Penguin I Spy PDF

Penguin I Spy PDF

Today, you’ll find a free printable Penguin I Spy PDF worksheet that you can print off and use for targeting several areas of development. We love using I Spy activities with real toys or with printable worksheets because of the many ways to address visual discrimination, eye-hand coordination, visual figure ground, visual attention, coloring, number formation, and so many other areas. Let’s break this down with a penguin themed I Spy worksheet.

You’ll also love these penguin activities that can be combined with this I spy PDF.

Penguin I spy PDF

Penguin I Spy PDF

What I love about this kind of pdf printable is its versatility.  The session could be a social emotional exercise on identifying emotions, a visual perceptual task matching the faces, a visual motor task coloring/cutting/pasting the penguins, a game of BINGO or a combination of all of these.

A side note about using printable resources like this Penguin I Spy in therapy sessions…

Today during therapy sessions, we were talking about winter and snow.  I came to a couple of conclusions.  Children who are from South Carolina can NOT name ten things to do in the snow.  They also do not understand ice skating, snow shoes, sledding, ice fishing, or the difference between skiing and snowboarding.  One of my students exclaimed that he would like to move to Antarctica, but only where the penguins are.  He said, “unlike penguins; polar bears, seals, and other arctic animals like to eat people.”  

Almost all of the posts I write talk about how to grade and modify activities.  On the fly, I had to grade and modify this task for every student today.  An independent writing activity became long discussions, google searches to discuss snow shoes and ice fishing, copying from a model (they can’t spell skiing if they do not know what it is), along with a little bit of letter formation/sizing/line placement.  As an OT, this is what we do.  Adapt and modify.

Because my student showed an interest in penguins, I decided to use this as a platform for an upcoming treatment session.  Check out some of the other posts by typing “penguins” into the search bar on the OT Toolbox.  An entire week-long lesson plan can be made out of one simple idea.

To kick off my penguin theme I will be using this Penguin I Spy Emotions free printable.  I will throw in some talk of emotions and maybe a little humor.  What would it feel like to be chased by a polar bear?  How would you feel if you had a penguin for a pet? This is one way to incorporate self-regulation and emotional coping tools in the discussion.

Because students are fluid learners and unpredictable, the task may need to be modified for each student or adapted on the spot. 

How to use a Penguin I Spy PDF

You can use this penguin I spy PDF in several different ways. Print off the I spy PDF and modify the worksheet for each student depending on the needs of the individual learner.

How can this task be modified?

  • Add elements to make it more difficult such as cutting on the lines or writing the name of the emotions under each penguin
  • Make it easier by having all the pieces pre cut
  • Laminate the page and add velcro dots to make this reusable (using velcro dots is a great way to build finger strength).  This also takes out the visual motor task of cutting and coloring, making the focus more concentrated on visual perception
  • Talk about each of the emotions and have learners name something that would elicit that emotion
  • Change the weight of the paper for easier/harder cutting
  • Make it a social activity by creating a game such as BINGO, Memory Match, or Hide and Seek.
  • Add a gross motor element by scattering the pieces all over the room
  • Add a sensory element by putting the pieces in a snow themed bin
  • Project this onto a smart board to make it interactive

The penguin I spy PDF at the bottom of this page can be combined with our Penguin Therapy Kit, as well as the other penguin resources here on the site.

Gross Motor – Use these yoga positions to incorporate gross motor skills. Click here for the penguin yoga activities.

Executive Functioning Activity – Try making these penguin snacks for a family treat.

Self-Regulation Activity– This penguin deep breathing activity can be a coping tool or a sensory strategy to help with self-regulation skills.

Emotions Game- This free penguin emotions therapy slide deck challenges kids to identify emotions based on facial expressions.

If you prefer all of your treatment ideas in one bundle, the OT Toolbox has a Penguin Therapy Kit deal going on right now for the Penguin Therapy Kit!

Every day I look for humor in my job.  Let’s face it, kids are funny!  While not so funny that these kids had so little knowledge about winter snow, it WAS funny that one student stated “in the snow you stay inside and drink hot cocoa.” Another student somehow knew nothing about snow, but told me how you have to lay on the ice if it is cracking.  Lastly there was the little girl who worked so diligently on this task, then out of nowhere stated she wants a hamster for her birthday, and could we look that up on Google too (for the record, we did).

