In the past week Pixie has started reception class at school and turned five years old – wahhh, how did that happen?! With so many big changes afoot it would be understandable – expected, even – for her to display some challenging behaviour. As it happens, she’s adapted fantastically well so far…but I’m anticipating some difficulties to come, and so I’ve been looking into social-emotional activities for preschoolers. I’ve come up with a list of ideas we can try at home – before when the need arises.
All children have to learn to regulate their behaviour appropriately; it’s possibly one of the toughest skills they’ll learn – but it’s also one of the most rewarding for their wellbeing.
Equipping children with the tools to manage their impulses and exhibit a degree of control when they may feel out of control is one of our hardest jobs as parents. When we’re in the midst of a difficult phase it can be a daunting task, but future success and happiness are dependent upon learning these critical skills.
One of the most important ways we can support children in this area of development is through helping them to identify and label their feelings – and modelling acceptable reactions to those big emotions.
Today I’m sharing seven social-emotional activities for preschoolers and reception age kids, to help support this critical developmental phase and increase resilience in your children.
7 Social-Emotional Activities for Preschoolers
1. Preschool Books About Feelings
Reading with our children is one of the absolute best things we can do for them, and The Great Big Book About Feelings is ideal as a reference point for discussions about feelings.
The first couple of pages of the book show faces with different expressions and encourage children to determine and label what each character may be experiencing.
2. Children’s Yoga
I mentioned recently that Pixie has been enjoying following yoga workouts on YouTube, and we continue to promote this as it’s a fantastic way to help her calm after a long day at school. Yoga is wonderful for emptying the mind of stress and worry, and refocusing attention on the body’s senses, which also feeds into mindfulness. If meditation is your thing then yoga is a lovely precursor which goes hand in hand.
3. A Diary or Journal
Regularly filling out a diary or journal can be a really powerful way to help your child recognise, identify, process, and regulate their feelings.
I’ve had some problems with my little girl over the last couple of years in this regard, and in response I created a journal to help her, incorporating the things I thought would benefit her. The journal primarily consists of gratitude pages, because practising gratitude is an excellent way to promote positivity and wellbeing (read more here).
But sometimes kids just want to switch off and be absorbed in a mindful task, which is equally vital to their emotional development. For that reason I also included colouring pages and dot to dots. Take a closer look here:
My First Happy Journal
4. Feelings Flashcards
These are great for encouraging children to identify and name feelings, forging a deeper understanding of the language of emotions, but also with regards to what those feelings look like.
5. Magnetic Emotions Game
What child doesn’t love magnetic games? This is perfect for little creatives and teaches children how to ‘read’ facial expressions to understand what others are feeling – great for promoting empathy.
6. Exploring Feeling Words and Language
This can be as simple or novel as you wish to make it. The idea is simply to broaden your child’s vocabulary and comprehension of a range of words related to emotions. You could:
- Draw faces and describe them using as many synonyms as possible;
- Create a list of feeling words and sort them into positive and negative emotions;
- Write feeling words in bubble writing and have your child colour them in happy/sad/angry colours;
- Match faces with feeling words;
- Group feeling words together with their antonyms.
7. Emotions Board
Make your own or buy one which can be reused. This helps your child to show you how they feel if/when they’re struggling for the words. You could also talk about how their friends have been feeling at school that day to promote empathy.
8. Grouping Emotions With Behaviours
Using written feeling words and behaviour words, have your child group together which emotions drive which actions. This is a fantastic activity for helping your child to understand why their peers may behave in a certain way they don’t like, encouraging empathy – and also a perfect opportunity to teach more appropriate responses to difficult feelings.
I hope these social-emotional activities for preschoolers and young children will help you to support your child with their emotional development; do you have any suggestions I’ve not made here?