Explore 11 impactful social-emotional activities for elementary students to build solid social skills and confidence! Also, learn specific examples of how you can use them in your child’s daily routine.
As our children grow and develop, we all know that it’s important to support their emotional growth and well-being alongside their academic progress.
But how do we sneak these important lessons into our children’s homeschool routines?
After teaching elementary school and homeschooling my son, I’ve accumulated a few of my favorite social-emotional activities that I want to share with you. ↓
Here is a FREE social-emotional learning activities pdf full of ideas for you to try with your kids at home. ↓
Pst… if you are new to this world of SEL, SEL stands for social-emotional learning.
It basically means developing social and emotional skills, such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
As I’ve been planning for homeschool and deciding what curriculum to choose for my son’s preschool homeschool this year, I’ve decided that social-emotional learning is one subject I don’t want to miss.
Related Read: Social Emotional Learning Activities for Preschool
I recently gave Lucky Little Learner All Access membership a try and discovered a number of cute social-emotional lessons inside that I’m planning on including in our homeschool this year. Learn more about our experience with the membership here!
Finding ways to teach your children social-emotional learning strategies to add to their routines will set them up to become healthy and successful adults.
Below I’ve provided a list of activities that your elementary-aged kids will love. They can be used in the classroom or at home to promote emotional intelligence and help your children develop important social skills.
Check them out below!
11 Impactful Social-Emotional Activities For Elementary Students
1. Empathy Challenge:
Have social scenarios for kids to choose from a jar and act out. Have a discussion about the scenarios with your children and how putting themselves in someone else’s shoes helped them to understand how the characters felt.
Choose from a Jar:
To set up the empathy challenge, gather a group of children and have them take turns choosing a scenario from the jar. You can start with simple scenarios and gradually move on to more complex ones.
For example, scenarios could be…
“You see a friend crying on the playground. What might they be feeling?”
“Your classmate gets a bad grade on a test they studied hard for. How might they be feeling?”
Encourage kids to think about the emotions that their friend or classmate might be experiencing and consider why they might feel that way.
Picture Book Discussions:
Another idea is to use social-emotional picture books to help children practice empathy. After reading a story, ask your children to talk about how the characters might be feeling and why.
Possible SEL questions for elementary students
“How do you think the character felt when this happened?”
“What might the character be thinking right now?”
This can help children connect with the emotions of the characters and develop a deeper understanding of how others might be feeling in real-life situations.
2. Feelings Journal
Each day, encourage your kids to keep a journal where they can write down their feelings and explore why they may be feeling that way.
Here are some SEL writing prompts that your kids can use for their journals:
- Write about a time when you felt proud of yourself and why.
- Draw a picture of something that makes you happy and explain why.
- Write about a time when you were really angry and what you did to calm down.
- Draw a picture of a place where you feel safe and explain why.
- Write about a time when you felt left out and what you did about it.
- Draw a picture of someone who inspires you and explain why.
To make your child’s journal more creative and personalized, they can add things like:
- Decorate the cover with their favorite colors and designs.
- Use stickers or washi tape to add borders or accents to their entries.
- Include photos or drawings to accompany their writing.
- Create a gratitude section where they write down things they’re thankful for each day.
- Use different colored pens or markers to highlight important words or phrases.
- Add quotes or song lyrics that are meaningful to them.
Encouraging kids to use their journals as a creative outlet and a safe space to express themselves can help them develop their emotional awareness and self-reflection skills.
3. Kindness Chain
Have your kids create a chain of paper links, with each link representing an act of kindness they’ve done for someone else.
To start this activity, give each child a strip of paper to create their first link, and have them write down an act of kindness they have done for someone else.
This could be something as simple as…
- holding the door open for someone
- sharing their toys with a friend
- saying something nice to someone who is feeling down
- create a homemade card for a family member or friend
- make a toy donation to a local charity
- pick up litter in their neighborhood
After they have created their first link, encourage them to continue adding to their chain by performing acts of kindness throughout the day. Be sure to display their chain somewhere they and others can see.
This activity not only promotes kindness but also helps kids see how small acts of kindness can add up to make a big impact.
4. Gratitude jar
Have your kids write down things they’re grateful for on slips of paper and put them in a jar until it is full.
