Fun Fall Counseling and Social Emotional Learning Activities
Updated: Sep 3
Can you feel it? That crispness is beginning to sneak into the wind. A coolness that is starting to tickle at your nose. It will not be long before the bright green of leaves starts to turn vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges.
The Fall season is upon us.
Fall is a beautiful and magical time of year for many people. The weather becomes a perfect blend of sunny days and chilled breezes. For many, it's a fulfilling season of sports, with football starting and baseball coming to an end. For others, it's a time for apple picking and pumpkin carving. And still, for others, it’s a time to be someone (or something) else and gather with family for food and merriment.
Fall is a beautiful time of year to savor. The season can also be a great learning opportunity for students when considering all of the festivals and activities. So we will blend some traditional aspects of the season with activities that can help students grow and learn.
As Americans, we have our traditions during this festive time of year. Yet, what is familiar to us in America, is not common to many around the world. More so, some of our neighbors have traditions of their own that are meaningful to their culture. There is beauty in the various cultures that surround us and beautiful opportunities that can expand our knowledge. Let's take a look at what the Fall season brings.
In this post I will share a bunch of engaging, fun, and creative counseling interventions for Fall, Halloween, and Thanksgiving, including: would you rather yoga games, feelings puzzles, feelings color by code activities, affirmations and feelings mazes, expected behavior games, feelings play-doh and drawing mats, SEL directed drawing, CBT football game, an I-statement problem-solving game, Fall counseling board games, memory games, and more!
Culturally Competent Counseling
We live in a diverse world, and being sensitive to the needs of different cultures is a necessity in our field. People worldwide enjoy the Fall or Autumn season, and we can learn fascinating facts about people, traditions, and holidays that surround us. When we combine holidays with strategies that help children learn about others and themselves, they can grow into competent young people.
I have been blessed to work in a diverse school district where I have been able to learn a lot about many different holidays and cultural traditions. I wanted to briefly share some Fall celebrations from around the world here, as your students may be talking about these as well.
Whenever doing holiday activities with children, it’s important to not make assumptions about what holidays they do and do not celebrate. A great beginning of the year getting to know you activity to help students increase self and social awareness is to have them create an image of their favorite holiday. This can lead to some good discussions and learning opportunities for you and the other students! I have this freebie available to you in my resource library, just subscribe above for access.
I’ve worked with many students who don’t celebrate Halloween, so I make sure I assess the student’s needs. So I make sure to have holiday-themed activities, as well as non-holiday (Seasonal) activities!
Fall Celebrations Around the World
Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated from November 1st to November 2nd in Mexico and Latin America. This is a celebration to honor family and loved ones who have passed away. This festival was born from Aztec culture and is colorful, fun, and celebrates the importance of life. If you would like a lovely story about this holiday, then you should watch Disney’s Coco.
It’s important to remember those we love. When those memories circulate in our minds, they bring feelings of joy, sadness, and fulfillment.
In Ghana, Homowo (Festival of Yams) occurs in August or September. People celebrate the hope that the crops will be bountiful for the coming year, and no one will experience famine. Their most prized crop is the yam, and everyone brings what they have has a family to share in the celebration. The festival also has a competitive spirit, as families want to be the ones with the most significant crop. The villagers rejoice by dancing and singing with animal masks, acknowledging the end of the rainy season and desiring a bountiful harvest to last well into the new year.
Loi Krathong is the festival of light in Thailand. On the evening of the full moon of the 12th in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, honor is given to the goddess of water. To celebrate hope and light, the people release candles on small floating vessels called krathongs to rivers, lakes, ponds, and even swimming pools.
Diwali is India's festival lights which celebrates abundance and light conquering darkness. This holiday marks the Hindu New Year and falls in October or November. For five days, Hindu Indians light oil lamps and candles around their houses, set off colorful fireworks, design vibrant patterns of sand, exchange gifts, buy new clothes as a symbol of welcome, and express a general feeling of joy for the upcoming year.
Sometime in September or October, the Chinese people have their Moon Festival. This celebration has three main focuses, which are gathering with family, Thanksgiving, and praying. It is believed that flowers will fall from the sky on the night of the moon's birthday, and those who saw them descend would be blessed with great abundance. People all over China light incense sticks, spend time with family and give each other mooncakes (sweet round pastries filled with red bean or lotus seed paste).
You may be familiar with the “drinking” part of Oktoberfest, but do you know how this new international celebration began? The festival started in 1810 as a royal wedding for a Bavarian prince and his princess. The world's largest Oktoberfest welcomes 6 to 7 million people to Munich, Germany, and has become a family-friendly festival with parade, music, games, pretzels, and sausages. Games are an engaging way to work with kids on specific social-emotional skills! See below for some of the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Autumn/Fall themed social emotional learning games I play with kids!
Sukkot is a biblical holiday celebrated in Israel on the 15th day of Tishrei (between late September and late October). People of Jewish descent reflect on the struggle of Israelites during their 40-year travel through the desert. For seven days, Israel is packed with joyous celebrations and is referred to in Jewish literature as the "Season of our Rejoicing." The word Sukkot means "booths," which refers to the name of the temporary dwellings celebrators live in to remember the 40 years of wandering. However, the holiday also holds agricultural meaning and celebrates the annual harvest that nourishes all the people.