Flexibility is synonymous with Occupational Therapist.  The more flexible you are able to be, the more fun you are able to have doing this amazing job.  Flexibility is looking up hamsters, suddenly describing what snowshoes are for, or somehow making your failing activity a success!

I’m thinking that the boy who said snow is for indoors and hot cocoa is onto something.

Free Penguin I Spy PDF

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    Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

    How to Encourage Growth Mindset Mistakes

    growth mindset mistakes

    When using a growth mindset mistakes can help you grow! Rather than thinking our intelligence is fixed and unchanging, the growth mindset encourages people to see their abilities as things that can improve. Here, we’re covering why it is important to teach students the growth mindset. You’ll also find strategies to move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset when mistakes happen.

    Growth mindset mistakes

    Growth Mindset Mistakes

    In life we strive to be perfect. Some of the best inventions have come from mistakes.  For children (and adults), it can be a real challenge when simple mistakes happen. Errors happen all day long: in math problems, in conversation, in the classroom, or in a myriad ways!

    The problem is when these mistakes become a setback in emotional or behavioral self-regulation

    Mistakes are part of the learning process!

    Developing a growth mindset is about what you are going to do, not what you can’t do. Try again, or make the most of what you have already.  

    Learning from mistakes examples:

    Some inventors decided to make the most of what they had created by accident.  They learned something valuable from their mistakes. Check it out!

    • Penicillin – Alexander Fleming was a medic through WWII.  He was used to using antiseptics to treat infections, but was trying to find a safer alternative. He was studying staphylococci in several petri dishes. He stacked them on top of each other and went on vacation. When he returned, he discovered there was a fungus growing on several of the dishes that had destroyed the staphylococci infection. His poor housekeeping skills and growth mindset mistakes lead to the discovery of penicillin!
    • Microwave – Percy Spencer was working on magnetron technology. When he stood too close to the magnetron he noticed his candy bar had melted in his pocket. He tried popcorn, eggs, and other foods next to the magnet and voila! The microwave was invented.
    • Potato Chips – This was the result of trying to please a picky customer.  Cornelius Vanderbilt repeatedly sent back his potatoes to the chef because they were too soggy. After several returned attempts, the chef decided to slice the potatoes really thin and fry them as a joke. The customer loved these fried potatoes, and the potato chip was born.
    • Velcro – George de Mistral was walking his dogs and noticed several burrs sticking to their fur. He marveled at the way these burrs clung to the dogs. After a few trials and mistakes (including chopping bits and pieces off of the material), he created what is now known as velcro.
    • Post it Notes – Dr. Spencer Silver was trying to invent an extremely strong adhesive. What he ended up with was an adhesive that stuck but could easily be unstuck and repositioned. He deemed this mistake a failure, until someone suggested reusable book marks and notepads.  The classic yellow color was born from the only available colored paper at the time!
    • Coca Cola – This popular drink was born from nerve tonic. This was supposed to cure all ailments. Unfortunately it had alcohol in it, and in the age of prohibition it had to be removed. A little sugar was added and the carbonated beverage was advertised as making people healthier. We now know that this beverage definitely does not make one healthier, it does the opposite. However, in moderation, it is a sweet treat with a boost of caffeine.
    • Slinky – Richard James was attempting to invent a spring that would stabilize equipment on Navy ships. He accidentally knocked it off his table and was delighted to see how it slinked down to the floor.  While the Navy rejected his invention, millions of children throughout the world have owned at least one Slinky.
    • Silly Putty – During WWII James Wright was trying to invent a cheap alternative to synthetic rubber.  He accidentally spilled boric acid into silicone oil and created a stretchy bouncy product.  This toy has morphed into Theraputty, a helpful tool for strengthening and stretching muscles.
    • Playdough – This craft staple and children’s favorite building material was designed as a wallpaper cleaner. With the decline in popularity of wallpaper in recent years, the company is thankful they rebranded this as the playdough we know today! And, we all know the benefits of play dough, so this is a wonderful mistake that was made!

    These are just a few of the inventions made while trying to invent something else.  The products were born from people learning from mistakes. There are dozens more including; Crazy glue, popsicles, artificial sweetener, Viagra, Smart Dust, ice cream cones, the pacemaker, and more.  