Here are some examples of things to add to the jar that they are grateful for:
- Something they accomplished that made them proud
- A compliment someone gave them
- A favorite memory from the day
- A special moment shared with a friend or family member
- A toy or activity they enjoyed playing with
- A kind gesture someone did for them
Once the jar is full, you can do something special to celebrate! This can include things like:
- Making a special meal or treat together
- Creating a gratitude collage with pictures and words that represent what you’re grateful for
- Having a gratitude scavenger hunt where you look for things around the house or neighborhood that you’re grateful for
- Writing thank-you notes to people who have made a positive impact in your life
- Making a gratitude poster to display in your home as a reminder to be thankful every day
- Encourage them to read the slips on tough days to boost their mood
5. Thought Bubbles
Have your kids create thought bubbles to show what a person in a situation may be thinking or feeling.
To do this activity, either present your child with a photo or have your child draw a picture of people in different scenarios.
Here are some examples of situations that children could draw and create thought bubbles for:
- Two friends having an argument on the playground
- A new boy/girl moving to the neighborhood
- A family member getting upset about something
- Someone winning a prize at the fair
- Watching someone being bullied
- A pet getting lost
Encourage your kids to think about different emotions and perspectives that could be shown in each situation.
For example, in an argument on the playground, one child might be feeling angry and the other might be feeling hurt.
In the situation with a new neighborhood boy/girl, some kids might feel excited to have a new friend, while others might feel nervous or intimidated.
Once they have completed their pictures, encourage them to share their thought bubbles with others and discuss how they came up with their ideas.
6. Appreciation Notes
Encourage your child to write notes to others in their lives, expressing their appreciation and gratitude.
Encouraging your children to express their gratitude towards others can help them develop empathy and positive social skills.
They can write notes to…
- Family members
- Church or group leaders
…or anyone else who has had a positive impact on their lives.
If you want to go above and beyond, encourage your child to write notes with someone they don’t get along with. It may surprise them how it changes their perspective about that person.
Here are some examples of what they could say inside the notes:
- To a family member: “Thank you for always being there for me, and for supporting me in everything I do. I am so grateful to have you in my life.”
- To a teacher: “Thank you for being an amazing teacher and for helping me learn and grow this year. You have inspired me to be the best version of myself.”
- To a friend: “Thank you for being such a good friend to me. You always make me laugh and feel happy, and I appreciate that so much.”
Remind your child to be specific about what they are grateful for and how that person has impacted their life.
7. Positive Affirmation Mirrors
Have your kids create a list of positive affirmations and encourage them to say them to themselves each day as they look inside the mirror.
Positive affirmations are an excellent way to help children develop a positive self-image and increase their self-confidence.
To do this activity, write their messages on sticky notes and place them around the mirror or write directly on the mirror using a dry-erase marker.
Here are some examples of positive affirmations that your child can say:
- I am loved
- I am smart
- I am strong
- I am kind
- I am brave
- I am worthy
- I am unique
- I am talented
- I am capable
- I am enough
Encourage your child to come up with their own affirmations that resonate with them personally.
The more they say these positive affirmations, the more they will believe them and see positive changes in their behavior and mood.
8. Create a Play or Puppet Show with Role-playing
Have kids practice different scenarios, such as conflict resolution or standing up for themselves, through role-playing with puppets or costumes.
Role-playing allows kids to practice different social-emotional skills in a safe environment and helps build their confidence in handling difficult situations. building thinking skills
To get started, encourage your kids to come up with or provide different scenarios like…
- conflict resolution
- Disagreement with a friend over a toy or game
- Resolving an argument with a sibling or friend
- standing up for themselves
- Someone makes fun of your clothes
- Someone takes your toy without asking
- dealing with bullies
- A boy picks on you like a type of food
- You see a girl get teased about her funny shoes
Once they have chosen a scenario, they can create a script or storyboard for their play/puppet show.
Next, they can assign roles to each other and start practicing their lines and actions.
Perform the show for their class or family members to show their creativity and discuss what they’ve learned.
9. Feelings Sculptures
Have kids use playdough or other materials to create a sculpture that represents a feeling.
This activity can help kids learn to identify and communicate their feelings.
