Helping kids become more more self aware is a skill that can help with emotional regulation, goals, executive functioning skills, goal achievement, and so much more. Today, I’ve got self-awareness activities for kids in the form of a free Google slide deck. This is a powerful social emotional development tool for kids. Use these awareness activities to help kids become more aware of how they feel, the things they are good at, personal goals, interests, and positive traits. You’ll find the animal themed activities below. First, let’s discuss awareness for kids.
Self awareness for kids
For kids and adults alike, self-awareness is a means to become more aware of how they are behaving and thinking. Using that awareness of self and applying the ability to self-monitoring through strategies can help with improved behavioral outcomes. When we respond to situations, most of us have a monitoring system or the ability to monitor how we feel, think, and act so that we can respond appropriately. Self monitoring leads to behavioral responses and functioning so we are able to complete tasks in a given situaion.
Being aware of one’s needs, goals, emotional state, thoughts, behaviors, and responses can help within a situation. Awareness offers an opportunity for the need for self-care and self-advocacy.
All of our life experiences, including functioning in day-to-day tasks, learning, and social participation requires self-reflection or an awareness of self. Without self awareness, learning, participation, following rules, social interactions, lawfulness, and all aspects of occupational performance may be threatened.
Self-awareness is a skill that allows for emotional regulation and behavioral regulaiton. For some, these are extremely difficult. When awareness of one’s preferences, tendencies, emotions, reactions, one can begin to understand their needs. Having a sensory diet in place as part of a sensory lifestyle is just one tool to address sensory needs. Using coping strategies to help with regulation needs can be a life-changer. Using stress reduction tools to address anxiety or anger can be powerful in adapting. There are tools to address specific needs of all kinds. One of the first steps in identifying needs is the understanding of self-awareness.
For more information on integrating a sensory diet into a sensory lifestyle, try the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook, a comprehensive resource in integrating functional sensory diet based on individual interests in a motivating manner.
Development of self awareness
For children, the ability to self-monitor and be aware of their thoughts, skills, abilities, interests, emotions, and behaviors, these skills may be challenges.g It takes practice and experience for a child to have the ability to self-reflect. Research tells us that self-awareness begins to develop in childhood, but involves metacognition, or interospection. Metacognition is a skill that is acquired later in childhood, in the adolescent years.
One study of metcognition has found that the skill develops at a functional level for basic metacognitive skills around age 13 to 14. More generalized or advanced metacognition develops around age 15. This study also determined that between the age of 12 and 15 years teenagers develop in qualitiy of metacognitive skills, however this development varies between individuals. Aspects of higher level cognition skills such as those commonly discussed when covering executive functioning skills impact self-reflection: orientation, planning, evaluation, and elaboration. Like other aspects of executive functioning, self-awareness and reflection (metacognition) develops until at least the age of 22.
Another aspect of executive functioning, working memory, is a skill that impacts metacognition and self-reflection. Younger teens have been observed to have a lower level metacognitive skills that are applied to single situations or limited transfer of skill. Older teens, as metacognition develops, are capable of transfer of metacognition across environments. This higher-level inference involves conscious formulation of abstractions in one situation that allows for making a connection to another situation.
Self awareness examples
In the self awareness slide deck you’ll find below, there are several main areas covered. These are essential pieces of the self reflection and self monitoring puzzle.
Identification of positive traits- Knowing what they are good at. The slide deck prompts kids to identify 5 things they are good at. This exercise is a booster in self-esteem and can be a starting point for addressing goals.
Compliments- Learning to identify what others are good at and telling them is an important skill. Authentic compliments identify positive traits in others. Noticing these details about others builds an awareness of oneself as well as others.
Emotions- The first step of emotional development is identifying emotions. We can see by the faces someone makes how they are feeling. Putting a label to that emotion is a strong skill.
Emotional self-awareness- Moving on, kids can describe how they are feeling at any given moment. They can identify how they might feel in a situation. Then, they can identify coping tools and put words into their feelings and emotions.
Growth mindset- This skill is powerful in self-awareness and metacognition. Using a growth mindset allows room for development in your internal belief system. You have room to learn and develop as a person and understand that there is room for improvement regarding behaviors or actions. This mindset, when it comes to self awareness, limits self-judgement and hopelessness.
Interests- Identifying interests is a first-step in self-awareness. Our Sensory Lifestyle Handbook covers interests and motivation in great detail. The research tells us that interests impact motivation and goal achievement. Looking deeper into oneself to identify interests is a great first step.
Goals- Goals don’t need to be all about behaviors and actions. A beginning step can be identifying goals that others might have and the steps it takes to get there. A simple goal achievement path builds skills in planning, prioritization, organization, and other executive functioning skills.
Setting goals- A higher level task of setting goals covers self-reflection as well as those items covered in goal achievement. Kids can be guided to set goals that are important, achievable, satisfying, and motivating. Then, identifying milestones and the steps to get there can make it easier to achieve, making them motivating and a self-confidence booster.
Self awareness activities
Setting one’s own goals- Setting goals can be helpful for kids as they learn to work toward a meaningful goal. This process helps them learn focus, planning, prioritization, self-esteem and goal achievement. Setting goals and identifying goals impact self awareness. Part of goal setting includes getting super clear on what’s important to a child. Kids can examine their process and identity actions they’ve taken toward those goals. They can identify what’s working and what hasn’t worked. They can create a plan for moving forward. All parts of this process improves self-awareness through self-reflection.
Provide opportunities for kids to self-reflect- Ask questions based on concrete acquisition of knowledge and open up conversations such as, “Before, I thought… Now, I think…”
Role playing (role reversal)- Kids can sometimes “see” how their actions or reactions impact themselves and others when the situation is acted out. Coping tools or strategies can be used in the role play as a practice run.
Zone of regulation activities- Using Zones of regulation activities to address self-awareness is an effective strategy for many children. The Zones program was developed to help kids learn a greater internal awareness while using self-regulatory behaviors and emotional adaptive skills for functional use.
Keep a journal- Keeping a record of small wins, mini goals, struggles, efforts, and day-to-day progression can be so powerful for kids (and adults!) The Impulse Control Journal is a comprehensive resource that can be printed off and used over and over again as a journal for addressing and building executive functioning skills, including the essential component of self awareness.
Goal Attainment Scaling- This AOTA article shares examples of how goal attainment scaling can be used to measure changes in individual behaviors using a self-rating scale for specific actions in response to goals. This self-awareness strategy offers a means for the child and their therapist to track progress on goals to help accomplish individual goals and accomplish a specific aspect of functioning, or occupation.
Self-cuing- Using self cuing is a tool to help recall instructions, coping strategies, tactics, or even a visual prompt that delivers a step-by-step directive in a situation. Visual prompts can be as simple as a list, or a social story that is visible or accessible during a situation. These visual reminders can be a building block for self-awareness and reinforcement of strategies that have been determined to work for an individual.
Video modeling- Making a video recording of a child within a treatment session can be another way to help the individual see how they are responding in a situation. They can then watch their actions, behaviors, and choices as well as use of coping tools or modulation strategies within a situation. The video should be reviewed with the child and discussed what they did well and what might work better next time.
These self awareness slides use an animal theme to help kids become more aware of them self through self-reflection. The slides work through the aspects of self awareness that we outlined above. Beginning skills are covered and kids can work on each area in a fun and creative way.
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Foster L. and Lueger, K. (2014). Model Behavior: Helping Adolescents With Autism Through Goal Attainment Scaling and Video Self-Modeling. OT Practice 19(2), 7–9. http://dx.doi.org/10.7138/otp.2014.192f1.