Most classrooms have (or should have!) social and emotional learning built into their routines. But in the summer, kids often miss out on these important lessons. Luckily, that doesn’t mean students have to experience social or emotional setbacks during their break from school. SEL can be included in all of your exciting summer activities with a bit of creative planning.
But before we dive into how parents can increase summer social-emotional learning, let’s dive into what SEL is, and why year-round practice is important in the first place.
What is SEL and why is it important to continue in the summer?
SEL stands for social and emotional learning. It’s an area of education that teaches students to understand, feel, and express their emotions, as well as develop empathy for others. In recent years, with young children experiencing a pandemic, a rise in virtual experiences, school violence and bullying, and more, SEL has become more significant than ever before.
A few of SEL’s most outstanding, research-backed benefits include:
- 9% improvement in attitude about students selves, others, and schools
- 9% improvement in classroom behaviors
- 11% improvement in achievement test scores
- 9% decrease in anxiety, depression, and other emotional stressors
And this is just the start of what strong social and emotional skills can do for kids!
Five ideas to create summer social and emotional learning opportunities
We’re not saying you need to sit your children down with lesson plans and worksheets this summer, though you can use this guide from Palm Beach County Schools if you’d like to dig deeper. Social-emotional skills can be strengthened through everyday activities (including the special activities you normally add to your summer family fun!)
#1: Read, read, and read
Not only can reading be used as a coping tool for student stress, but children can also learn from social-emotional occurrences in stories. For example, if the main character in a book is arguing with a friend, your young reader will take in their conflict resolution techniques and more. If the characters are on a mission to end bullying, your child will have the opportunity to build empathy with every page.
Wondering where to start when it comes to finding books for summer social-emotional learning? Almost every read can benefit kids in this way, so don’t stress! Just let your child pick the books they like best and watch their growth take place.
#2: Spend time outside
Our kids are getting more screen time and less fresh air every day. This summer, make an effort to change that. Fresh air, exercise, and favorite hobbies can all help improve emotional health. Activities like summer sports leagues and camps can strengthen social skills as well.
#3: Give kids opportunities to get creative
Art at its core is self-expression. By giving your children more opportunities to get creative, you’ll be teaching them the benefits of letting their emotions out in a positive manner firsthand. Who knows, maybe they’ll discover a new favorite hobby that can help them express their emotions when future hard times come along.
#4: Volunteer as a family
With the extra time you have this summer, consider volunteering at a local nonprofit or event. By doing so, you will be helping them to develop and strengthen empathy, relationship skills, social awareness, and more.
#5: Dig deep at the dinner table
Every night while you eat dinner together, try to talk about summer social-emotional learning. Don’t use that phrase specifically — just bring up emotions. Ask your child how they felt today and why. If they had a hard time, go over some coping techniques and scenarios that could help similar experiences in the future. Even if their emotions are good ones, take the time to label them. After all, teaching kids to recognize and share their feelings is one of the most important pieces of SEL.
All in all, summer social-emotional learning is fairly simple. Just get your kids involved in healthy activities and talk to them often about how they’re feeling. We’re confident that any of the activities above will give your learners a boost in SEL skills before their next school year comes around.