Cultivating Social-Emotional Skills in the Summer: Fun Activities for Families
Updated: Aug 31
Summer is a season of warmth, exploration, and growth, providing many families with a unique opportunity to engage in meaningful activities together. As parents, we often prioritize our children's academic achievements, but it's equally important to nurture their social and emotional well-being. Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is a powerful framework that helps children and families develop essential skills for building healthy relationships, managing emotions, and making responsible decisions. By incorporating SEL activities into our summer routines, we can create a supportive environment that fosters empathy, resilience, and positive communication.
As a gift to you, I have developed this free printable summer social-emotional learning calendar. This is perfect for parents to use at home, or if you are a school counselor or educator, you can print these out before the end of the school year and give them out to your students to do with their families over the summer. Every day, Monday through Friday for the months of July and August there are simple discussion prompts or tasks for the children to complete such as:
Draw a picture for someone and share it with them
What helpful thoughts can you choose when your schoolwork is hard?
Role play using I-statements: “I feel ___ when you ____. Can you please ____?”
Make a list of as many coping skills as you can think of
Discuss, write, or draw a list of things that you are thankful for
Ask someone in your family what you can do to help them today
Make a list of thoughts that make you feel happy
Read a book in an interesting or unusual place
Give someone a compliment today
Draw a picture of a very cool imaginary place
Discuss a time you asked for help from someone else
What would you do if your friend pushed you down on purpose?
In this blog post, we will explore the significance of SEL for children and families, as well as activities and ideas incorporating some SEL activities into your summer adventures including building communication skills with family storytelling night and a pen pal project, enhancing emotional regulation with mindful nature walks and journaling, developing empathy and kindness through community service and random acts of kindness (RAK), strengthening relationship skills through family game nights and family meetings, and encouraging self-reflection and goal setting with vision boards.
Fun Summer Social Emotional Learning Activities
Here are some of my favorite social-emotional learning summer activities I have created. I also have a bunch of amazing SEL summer activities in my Summer social-emotional learning activities bundle, or you can purchase them separately as well.
Summer SEL Directed Drawing Activities: If your kids like to draw, this is a fun activity! They have to answer 60 SEL prompts (including CBT, feelings, communication, problem-solving, and more) to unlock steps to create 10 summer-themed drawings.
Kids love directed drawing because they're so much fun! They are also a great tool because they help enhance kid's confidence and self-esteem, while working on their fine motor skills, as well as their ability to focus and pay attention to details.
Summer Would You Rather Yoga Game: This yoga game combines movement with Would You Rather and This or That questions and it comes with 30 pocket-size printable cards, full-page printable posters, and a no-print Google Slides presentations option.
Social-emotional learning competencies address include self-awareness and self-regulation. Research shows that classroom movement and brain breaks result in improvements in behavior, as well as improvements in on-task behavior.
Summer SEL Board Game Bundle: 10 digital and print Summer themed social emotional
board games are included in this fun bundle to review SEL concepts like feelings and perspective taking, problem-solving, expected behavior choices, size of the challenge, and matching the reaction to the challenge. You also get 40 scenario card prompts, rules for playing a game poster, size of the challenge poster, feelings poster, and more! You'll get 2 game boards for each of these topics:
Is this a good choice?
What would you do?
How are they feeling?
What is the size of the challenge?
Does the reaction match the size of the challenge?
Summer Color by Code Feelings Activities: These printable coloring worksheets have kids answer prompts to figure out what color to draw each of the 6 summer themed pictures. Includes 83 various prompts, role-play scenarios, and questions for self-reflection and a digital no-print version too. Includes feelings coloring pages of a watermelon, seashells, sailboat, ice cream and popsicles, flip flops, and a crab.
Summer Dough and Drawing Mats: These fun drawing or play doh mats can be used as a summer activity for exploring feelings in a fun hands on sensory-friendly way! Children can draw on the blank faces or mold dough to discuss what emotions the crab, ice cream, s'more, and sun may be feeling to celebrate the Summer! Includes 40 feelings scenario cards to discuss, feelings cards, and 39 feelings mats.
Building Communication Skills with Family Storytelling Night
In a world dominated by screens and distractions, finding meaningful ways to connect with our loved ones can be a challenge. That's where the power of storytelling comes in. By organizing a Family Storytelling Night, we create an opportunity for everyone to come together, share their personal stories, and truly listen to one another. As each family member takes turns sharing their experiences, challenges, and triumphs, it promotes active listening skills and encourages empathy within the family unit. We learn to appreciate different perspectives, to step into each other's shoes, and to understand the emotions and motivations behind the stories being shared. Whether it's a funny anecdote from a summer vacation or a heartfelt reflection on personal growth, Family Storytelling Night allows us to bond on a deeper level, strengthening the foundation of our communication skills. So, let's ignite our imaginations, and let the power of storytelling bring us closer together as a family. When we gather as a family to share personal stories and experiences, we encourage active listening and empathetic responses.