There are many holidays in the fall season, but what about the festivals that celebrate the season? All across the U.S., numerous festivals focus on the beauty of the season. In particular is the Ellicottville Fall Festival in Ellicottville, New York. Timed perfectly to western New York’s peak foliage, this festival, which also features food, live entertainment, and carnival rides, is the perfect excuse to get outdoors and take in the autumnal views.
The colors in Ellicottville are mesmerizing. Seeing such an array of vibrance can bring feelings of warmth, happiness, calm, and thankfulness. Such a picturesque scene can be used to teach children about their feelings. How does a color match what is going on inside them? Being able to identify feelings can help children understand themselves and communicate with others more effectively.
There are also the benefits of coloring itself. Coloring can help children relax and release emotions, promotes creativity and self-expression, and builds concentration and focus. The Fall is an excellent time of year to complete a color by code feelings activity with students. You can grab these Autumn color by code feelings activities in a bundle, or individually.
All Hallows Eve or Halloween is considered a big holiday to many children (and some adults). Halloween can be one of the most enjoyable times of the Fall. There are costumes, parties, pumpkin-carving and of course candy, candy, candy! Did you know that one-quarter of all candy purchases in the U.S. are a result of Halloween? But it's important to remember that not all of your students will celebrate Halloween!
Even though we associate specific actions and activities with holidays such as Halloween, this can be a great time introducing something "different" into the mix. If we think outside the box for a few minutes, something totally off the wall will come to us. Let’s skip the few minutes. How about we combine Halloween with, wait for it, yoga!
The candy will be everywhere, but it's not that great for our health (especially our teeth). Introducing a healthy activity such as yoga can expand our students' horizons. Marlynn Wei, a contributing editor for Harvard Health Publishing, writes, “Yoga and mindfulness offer psychological benefits for children as well. A growing body of research has already shown that yoga can improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, and classroom behavior, and can even reduce anxiety and stress in children.”
Would You Rather Yoga Activities
Why not give your students a “brain break” with these fun Would You Rather Fall yoga activities? And you can get all my yoga activities at a huge discount here!
These activities combine multiple things kids love: the holidays, would you rather and this or that questions, and engaging movement brain boosts! You can get my entire growing bundle of yoga activities at a huge discount here, or purchase the Fall, Thanksgiving, or Halloween sets separately. These sets are versatile and come in both digital and print editions.
These are great because there are 2 size printable versions and a digital version. I love to use the no-prep digital version and just project it onto the smart board!
A Time of Gratitude
The fall season brings one of the most gracious holidays, Thanksgiving. The tradition of this holiday dates back hundreds of years for Americans. With this perfect holiday comes delicious food, family, and friends, bringing a beautiful feeling of gratitude.
Gratitude is rooted in the Latin word gratia, meaning grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what a person has or receives in their life. Research has proven that gratitude is associated with greater happiness. It helps give people more positive emotions, relive good experiences, improve health, face adversity better, and help nurture relationships (which is sometimes needed during the holidays).
Children need to learn how to express and feel gratitude. It helps to decrease stress; children spend less time comparing themselves to others, allows them to feel empathy, and creates a conducive environment (including in the classroom).
Fun Fall Counseling and Autumn Social Emotional Learning Games and Activities
Behavior games help to teach kids the importance of gratitude. Connecting these games with the Fall season allows children to associate their feelings, emotions, and special events.
If you are interested in these seasonal games, you can take a look at them here.
Here are some of my Halloween, and Thanksgiving themed activities, as well as non-holiday (Seasonal) Autumn/Fall activities that my students enjoy!
Kids love these fun self-correcting, differentiated Feelings Puzzles which come in a Fall, Halloween, and Thanksgiving set. Perfect for centers, early-finishers, individual counseling, or small group work! There is a 2 piece set and a 3 piece set with the scenario. Check them out!
Feelings Color by Code
Coloring is such a regulating activity. This is the reason they sell so many adult coloring books each year! And here is another versatile set because it comes with a digital and a differentiated print edition. You can buy each one separately, as a Fall bundle, or at a huge discount in my four seasons all year long bundle. Each coloring activity has different questions and prompts to figure out which colors to use.
Social-Emotional Learning Mazes
These mazes are so fun because they allow kids to work on their grit, while practicing saying positive affirmations, self-esteem, and identifying feelings. Bonus, you can informally look at visual perceptual and fine motor skills as well - to see if a referral to an occupational therapist migth be beneficial. There is a dice that comes with them to roll when they get to a feeling to help enhance the discussion. Right now I've got a Halloween maze set and a Thankgiving maze set and this Fall maze set.
Expected Behavior Games
Help kids work on self-awareness, self-management, and responsible decision-making with this fun digital and print expected and unexpected Halloween behavior game. I've also got a Fall expected and unexpected behavior game, a Thanksgiving expected behavior game, and a growing bundle of all my expected behavior games here.