    Why are these mistakes important? We can help kids see that there is importance of mistakes happening. Otherwise these products would never have been invented!

    What else did these inventors learn from their growth mindset mistakes?

    A growth mindset is “the understanding that abilities and understanding can be developed” (Mindset Works, n.d.). Those with a growth mindset believe that they can get smarter, stronger, and more talented through putting in time and effort.

    This way of thinking became popular through the work of Carol Dweck in her book (Amazon affiliate link) Mindset.  She teaches about the “power of yet.” This mindset shifts the focus away from all the things one can not do, to what one can not do YET.

    The power of yet teaches people:

    • they can learn
    • learning takes time and effort
    • results come from hard work
    • giving up isn’t an option 

     This is huge when we think about the kids we serve and the ability to develop and strengthen self-esteem.

    These inventors believed they could learn new skills with enough effort and practice. Giving up was not an option for them. If they had given up on their “mistakes”, and not persevered with their ideas, they would not have invented some amazing products!   

    I don’t believe these inventors “got lucky” or “were in the right place at the right time”. Perhaps they did have a little fortune on their side in their innovation, but most of them had the growth mindset, and will to succeed.  

    If they had not invented what they did, they probably would have gone on to create something else, or reach other an achievement. 

    Mindset is the difference between those who excel and those who give up. The issue is that there can be discomfort in making errors…and then persevering.

    Learning from mistakes and moving forward drives people to succeed. It offers a chance to reframe mistakes into another chance, a new opportunity, or another try. Some people innately have this drive, while others need to develop it. 

    Mindset Tools for Mistakes

    Below are some mindset tools to help us make mistakes with a growth mindset. These are new strategies, but also tools to support mindset.

    As therapy professionals, educators, or parents, we can drive the enthusiasm in persevering or trying again. The obstacles kids struggle with are part of the course, and we can support that development with words of encouragement. The OT Toolbox is featuring several posts involving mindset to help create a treatment plan for yourself, or the learners you work with.

    Use these tools in a growth mindset lesson to support self-awareness skills.

    Develop Brain Skills- Brain activity happens with learning, and making mistakes is part of that learning process. Using persistence to complete a task is not only an executive functioning skill, it’s also an opportunity to develop grit, or resilience. This is an important life skill!

    • Amazon (affiliate link) has a great Growth Workbook for Kids. It is a fun and engaging activity book, for ages 8 to 12, that can help you train your brain and develop creative problem-solving skills through practice and perseverance. You’ll learn how to foster a “can-do” attitude and celebrate your mistakes as a path to ultimate success.
    • Mindsetkit has a great presentation on the critical role of mistakes.  

    Give yourself permission to make mistakes- Switch thinking from an error that means starting over is a bad thing. Mistakes can be permission to achieve a new skill. 

    Sometimes, as humans, we view mistakes as something bad. But when we stretch mistakes into something good, it’s switching the perspective in our brains. We can try a different strategy. We can use new skills that we learned as a result of that mistake. 

    Working with kids is a great opportunity to try again, but an important one that can have a huge impact!

    Learn from mistakes- There is always an AHA-moment mistakes allow. At some point, maybe long after the mistake has happened, that we have a moment of “Aha!” where we learn something about ourselves. We can ask ourselves a few questions as part of this mistake learning:

    • What have you learned from making mistakes?  
    • What did the mistake teach me?
    • What did I do that contributed to this mistake?
    • What can I do differently next time?
    • What tools can I use next time?
    • Was this a “big mistake” or a “small mistake”?
    • What did I learn from this mistake?

    Talk about different kinds of mistakes- Not all mistakes are life threatening, or high-stakes mistakes! We can work with kids to identify different types of mistakes. Ask kids to identify different scenarios on a scale of intensity.

    • small mistakes
    • big mistakes
    • life-threatening situations 
    • learning curve errors
    • sloppy mistakes

    Find courage to try again- I have learned that there is not much that can not be undone or fixed. This gives me the courage to try. Talking about this concept of trying again can be helpful for kids. We can even bring up times in our life that we as therapists have had to try again.

    • Don’t like that paint color in your bedroom you just painted?  Paint over it.
    • Not sure about the tattoo you just had done? Get it removed or “painted over”
    • Not thrilled with the way your hair color/cut came out? It will grow back, or try again with another color.
    • Cookies came out overdone? Chop them up and sprinkle over ice cream, or feed them to the goats.

