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12 Gifts that Foster Social Emotional Learning

December 7, 2021

Shopping for any little ones? Check out these books, toys and games that foster social emotional learning (SEL). 

Benefits of SEL books and toys

SEL is an important element of education and development. It promotes self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making skills in children (and adults). Social emotional skills can not only be taught through real-life experiences, but also through books, toys and games. 

Playing with others and reading stories present boundless opportunities for emotional growth. SEL toys and books are especially effective learning tools for children with special needs as they sometimes struggle to recognize their emotions and the emotions of others. 

Toys provide children with lessons of sharing, teamwork and cooperation. Similarly, children’s books provide those teachable moments that children can use to explore feelings and perspectives that may be outside of their comfort zones. Most children will not even recognize that they are “being taught” when playing and reading, but trust me, the lessons make an impression! SEL toys and books should present messages and opportunities for empathy, kindness, innovation, courage, growth, and of course, fun!  

12 Gifts that Foster Social Emotional Learning

Ready to give the gift of social emotional learning to the little one(s) in your life? Here are 12 gifts for a variety of ages that foster SEL. 

  1. See My Feelings Mirror: A hand-held mirror toy in which kids can choose an image of another child expressing emotion from the multi-layered mirror and try to match their own expression to the one shown in the image. Hello, emotional recognition skills! 
  1. Ehome Toddler Musical Instruments: Music and SEL go hand-in-hand. These wooden percussion instruments are a great place to start. They will keep kids moving, grooving and feeling the beat while improving children’s hand-eye coordination, self expression, and social skills!  
  1. Race to the Treasure: Cooperative board games like this one cultivate emotional development, shared decision-making, positive self-esteem, creative problem-solving and develop a sense of community in a non-stressful play environment.
  1. The Way I Feel by Janan Cain: This book uses strong, colorful, and expressive images to go along with simple verses that will help children connect words and emotions. Your child will learn useful words, and you will have many chances to open conversations about what’s going on in their life. 
  1. Authentic Agility Card Games: Spark productive conversations with this card game featuring 100 cards with 500 questions for kids, teens and adults
  1. Lego Build Me “Emotions” DUPLO Set: Calling all Lego lovers! This Lego set will keep their hands busy while exploring emotions and corresponding facial expressions and body language. 
  1. Chalk and Chuckles Caring Cats Kindness Around Town: This social skills board game initiates conversation about emotions and spreading kindness in different situations. Children will build confidence in responding to situation picture cards and work together to beat the “Mean Mouse!”
  1. Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka: Learning to ride a bike is a big milestone of childhood. In this book, Chris Raschka captures the emotional ups and downs of learning to ride a bike. 
  1. Melissa & Doug Star Diner Restaurant Play Set: Pretend play spurs child development and creativity. When “working at the diner,” kids will learn to solve problems, cooperate with each other and think creatively.
  1. HOMER Explore Feelings Kit: This magnetic story board that helps players identify feelings and practice self-awareness and expression.  Guided and open-ended play opportunities make this kit easily adaptable to your child’s age as they learn. 
  1. Mindful Maze Boards:  Mindful Maze Boards offer a screen-free way to teach kids how to soothe themselves with hands-on resources that help build social-emotional skills by providing cues and physical objects to guide kids through breathing exercises. 
  1. Guion The Lion: Last, but certainly not least, Guion The Lion, is a children’s book that portrays themes of adventure, curiosity and empathy to little readers. The book even includes a facilitation page that can help guide conversations about the story! 

Do you have any other SEL gift ideas? I’d love to hear your recommendations. Happy shopping! 

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