Fun Tools for Creative Family Storytelling Night
Rory’s Story Cubes My son loves these and we have several different sets! I love these because they are versatile and there are multiple ways to play. You just roll the dice and combine items, characters, places, and animals to create fun stories.
The Storymatic Kids Writing Prompts With these cards, you combine 2 yellow cards to create a character and a blue card for a situation. These were made for fun creative writing activities, but can also be used as a fun storytelling prompt.
Lion in the Way Game This is a fun, silly, and imaginative problem solving card game by Eeeboo where you have a problem or obstacle and you need to come up with creative ways to solve it.
Building Communication Skills with Pen Pal Project
Today it's easier than ever to connect with people from different locations and cultures. The Pen Pal Project offers a wonderful opportunity for families to engage in social-emotional learning while building communication skills. By connecting with friends or family members from different locations, whether across town or across the globe, we open the doors to new perspectives and experiences. Through the exchange of letters, drawings, or emails, family members can share their thoughts, dreams, and daily lives, fostering empathy and understanding. This project encourages active listening as we eagerly read and respond to our pen pals' messages, cultivating a sense of curiosity and appreciation for different cultures and backgrounds. It not only strengthens our writing skills but also deepens our understanding of others and promotes effective communication.
Resources for Help Finding a Pen Pal:
Connect with another child through the Peaceful Pen Pal Project.
Connect with a NASA Astronaut
Connect with an elderly pen pal
Enhancing Emotional Regulation with Mindful Nature Walks
There is so much research about the benefits of getting out into nature! In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, finding moments of tranquility and self-reflection can be challenging. That's where Mindful Nature Walks come in. By exploring nearby parks or nature trails as a family, we create an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the beauty of the natural world while practicing emotional regulation through mindfulness.
As we embark on these walks, we encourage everyone to engage their senses fully, observing the intricate details of the environment around us. Through mindful observation, we can tune in to the rustling leaves, the gentle breeze, and the chirping birds, grounding ourselves in the present moment.
These walks also provide an excellent platform for discussing emotions openly and honestly. As we encounter different sights and sounds, we can reflect on how they make us feel, fostering self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Mindful Nature Walks offer a peaceful respite from the chaos of daily life, allowing us to reconnect with nature and ourselves while building the essential skill of emotional regulation as a family.
Enhancing Emotional Regulation with Journaling
Emotions are a fundamental part of being human, yet understanding and managing them can be a lifelong journey. Introducing a parent-child Feelings Journal into your family routine can be a powerful tool for building emotional regulation skills. By encouraging children to keep a journal of their daily emotions, we create a safe space for them to express themselves openly and honestly. This practice not only helps children develop a vocabulary for their feelings but also promotes self-reflection and self-awareness.
As parents, we can actively engage in conversations about these emotions, validating their experiences and providing support. Together, we can discuss strategies for managing difficult emotions, exploring coping mechanisms such as deep breathing, journaling, or engaging in activities that bring joy. The Feelings Journal becomes a shared journey of growth and understanding, strengthening the parent-child bond and fostering emotional regulation as a family.
I used and enjoyed the Big Life Journal with both of my younger son and my teen son.
Developing Empathy and Kindness Through Community Service
In a world that often seems divided and disconnected, teaching our children the values of empathy and kindness is more important than ever. Community service offers a remarkable opportunity to engage in social-emotional learning as a family, fostering empathy and instilling the importance of giving back.
By participating in community service projects together, we expose our children to different perspectives and life experiences, cultivating their ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Whether it's volunteering at a local shelter, organizing a food drive, or participating in a neighborhood cleanup, these acts of kindness teach our children the power of compassion and the impact they can have on the world around them. Through these experiences, families can engage in meaningful discussions about social issues, encourage critical thinking, and inspire a lifelong commitment to making a positive difference in the world.
By building empathy and kindness through community service, we not only strengthen our family bonds but also create a ripple effect of compassion that extends far beyond our immediate surroundings.
To identify a local organization or cause to support, check out Volunteer Match.
Developing Empathy and Kindness Through Random Acts of Kindness Challenge
In a world where kindness can sometimes feel scarce, instilling empathy and fostering a culture of kindness in our families becomes essential. One effective way to achieve this is by embracing a Random Acts of Kindness Challenge together.
By participating in this challenge, we encourage our children and ourselves to intentionally seek opportunities to spread kindness in our daily lives. It can be as simple as holding the door for someone, writing a heartfelt note to a friend, or performing an act of service for a stranger.
These small acts of kindness create a ripple effect, not only positively impacting the lives of others but also nurturing our own empathy and compassion. The Random Acts of Kindness Challenge sparks conversations within our families about empathy, gratitude, and the power of kindness. It encourages us to actively look for opportunities to make a difference, to consider the needs of others, and to cultivate a deep sense of empathy. As we embark on this challenge together, let's spread kindness like confetti and create a world that thrives on empathy and compassion, one random act at a time.