    Mistakes can be spun as a trial run. Every mistake is good practice for the next time!

    Use self-talk- Kids can use self-talk as a strategy to hush that inner critic that tends to “beat up” our emotional state. Instead of repeatedly thinking “I’m so dumb”, “How could I make this mistake”, or “I’ll never be good enough”, we can teach kids the emotional regulation strategy of self-talk to support their mindset. 

    Positive self-talk is a huge asset to teach to switch the perspective of mistakes as a bad thing to just part of the learning and living process. There is power of the word that  we speak to ourselves!

    A final note on growth mindset mistakes 

    I once took a pottery sculpting class years ago on a whim (actually after a bad breakup).  My coil pot was crooked, bumpy, and leaning to the side.  Instead of becoming discouraged, I took a step back.  It kind of looked like the sorting hat from Harry Potter.  I painted it and proudly display it as a sorting hat replica!  What could have been a mistake and failure, turned into a one of a kind art piece.

    Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

    Social and Emotional Development Milestones

    social emotional development milestones

    Wondering about social and emotional development milestones and what social emotional development should look like in young kids? Social emotional learning occurs from birth and continues on for many years to impact learning and interacting with others. Let’s break down HOW social emotional development happens at each age and stage.

    We’ve covered social emotional toys and even books to support emotional development because these skills are something that every child learns through play and interacting with others.

    Social and emotional development milestones

    Social and emotional Developmental Milestones

    Social skills have become one of the most discussed milestone checklists as children re-enter the world after being out of social situations due to being at home for most of their early years.

    As children start to socialize, adults are noticing that, without opportunities to play with other children, social development can become impacted. By the time a child enters Kindergarten, they are expected to be able to participate and learn new skills while other children are in the classroom.

    This is only achieved through practice being around other kids.  This blog will discuss how different developmental milestones impact social development, and where to go for more supports if social skills are a concern. 

    When children enter preschool, they are immediately bombarded with play opportunities with peers. This is a wonderful time for children to learn how to share space, share toys, build friendships, learn from children and new adults.

    As children develop their cognitive, communication and play skills, their social skills become more advanced. Here is a list of the social skills preschoolers are able to do (by age).

    Early Preschool: 3 years

    • Express emotions
    • Copy adults and friends  
    • Show affection for friends without prompting  
    • Turn taking in games, with prompts
    • Show concern for a crying friend (empathy) 
    • Understand concepts of “mine” and “his” or “hers” 
    • Separate easily from mom and dad  
    • May get upset with major changes in routine  

    Mid-Preschool: 4 years-

    • Enjoy trying new activities
    • Playing with different toys or types of toys   
    • Play imagination and interactive games with others “mom” and “dad”  
    • Are more and more creative with make-believe play  
    • Would rather play with other children than alone 
    • Cooperate with other children  
    • Often cannot tell what is real and what is make-believe  
    • Talk about what they like and what they are interested in 

    Later Preschool: 5 years-

    • Want to please friends  
    • Want to be like friends  
    • Are more likely to agree with rules  
    • Like to sing, dance, and act, also aware of gender  
    • Can tell what is real and what is make-believe  
    • Show more independence (for example, may visit a next-door neighbor by themselves with adult supervision) 
    • Are sometimes demanding and sometimes very cooperative

    When in the classroom, it is important that we give children ample opportunities to practice social skills through large group, small group and free play activities. Giving children the ability to engage in play allows them to create their own rules, investigate social norms and understand how to work within a team with other children. One of the best ways to encourage social interaction is through pretend play. 

    Activities to support social and emotional Development Milestones

    Here are my 5 favorite ways to encourage social growth within the pretend play area:

    1. Change up the play space with prop boxes.

    The pretend play area doesn’t just have to be a play kitchen. Pretend play is a way for children to interpret the world that they see everyday.

    This includes places they go, things they watch on television and different roles they see in the community. Prop boxes for pretend play are buckets filled with items related to a theme.

    If you notice children are interested in a specific topic (such as the hair salon, the grocery store, a train station), you can grab a prop box and allow children to expand on their knowledge of the topic together!

    1. Encourage role play.

    As children start to play together within the pretend play area, adults can facilitate different roles. One year, the children were very interested in drive through restaurants.