To get started, provide each child with a ball of playdough or other molding material like clay, pipe cleaners, beads, or even natural materials like leaves and twigs.
Encourage them to think about a particular feeling, such as happiness, sadness, anger, or fear, and use the playdough to create a sculpture that represents that feeling.
They can create any character or object to represent their emotion like…
- a happy face
- a sad animal
- an angry monster
As they work on their sculptures, ask your kids to describe what they are making and how it relates to the feeling they have chosen. They can also talk about what might have caused them to feel that way.
To make the activity more challenging, you could ask kids to create a sculpture that represents…
- a combination of emotions
- a complex feeling, such as confusion or anxiety.
10. Friendship Bracelets
Have your kids make friendship bracelets for their friends or family members to show appreciation and love.
Before starting the activity, have a conversation with your kids about what friendship means to them. Ask them to think about qualities that make a good friend and how they can show appreciation for their friends.
Provide a variety of materials
Instead of just using string, provide a variety of materials such as beads, charms, and buttons. This will allow for more creativity and personalization.
Include a personal message
Encourage your kids to add a personal message or quote to the bracelet. This could be something meaningful to them or to their friend.
Examples of personal messages:
- “Friends forever”
- “You make me smile”
- “Thanks for being there for me”
- “You’re the best”
- “I appreciate you”
- “Together we can do anything”
- “You’re my rock”
- “You light up my world”
- “I’m lucky to have you as a friend”
11. Self-care Routine
Encourage kids to create a self-care routine that includes activities that help them rejuvenate and develop healthy habits.
Here are some ideas for self-care routine activities:
- Mindful breathing: Teach your child how to do deep breathing exercises to calm their minds and bodies. This is a great activity for before bed or when they’re feeling stressed.
- Gratitude practice: Have your kids write down something they’re grateful for each day in a journal or on a sticky note (see activity above!). This helps promote positive thinking and a more optimistic outlook on life.
- Creative expression: Encourage your kids to express themselves creatively through SEL art activities like crafts, music, or writing. This can help them process their strong emotions and feelings in a healthy way.
- Physical activity: Provide activities to get your kids outside and to move their bodies. Whether it’s playing a sport, going for a walk, or dancing to their favorite music. Physical activity is great for both physical and emotional health.
- Healthy eating: Teach your kids about the importance of healthy eating habits, such as eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water. Encourage them to help prepare healthy meals and snacks.
- Relaxation techniques: Help your kids learn relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery, to help them unwind and de-stress.
It doesn’t matter what you choose, just as long as it fits your child’s needs and interests.
It’s important to encourage your kids to take care of themselves both physically and emotionally and to teach them the value of self-care as they grow into adults.
Bonus Social Emotional Activities!
Over the last few weeks, my son and I have been trying out the Lucky Little Learners All Access Pass and found some pretty fun prep-FREE social-emotional learning activities.
With this pass, we have access to over 17,000 printable resources which has made it easy to customize my son’s learning while we’ve been tackling some social-emotional skills this year. It’s saved me so much time in planning because there is a ready-to-go downloadable resource for just about any topic.
If you’d like to check out the All Access Pass too, you can use my affiliate code (which kindly helps to support my blog – thank you!). Or learn more about the membership with my review of it here.
Want more ideas? How about 65 more social-emotional learning activity ideas! Read this post where I’ve collected 65 of my favorite social-emotional activities for preschoolers.
Pst… don’t let the title “preschoolers” above discourage you from exploring this list if you don’t have a preschooler because these activities can be adapted for ANY age!
Conclusion: 11 Impactful Social-Emotional Activities for Elementary
Incorporating these activities into your children’s daily routines can help them with building thinking skills and improving their overall well-being.
The activities we’ve discussed are just a starting point; there are countless other ways to integrate social-emotional learning into your children’s lives.
With patience, creativity, and consistency, parents, educators, and caregivers can help children develop these vital skills and set them on the path to a happy and successful future.
Hi, I’m Tori! I’m the founder of homeschoolnewbie.com. I’m a former elementary school teacher turned homeschool mama who has a passion for home education! I have 10+ years of experience working with children in all kinds of educational settings. As a new homeschooling parent, my mission is to navigate the world of homeschooling and share with you the best home education practices. If you want to learn more about me, check out my about page. See you there!