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Be kind. Encourage compassion. Inspire creativity. Nurture courage. Grow your mind.

Let’s Play: Social Emotional Learning Activities for Summer 

May 9, 2022

Ahh summer – a season to unwind, relax, play and enjoy the sunshine and longer days. While having “fun in the sun” is the usual chant of summertime, learning does not have to be excluded from the fun. It’s important to continue to nurture social and emotional learning concepts throughout the summer. 

Parents and teachers agree that social emotional learning (SEL) makes a huge difference in a child’s behavior, ability to manage stress and depression, as well as have better attitudes about themselves, others, and school. Social emotional skills, like recognizing and managing emotions, practicing kindness and empathy with peers, having a growth mindset, making decisions and communicating effectively, are simply invaluable. 

10 Social Emotional Learning Activities for Summer

Social emotional skills are often gleaned through real-life experiences and modeled by caregivers, but they can be further developed through intentional activities. 

  1. Play “I Spy” in the clouds: Clouds are full of fun shapes and images. Grab a blanket, lay down in the grass, look up at the sky and use your imagination to transform clouds into pictures. What do you see? What does someone else see? Encourage your kids to try to see from each other’s perspectives. 
  1. Plant a garden: Plant some flowers, vegetables, fruit or herbs and offer your kids ownership in taking care of the garden. Teach them to care for the plant and let them take the reins. This can be a coping activity and will also help them build a sense of motivation and confidence as they solve the problems that may come along with gardening.
  1. Take a mindful hike: Explore a new hiking trail or area of your neighborhood. Wherever you go, make it mindful! While you walk, encourage your child to take account of what they sense as you walk around your town or along a trail. Taking the time to determine what you see, smell, feel and hear will help ground you in the moment. 
  1. Handstand challenge: Perspective is everything. Plus, we all need movement breaks. Challenge your children to change their perspectives by doing a handstand, putting your head between your legs or laying down. What looks different when they do this? 
  1. Get creative on the sidewalk with scribble add-on: Grab the sidewalk chalk! One person starts a drawing or scribble on the sidewalk. Then, each person in the group adds something to the scribble until a picture forms. What does each person see? How are your perspectives different? 
  1. Time for speed: Pick a distance and challenge your kids to run as fast as they can to cross the finish line. Ask them what they saw. Next, tell them to walk the same distance. What did they see this time? Finally, crawl the same distance. Did they notice new things? 
  1. Play “What’s in the Bag.” Ask your kids to collect some toys or other things from around your yard. Put them in a bag, and have the kids take turns reaching into the bag to find an object. Can they guess what it is only by touch? 
  1. Plan a park playdate: Sometimes no structure is just what kids need! Round up a group of kids to play. Free play allows kids to work on skills like decision-making, social expectations, problem-solving, and conflict resolution to name a few.
  1. Get involved in organized sports: Whatever the game, organized sports provide a place for young kids to grow, learn and enhance their physical skills. Plus, with the help of good coaches, kids can also build social skills like teamwork, sportsmanship and self-control. 
  1. Take storytime outside. Grab a book off your summer reading list and take storytime outside. Children’s books are great tools for teaching social emotional skills. As you read, stop and discuss the social emotional concepts at play in the story. Ask your kids how the character may feel or what they may be thinking. Depending on the book you choose, several SEL skills may be up for discussion. 

Avoid the summer slump–get outside and foster social emotional development with these fun, kid-friendly activities! Visit our Let’s Play page for more activity inspiration. 

Add Guion The Lion to Your Summer Reading List

Guion The Lion is a children’s book about an imaginative little lion who sees things differently from his friends. Using colorful illustrations and charming animal characters, the story portrays that new perspectives can open the door to unexpected fun. My vision is for this book to present a message of empathy, curiosity and adventure to support social emotional learning at an early age. 

Learn more about the book and join the adventure!

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