    They pulled over the puppet theater that had a chalk board front on it. With some support, they decided who was going to be the cook, who was going to take orders, who was the person deciding the menu, who would be the cashier and who would be “Driving” through the drive through!

    After some negotiations, everyone had their roles. They loved this so much they created menus and opened up the rest of the classroom tables for dine-in for the rest of the children. As the preschoolers worked together, they were learning communication, problem solving and turn taking skills through play. 

    1. Bring pretend play outdoors. 

    There is no hard and fast rule saying that all pretend play has to be inside. Bring those prop boxes outdoors and set up an area for children to use them in a large space. This type of play can be so exciting when outside in nature.

    Children can use leaves, sticks and other items as props in their play. When there is ample room to run and play, sometimes more children become involved in the play experience. This is also a great time to support children with sensory needs. Check out this sensory processing disorder checklist for more information.

    In play, being indoors around too many kids might be overwhelming to them. Inviting them to engage in outdoor play in open space with plenty of areas to take sensory breaks with proprioception activities,  supports children of all sensory processing needs, giving them opportunities to partake in important social practice. 

    1. Give children the ability to create their own space. 

    One of most powerful aspects of pretend play is to let children lead. When we step back and allow children to create, engage and develop on their own, they are able to practice social development freely.

    Without adult intervention (unless needed), children are able to work on problem solving skills and create a play narrative that adults may not think of. Giving children time to decide play roles may bring up some uncertainty with taking turns, but it allows them to work through their disagreements together.

    When adults aren’t always in the middle of play, magic happens. 

    1. Don’t limit the amount of children allowed to play in one area.

    Often times I see preschools limit the amount of children allowed to play in one area of the classroom due to the size of the space.

    This may mitigate overcrowding but it also prevents children from learning how to socialize freely in different sizes of groups. If multiple children desire to engage in the pretend play area, instead of limiting the amount of children, push some other classroom areas to the side and expand the pretend play area.

    6. Be aware of when children need support interacting with each other. 

    It’s important to remember that preschoolers (even adults) are still learning how to interact with groups of children. Sometimes adults need to step in to support cooperation during social play. Frustration can present as a sensory meltdown or a tantrum.

    When a child becomes frustrated and needs to calm down, self-regulation strategies can support the emotional regulation needs. Using a problem solving tool like the (Amazon affiliate link) Soothing Sammy Program to help them. After children calm down with “Sammy Time” use the prompts in the story to encourage problem solving communication between the children.

    Sometimes all children need is a break to gather their thoughts and help to communicate their feelings. You can find some more problem solving activities.

    Emotional Milestones and other areas of development

    A child’s development is greatly impacted by 8 key areas of growth.

    This includes::

    1. social development
    2. emotional development
    3. gross motor development
    4. fine motor development
    5. language development
    6. cognitive
    7. sensory
    8. self-help skills.

    When delayed in just one of these areas, other areas of development may also be impacted, including emotional milestone achievement, because of the deep connection between emotional regulation and cognitive processing.

    When a child is delayed in language, they are unable to use words to communicate their needs to their peers.

    If they are having a hard time understanding directions, they won’t be able to participate in some social activities or games.

    If a child is impacted by sensory differences or  delayed in their cognitive milestones, they may find it frustrating or difficult to engage in imaginative games with their peers.

    If they are unable to keep up with gross motor or fine motor activities, they may feel left behind.

    If you are concerned about a child’s development in any area, and they are under three years olds, reach out to your local Early Intervention Program for a free developmental assessment.

    If your child is between the ages of 3 and 5, your local school district can complete a developmental assessment free of charge. This social skills checklist is a wonderful tool to help know where to start. These emotions playdough mats are another great hands-on activity to explore emotions with preschoolers and toddlers.

    Social and emotional development milestones are an important skill that preschoolers learn through experiences. With ample opportunities to practice and the right supports, children will learn how to engage with their peers and how to problem solve. As children are exposed to different play situations with different people, and in different settings, the social skills they learn will benefit them throughout their entire lives. 

    Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

    Turn Taking

    turn taking

    We all use turn taking on a daily basis. Taking turns in conversation, walking through a doorway, during meals, at appointments, while shopping, and even while driving are just some examples of how turn taking occurs day in and day out. While learning to take turns is a part of social emotional development, this can be a real challenge for some kids. Here, we’re covering all things turn taking: development, how to teach kids to take turns for functional independence and self-care, and turn taking activities.

    turn taking

    Turn Taking

    So what does turn taking mean? Turn taking, or the act of taking turns in a situation, conversation, or even means sharing space and time with another individual. Turn taking can look like many things:

    • Speaking and then listening when others speak in a conversation
    • Taking turns in a game
    • Taking turns in line to get a drink from a water fountain
    • Waiting one’s turn in a food like like in the cafeteria
    • Taking turns in speaking during circle time or sharing time in the classroom
    • Taking turns with a favorite toy
    • Waiting while others have an opportunity to receive services such as a food server in a restaurant
    • Waiting for one’s turn in a scheduled event such as at doctor’s appointments or waiting for one’s number to be called at the deli counter
    • Taking turns in moving situations such as when walking through a door or when turning at a stop sign
    • Sharing a responsibility such as when taking turns taking out the family garbage or caring for a family pet
    • Taking turns to get on or off a school bus, or while waiting in line at the car drop off line
    • Taking turns with a toy in the home or in the classroom
    • Taking turns using equipment like slides, swings

    As you can see, taking turns is part of daily life. There can be limitations to aspects of turn taking in some situations, for those with intellectual or behavioral considerations, particularly in the social circumstance of conversation or sharing a toy.

    Other circumstances that offer a more concrete environment such as waiting for one’s turn in a doctor’s office waiting room can be an opportunity to practice the components that allow for turn taking skills.

    Throughout a preschool day, children are expected to wait often. This could be while they wait for a snack, wait to go to the bathroom, wait during a transition, wait for a toy or wait for a turn in a game. As children become exposed to more opportunities to practice taking turns, they get better at it and more patient. But when they first start out, taking turns can be frustrating for children and teachers alike! 

    Turn Taking in Conversation

    Turn Taking in Conversation- This component is one that is modeled, and a part of social emotional learning. Interrupting a conversation, speaking out of turn, and interrupting instruction is an important skill to understand.

    Turn taking in conversation is important for social reciprocity, but also safety. This skill requires auditory processing skills and receptive language skills.

    What is social reciprocity?

    Social reciprocity refers to the give and take of social interactions, including conversation, verbal interactions, or physical interactions.

    Social-emotional reciprocity (SER), or the give-and-take of a social interaction is also a part of the turn taking continuum. Social reciprocity refers to an individual’s ability to engage in social interactions between two or more people.

    This ability can be difficult or impossible for some individuals, and may be a consideration especially with some, but not all Autistic individuals.

    Taking turns with others, or social reciprocity, is a social emotional skill that is needed for many areas including learning, play, interacting in the community, conversation, and other areas. Let’s cover social reciprocity and how turn taking games or activities can be used to develop social emotional skills.

    Social reciprocity develops from birth. We see this when babies mimic facial expressions, or eye gaze. This interaction occurs with the parent or caregiver during feeding, but we see this give and take develop very quickly.

    Continued back-and-forth interactions occur through play, vocalizations, and in daily activities like during dressing, wake/sleep time, etc.

    With development of verbal communication, social reciprocity further expands, particularly as verbalizations progress from sounds, to words, to monologue communication, into a conversation.

    When children grow, typically we see a conversation ability expand. This develops as executive functioning, inpuarticular working memory skills, develop.

    We see references to previous conversations or information. We see social interactions in various situations. We see public speaking, or speaking out in a group. All of these are part of social reciprocity and the use of turn taking in social situations.

    For some of the individuals we work with, particularly Autistic individuals, we may see a preference to talk about one particular topic. The give and take of the conversation, or the reciprocity aspect is not there. It might be that they either do not respond to these social initiations because they do not realize that there is a back-and-forth aspect. Or, it could be that the social cues (such as verbal fluctuations, pauses in communication, eye-contact, and other nuances of a conversation or social situation are not addressed.  

    So, as you can see there is a huge social aspect to turn taking.

    Turn Taking Development

    Young children are learning new skills everyday, and even more-so when they are in groups with other children. A child’s environment can include a variety of objects that they would like to use the same time that others are using them.