For ideas about random acts of kindness, check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas
Strengthening Relationship Skills Through Family Game Nights
Finding quality time to bond as a family can sometimes feel like a challenge. However, one activity that can foster connection and strengthen relationship skills is the classic tradition of Family Game Nights!
Beyond the fun and laughter they provide, these game nights offer an excellent opportunity for social-emotional learning for each of the family members. By engaging in various games together, such as board games, card games, or cooperative team-building activities, we encourage cooperation, communication, and teamwork.
Family members learn to take turns, strategize, and work together towards a common goal, building important relationship skills. Game nights also promote healthy competition, teaching children the value of good sportsmanship and graciously winning and losing. For more ideas and resources for teaching children to be good sports, be sure to check out these blog posts.
These shared experiences create lasting memories and strengthen the bonds between family members, enhancing trust, respect, and open communication. Here are some of the games my family enjoys on Family Game Night to help us build stronger, more meaningful relationships within our family circle.
Monopoly Deal: Classic monoploy can be a really long game for a game night, but monoploy deal is a fun 15 minute card game version of the classic game! I actually enjoy this more than traditional monopoly.
Carcassonne: This is a super fun strategy game where you build a medeival city through placing down tile cards. There are also expansion packs available.
What do you Meme? Family Edition: This game is really funny You just combine images with meme sayings to create the funniest combination.
Exploding Kittens: We love to play this game! It's easy to learn, you can play in 15 minutes, and you can get expansion packs if you have a big family.
Tacos vs. Burrito: This is another really fun 15 minute card game that I enjoy as much as my kids.
A Game of Cat and Mouth: This is a silly game that is kind of like pinball where you take a cat's paw to fling marbles into your opponent's side. It is quick, competitive, and super fun!
Strengthening Relationship Skills Through Family Meetings
Carving out dedicated time for open and honest communication within our families is crucial. One effective way to accomplish this is by implementing regular Family Meetings, which can serve as a powerful tool for social-emotional learning and building strong relationship skills.
By scheduling these meetings, we create a safe and structured space for family members to come together, discuss, and resolve conflicts in a respectful and constructive manner. During these meetings, active listening becomes a paramount skill, allowing each family member to feel heard and understood.
Practicing active listening also involves showing empathy and validating each other's perspectives. Additionally, family meetings provide an opportunity to practice compromise and problem-solving, teaching children and adults the importance of considering others' needs and finding mutually beneficial solutions.
To make family meetings effective, it is important to establish and follow some ground rules such as taking turns speaking, using "I" statements to express feelings, and ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute.
By incorporating family meetings into our routine, we foster a culture of open communication, trust, and collaboration, ultimately strengthening the bonds within our family and equipping each member with valuable relationship skills that will extend far beyond the meeting room.
For more tips on holding Family Meetings check out the Center for Parenting Education.
Exploring Feelings with Games!
I created this cute pineapple free printable feelings matching puzzle set to share with you to help your kids explore feelings this summer! I combined this printable with the Big Feelings Pineapple, and it is sure to open up great conversations and give hours of exploring and fun for your kids!
Encouraging Self-Reflection and Goal Setting Through Vision Board Creation
Self-reflection and goal setting are vital skills that can empower children to navigate life with intention and purpose. By introducing vision board creation as a tool for social-emotional learning within our families, we provide a tangible and creative outlet for self-reflection and goal setting.
Vision boards are visual representations of our aspirations, dreams, and values, created through the compilation of images, words, and symbols that resonate with us. You can make a digital vision board through canva or powerpoint, or a hands-on art project vision board with magazines, scissors, and glue sticks.
As a family, we can gather together to create our individual vision boards, sparking meaningful conversations about our hopes, desires, and personal growth. Through this process, we encourage self-reflection, as we ponder what truly matters to us and what we want to achieve.
By sharing our vision boards, we foster open communication, support one another's aspirations, and cultivate a sense of accountability. Setting goals becomes a collaborative effort, with family members providing encouragement, suggestions, and resources to help one another thrive.
Vision board creation not only cultivates self-awareness and intentionality within individuals but also strengthens the bonds within our family, as we cheer each other on towards our dreams and discuss the importance of setting achievable goals and tracking and celebrating our progress.
Social-emotional learning provides the foundation for healthy relationships, effective communication, and emotional well-being. By engaging in activities such as storytelling nights, pen pal projects, nature walks, and community service, families can strengthen their communication skills, empathy, emotional regulation, and relationship building.
These activities create a nurturing environment where family members can connect, grow, and learn together. Summer is a great time to focus on SEL but it is also important to remember that the benefits of social-emotional learning extend beyond the summer too.
By continuing these practices throughout the whole year, we can allow these skills to become more ingrained in our family dynamics. The long-term benefits of developing social-emotional skills as a family are immeasurable. They lay the groundwork for lifelong emotional intelligence, resilience, and positive well-being. So, let's commit to the ongoing practice of social-emotional learning activities, cherishing the growth, connection, and joy they bring to our families for years to come.