United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

June 11, 2018

4 Fun Summer Activities to Build Social Emotional Skills

Take advantage of the long, lazy days of summer to boost your child’s social emotional skills so they’ll be better prepared for school in the fall.

What does a child need at school to succeed, but has nothing to do with reading, writing or arithmetic?

The answer: social emotional skills.

Sometimes called soft skills or 21st century skills, social emotional skills are built on the principles of understanding another person’s perspective, managing emotions and behaviors, and solving problems, which all contribute to success in school and in life.

When children are focused, they are better able to learn. Most schools incorporate social emotional programming into their curriculum, but parents and families can get involved too, especially during the summer months.

Avoid the Summer Slump … at Home

From getting along with others to identifying feelings, summer is the perfect time to practice social emotional skills in a safe, relaxed environment. By modeling critical skills, attitudes, and behaviors at home, kids will be better prepared to handle situations at school the following year.

Working on social emotional skills with your child doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, you can make it really fun by coming up with engaging activities.

Social Emotional Skill Building Activities 

By using specific games, songs, and even crafts, you can leverage social emotional learning time at home without making it a “big deal.” Here are some activities geared toward building social emotional skills:

Puppet play: Use puppets to act out emotions, such as frustrations or fears. Use words to talk through a situation – pretend or real. Play games like charades and act out feelings by using facial expressions and body movements. This will help your child recognize his own feelings and identify the feelings of others.

Sing: Katie Greene, Director of School Age Programming, from the Beverly Children’s Learning Center suggests singing the ageless classic, “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” but each time, choose a new feeling (eg., angry). Ask your child to think about something she does when feeling that way. If your child can’t think of something, make a suggestion, such as, “I noticed when you were angry at your brother, you took a deep breath.” Then demonstrate the angry motion in the song, for example, “if you’re angry and you know it, take a breath.” This activity encourages a healthy way for your child to identify and manage her emotions.

Sharing and caring: Learning to share, taking turns, and resolving conflicts are all important skills to have when building friendships. Help your child practice these skills by giving him a fun, safe space to play with other kids. It may be tempting to catch up on texts or chat with other parents during playtime, but resist the temptation and observe what’s going on. Provide guidance if a conflict arises. For example, in a calm voice say, “You hit Rooshi because he tried to take the truck. He started to cry because it hurt and he was sad and mad.” Then work together to find a solution to the problem.

Treasure chest: Spend time with your child decorating a special box or container. Ask her to fill it with things that make her happy, such as a sticker with a unicorn, a small lego figure, a rock or shell, etc. When your child gets angry or frustrated encourage her to take out her special treasure chest and look through the items in a quiet place. Make the preparation and decoration into a fun activity. This tool gives your child a comfort zone to escape and calm down when she is angry or upset. She can change the items in the treasure chest over time.   

Whether you’re teaching your child how to identify emotions or fair ways to play, a little guidance at home can pave the way for lifelong success.

Read more about the “FUN”damental of Social and Emotional Skill Building.

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