    Taking turns isn’t a skill children are born knowing how to do. In fact, as babies, we are all very self-serving and aware of only individual needs. This developmentally, serves the infant and baby. Crying out is a survival instinct. There is no “turn taking” in sleeping through the night or wanting to be fed at all hours of the day!

    Turn taking develops as a skill through modeling and observation…and then practice with age.

    There are several developmental components that play a role in turn taking abilities:

    • Awareness of self
    • Awareness of others
    • Executive functioning (working memory, attention, task completion, etc.)
    • Intellectual awareness (first, then concepts)
    • Spatial awareness

    Young children learn how to share through ample opportunities and supported facilitation from adults. When children are in a group with other kids, opportunities to learn how to take turns or comes in a variety of forms, waiting for an object, waiting to participate in an activity and waiting for their turn when they are in a large group of children completing a similar task.

    Below, you will learn some simple ways to support turn taking activities using visuals.

    Turn taking activities

    Turn Taking Activities

    We can support turn taking skills through activities driven by modeling, practice, and play.

    Visual Supports- Visuals support children in understanding what another person wants. Visuals can be utilized with a parent-child relationship, a teacher-child relationship, and even a child – child relationship.

    As children learn more words, they are able to comprehend directions (both new and familiar), but before they learn meanings of words, visuals will help a message be communicated. 

    Other visual supports can include:

    Verbal supports- As an early childhood educator, I like to give children the opportunity to play with an object for as long as they would like without putting a time limit on it. I don’t use timers in my class to signify when a child has to be done with a toy.

    When children are playing with toys, they are using that object for a purpose, and it can be frustrating to hear a timer go off in the middle of their game. This can cause frustration from the child around having to end their play and some friction around the child that will be receiving the toy.

    Instead, we say the phrase “when you are all done, then _________ would like to play.” Typically a child is done using a toy within 15-20 minutes and the next child gladly accepts the toy. 

    Verbal supports can include:

    • Verbal prompts
    • Music or other auditory prompts
    • Modeling
    • Social stories

    activities to promote sharing and turn taking

    In the classroom environment, kids may have their first experience with turn taking and sharing.

    Here are my five favorite ways to teach sharing and turn taking with preschoolers.

    1.Use a turn taking chart. 

    When multiple children are excited about using a toy (such as the tricycle outside), it may take a while for one child to be done playing with that object. When there are multiple children waiting for one item, they tend to become frustrated because they don’t want to loose their spot in line.

    That is where the turn taking chart comes in!

    This chart is simple. It can be made with a chalkboard or white board, hung outside near a highly desired item. When multiple children are requesting an object, the adult can write their name in order on the white board. When one child is done with the object, the teacher can cross that name off and go to the next name on the list.

    This allows children to feel confident they can play with something else while they wait and they won’t be forgotten or skipped. As a bonus, this activity teaches written name recognition to children, as they learn how to read the list and find out when their turn will be.  

    2. Use turn taking cards.

    One of the most common times that “turn taking” becomes an issue in the preschool room, is when a child gets up to go to the bathroom or get a drink, and they come back to find the objects they were using have been swiped up by another child or put away by a teacher cleaning up.

    Turn taking cards are my favorite way to prevent this from happening. This simple 5×7 card has a child’s picture glued to the front and the words “ (child’s name)’s turn!)

    Every child in the classroom has one and they can place it on an object they are using if they need to step away for a minute but want to return to finish what they were doing.

    Children and teachers understand that the child is coming back to continue working and leave the object alone. A wonderful children’s book that has some more examples of turn taking cards is the book (Amazon affiliate link) “Sammy Learns to Share: A Lesson in Turn Taking!”

    3. Teach Large Group Turn Taking. 

    During large and small group activities, such as circle time, centers, specials classes (gym, music, etc.), lunch time, recess, or group activities, children have to wait their turn to participate.

    This could be waiting to share an idea during circle, stir the cookie dough at snack, or wait to be the Goose during Duck Duck Goose!

    There are some fun ways to visually share whose turn it is now and who will be next. If you are going around in a circle (which is often the easiest) the child whose turn it is can hold onto an object. This could be a  “speaking stick” or a “stirring chef’s hat” they are wearing for a cooking project.

    4. My turn Your turn cards- Printable cards that simply say “my turn” and “your turn” could also be used! When children are able to see whose turn it is and who will be next, their patience increases! 

