooking, or even a new sport. As you learn the activity, talk about the skills you are developing along the way.
Use choice boards. Choice is always a good thing, but especially in the summer! Use these free printable and digital SEL choice boards to target skills for strengths, managing emotions, kindness, and responsibility. With over 30 unique activities, you will have lots for your kids to choose from!
Watch videos. Use movies, shows, or video clips to discuss different social skills. One helpful way to do this is to pause between scenes or after a period of time. Ask prompting questions: What problem is the person dealing with? How do you think they feel right now? How can you tell? How are they coping with their emotions? What do you think they will do to solve their problem? Best of all, you really can use any movie or scene you want.
Spend extra time outside. Learning shouldn’t be confined to inside a building. There are so many different skills that can be practiced outside. Go on a scavenger hunt to practice mindfulness and attention. Plan a clean up to teach responsibility. Or you can always just sit under a tree and read a book. The ideas are endless, and being outside always makes learning more fun in the summer.
Use journal writing. Writing is a great way to express ideas and feelings. For kids who need more structure, opt for a journal or workbook. Try a social emotional learning journal or a mindfulness journal.
Explore calm-down tools. Fidgets, timers, sand, sensory bottles, and stuffed animals. There are so many options for calm-down tools and usually not enough time to explore them all. Spend time using one each day and considering how well it worked to provide relaxation.
Just chat. Group discussions are a quick and easy way to start learning about social emotional skills. Here are just a few examples: What does it mean to be self-aware? How do you keep yourself organized? How do you show respect to others? Having the right questions to ask can make all the difference. You can choose to just chat or turn them into journal prompts. Use this set of SEL questions to get started.
Encourage free play. Sometimes no lesson plans is just what kids need! Free play allows kids to work on skills like decision-making, social expectations, problem-solving, and conflict resolution to name a few.
Use a SEL Intro Workbook. If you’re a subscriber here at Pathway 2 Success, make sure to grab your free printable and digital Social Emotional Learning Intro Workbook. It’s a great place to start if you want to teach social emotional skills but aren’t sure quite how. If you’re interested in joining, head here to learn more!