How do we teach social-emotional learning (SEL) to our children? Throw in the newness of virtual learning, and many parents and educators are left scratching their heads.
Our team came together to create a virtual Calming Corner to playfully engage children in learning about their emotions. This experiential online playground is a space for children to put on their explorer hats to try different SEL activities, learn new skills, and have some good ole fun.
While playing in the virtual Calming Corner, your children will find:
- Red Bear Guided Meditation:
Children can journey with their PeaceMakers Pal Red Bear. By engaging their senses, children embody being like Red Bear, both powerful and gentle to practice breathing and to ground (or calm) their bodies. Along with their imagination, this guided visualization teaches little ones how to settle into “hibernation” to notice and manage their emotions and behaviors. Play the mediation in the morning to set the tone of the day, before bed to relax, or use it anytime big feelings arise.
- Heart’s Treasure Hunt Story Time:
Where does love live? Heart wants to know! Children can join Heart and the seven PeaceMakers Pals on a playful journey to find out just that - and the answer might surprise you!
With a click of the virtual book, this interactive and educational reading allows children to access their listening bodies, have dance parties, and roar loud like a lion all the while nurturing emotional strength and resilience. Children can playfully learn the skills of noticing and sharing feelings, calming their bodies, and practicing self-love and empathy.
Just click the crayons! Children can access their creative brains by coloring the Mistakes Help Me Learn And Grow and Love Lives In Me sheets. You will also find free resources such as Finger Puppets and Affirmation Bracelets. Art is a helpful way to engage a child’s brain while teaching SEL and academic skills alike.
Click the Time-In ToolKit, SnuggleBuddies, or PeaceMakers cards for informative videos on how to use the tools, packed with ideas for games to teach and use at home.
So, the question on our minds as we settle into virtual learning is likely, why won't our kids just sit still, be quiet, and listen?! Have you ever found yourself wondering or even saying aloud this very thing?
While the quick response may be defiance, the brain science reveals a different answer.
Children aren't born knowing how to sit still, be quiet, and listen. Just as we teach our babies to crawl and then walk, these are skills learned when kids are given guidance and the opportunity for practice. If we want our children to focus to learn their ABCs and 123s, it is helpful to get back to the basics - the foundation of higher-level learning - namely, social and emotional education.
Children are constantly receiving new input as they explore their world, and their brains are working hard to process it. Imagine what it might feel like to be asked to sit when you have a need to move your body. Or what it might be like to have sensations, aka emotions, and not know how to express them. How challenging would it be to focus then?
The most primitive part of the brain is online early in development and prominent for children, causing them to fight, flight, or freeze anytime they feel overwhelmed. When the brainstem is activated, the area responsible for higher-level learning is hijacked, and logical responses such as problem-solving, impulse control, and relationship management are overcome by more primal urges. When a child has these sensations and doesn’t know what to do with them, they feel unsafe and do what they are wired to do - protect themselves against real or perceived threats.
Yet when we teach children how to notice, name, and share their emotions, we develop skills such as personal insight and empathy as well as provide them with tools to manage their bodies. In doing so, they are able to move out of their reactive brainstem and into the learning part of the brain. When this happens, children are better able to access their listening bodies to sit still, be quiet, and listen in developmentally-appropriate increments to enable learning.
Learning Through Play
So, if sitting still, being quiet, and listening is not a means, but rather an endpoint, how do we get there?
When we command and demand it, it likely feels impossible. And while it may not be out of the realm of possibilities, we can pause and ask ourselves if it is developmentally appropriate.
Fortunately, there is a way to navigate it together with your child, on the same team, by meeting them where they are, as they are.
Play is the language of a child, and so when we speak their lingo, learning becomes fun. And when something is enjoyable, there is a huge uptick in their internal motivation to do the task before them.
When we view these behaviors as skills for our children to acquire instead of assuming they are already hardwired, we can find playful ways to teach them.
- Teaching being still through games like freeze tag.
- Teaching impulse control through games of Red Light, Green Light.
- Teaching being quiet and listening through mindfulness activities with a bell or a singing bowl.
- Teaching about emotions through games like Feelings Bingo or singing feelings songs.
Play is not only a fun way to connect, it attunes and builds the brain in a way that feels motivating and safe for the child. Our virtual Calming Corner is an inviting environment for children to learn and practice these skills, strengthening their social and emotional muscles and laying the basis for academic learning, too. Everyone is welcome … everyone is heard … and together we are learning.