These self-correcting digital social skills games also comes with a print edition. A fun social-emotional learning activity for the Autumn season. Each set comes with 30 different expected and unexpected behavior choices to review and discuss! Social-emotional learning competencies addressed include self-awareness, self-management, and responsible decision-making.
Dough and Drawing Mats
These dough and drawing mats have been a huge hit with my lower-elementary students and honestly, I have fun playing with them too! I laminate them to use with dry-erase markers and play-doh, or use the black-and-white versions for drawing sheets. They also come with feelings cards and dice to extend the conversations.
I've got an Autumn set which comes with 43 feelings mats in acorn, leaf, football, and sunflower and 36 scenario cards.
A Halloween set which comes with 44 different feelings mats in pumpkin, witch, frankenstein, and mummy and 40 scenario cards.
A Thanksgiving set which comes with 49 feelings mats in turkey, corn, pie, and dishes and 40 scenario cards.
Fall SEL Directed Drawing
Head over to this blog post if you want to learn more about how I use SEL directed drawing in small groups as a fun intervention in my role as a school counselor. With SEL Guided Drawing, there are questions or prompts on different topics like communication, social skills, problem solving, feelings, cognitive behavioral therapy, social-emotional learning, and more. Each of the SEL prompts is answered or discussed, which then unlocks each step for the student to create their own drawing.
Each SEL Directed Drawing set also includes editable versions of the presentations so you can customize the prompts for your classroom, clients, or students! This is very helpful so you can differentiate to any child you are working with. I've also included a worksheet with all the drawing steps on one-page, which is a perfect printable worksheet for early finishers in the classroom, or to keep in your calm corner.
CBT Football Game
Fall is a great season for football, and many kids love this Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) Inspired Catch It, Check It, Change It Game. Using a football theme, help children learn how to pay attention to their thoughts (catch it), identify whether thoughts are helpful or unhelpful (check it), and reframe unhelpful thoughts into more helpful thoughts (change it.) A fun and useful resource for counselors, social workers, and psychologists!
Apple of my I-Statement Game
Apples are another theme for Fall - and so I combined Apples with one of my favorite strategies to teach at the beginning of the year: I-Statements.
A FUN game to teach conflict resolution, communication, and problem-solving skills by using a simple I-Statement or I-Message social script! This is a self-correcting game to solve social problems. Social-emotional learning areas addressed including self-awareness, social awareness, and responsible decision-making.
This game can be played through Google Slides™ and there are also 42 printable problem-solving task cards, an I-Statement poster, I-Statement script handouts, and a feelings poster included. The task cards come in both color and black-and-white versions.
Start the school year off right by pre-teaching problem-solving skills to help prevent problems before they happen with this fun game!
Fall-Themed Counseling and SEL Board Games
I also have this bundle of 10 Fall-Themed Counseling and SEL Board Games that comes with 40 scenario cards and 10 digital and print board games that cover 5 SEL topics. Topics covered include:
✔ Is this a good choice? Use this game to discuss if the behavior is a good choice or a poor choice.
✔ What would you do? Use this game to discuss what the child would do if they were in that situation.
✔ How are they feeling? Use this game to discuss what each of the people in the scenario may be feeling and why. This helps work on perspective-taking and emotional identification skills by discussing how they might feel if they were in that situation.
✔ What is the size of the challenge? Use this game to first figure out if there is a challenge or not. If there is a problem, they can then identify what the size of the challenge or problem is.
✔ Does the reaction match the size of the challenge? Use this game to decide first, if there is even a challenge or problem or not. If there is, discuss whether the reaction matches the size of the challenge or not. If not, they can then discuss what reaction would be more appropriate for the situation.
Playing memory games can help to remember in detail. Games can improve brain functions, like our attention, concentration, visual recognition, short-term memory, and focus.
Join my free resource library to grab a copy of this free feelings cat memory game for your students to enjoy!
When they make a feelings match they can describe a time they felt that way, or show what that feeling looks like with their facial expression and body language.
Here is a free memory game your students will enjoy.
Fall, Halloween, and Thanksgiving Counseling and SEL Activity Bundles
If you want to save some money and try a variety of the activities mentioned in this blog post, check out these 3 bundles!
Fall SEL Activity Bundle includes 6 creative and engaging activities including a would you rather yoga game, an expected behavior digital and print game, a color by code feelings activity, drawing and dough mats with scenario cards, feelings puzzles, and a CBT directed drawing activity.
Halloween SEL Activity Bundle comes with feelings matching puzzles, expected and unexpected behavior game, positive affirmations and feelings mazes, would you rather yoga, and three color by code feelings activities.
Thanksgiving SEL Activity Bundle comes with feelings matching puzzles, expected and unexpected behavior game, positive affirmations and feelings mazes, would you rather yoga, and three color by code feelings activities.
Blyth, N. (2018, October 31). 10 autumn traditions around the world. relocateguru. https://www.relocateguru.io/post/10-autumn-traditions-around-the-world.
Giving thanks can make you happier. Harvard Health. (2021, August 14). https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier.
Marlynn Wei, M. D. (2016, January 29). More than just a game: Yoga for school-age children. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/more-than-just-a-game-yoga-for-school-age-children-201601299055.