    5. Turn taking routine charts.

    These visual boards are great to use during everyday routines, such as bathroom time, snack time or lunch time. I also add children’s pictures to these visuals, when practicing taking turns during routines.

    Add children’s pictures in a specific order, so the children know who is next to complete the daily task.

    Using visuals communicate to children what is expected of them and when. As they become used to the routine and taking turns, fading out this visual tool may be possible. 

    6. Play turn taking games.

    Turn taking games are fun ways to practice the skill of taking turns. I love giving children plenty of opportunities to practice taking turns with their peers and siblings. When young children have time to practice new skills, including social skills, they will become familiar and attentive to situations where they need to put these skills into practice.

    Luckily, the skill of taking turns and sharing time, space, and physical objects can be practiced with almost every game. This is especially great for toddlers through preschoolers and utilize items that you already have.

    Meltdowns with Taking turns or sharing

    What if after all of these strategies, kids are still frustrated with taking turns? You have probably seen a meltdown or temper tantrum because a child or even teenager or adult is asked or required to take turns or share.

    It’s important to remember with young children or individuals with Autism or other considerations, that turn taking is asking too much of the individual. There is not the ability to cognitively or physically see the reasoning to share or take turns.

    When a meltdown or temper tantrum occurs, what is going on behind the “behavior” or actions that we are seeing? It is likely that the physical or verbal responses to this request is inability to communicate one’s wishes or needs. Or, it could be that the individual simply does not see the reasoning for the turn taking or sharing request.

    Sometimes, children still have a hard time with waiting and taking turns. They could become upset and need a few moments to calm down or be redirected to a new activity.

    Addressing self-regulation tools as a strategy to address emotional regulation needs can help.

    The (Amazon affiliate link) Soothing Sammy Program is a wonderful way to support children in calming down if they become upset or overwhelmed. The sweet story begins with children visiting Sammy, a golden retriever, when they are frustrated, sad or mad. Sammy shares some calm down items with them (such as a drink of water, a squishy ball, a place to jump, etc).

    When the children are calm, Sammy helps them devise a plan so they can decide what happens next. In the back of the book, there are instructions on how to build your own Sammy house for your home, classroom or clinic, for the Sammy plush included in the program. Children can visit Sammy to calm down when they feel overwhelmed. You can find the full Soothing Sammy program here.

    Young children are just learning how to engage in play with peers and their social skills are also developing at a pace that sometimes seems frustrating to adults.

    As children are exposed to more opportunities to take turns, and are given the visuals and extra supports needed to learn how to respond to frustrating situations, they are able to adapt, learn new skills and eventually take turns with minimal interventions.

    Visual supports are a wonderful way to remind children that they are heard and that their turn is coming! Which visual supports are your favorite?

    Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

    Elf I Spy WOrksheet

    elf worksheet for elf I spy activities

    Are you looking for a holiday themed activity to address emotional regulation in the weeks leading up to Christmas?  This Elf I Spy worksheet is a great way to address emotional regulation, while working on visual perceptual skills at the same time! Print off the free I Spy printable and use it to build skills. This would even go REALLY well with an Elf on the Shelf coloring sheet to add to your holiday activities! This elf worksheet goes perfectly with our recent Santa I spy printable.

    Elf worksheet for working on emotions I spy with kids.

    Elf Printable

    Many students have experience with an elf arriving at their house this month so be prepared to hear all about the hijinks that might be going at home when you use this activity in your therapy sessions. 

    While the elf or other traditions can be fun and exciting for children, it can be hard for some people to manage the ups and downs of the holiday season.  This worksheet provides a framework for discussing all the emotions your students might be processing at this time of year.

    Maybe your elf on the shelf can deliver this worksheet from the North Pole as an easy elf themed activity that develops skills!

    Elf Emotions

    When you begin working with your students using the Elf I Spy printable as an emotions worksheet, focus your students attention to the bottom of the page.  It will be important for your students to study the elves first to be able to use their visual discrimination skills to identify the similarities and differences. 

    Some of the differences are quite subtle so encourage your students to notice the small differences like the shape of the eyes or mouth.

    The next step includes assigning a color to each of the elves at the bottom of the page.  You could let your students choose whatever colors they prefer or you could ask them to match the colors to the Zones of Regulation: red, yellow, green, and blue.  

    Once the colors have been assigned, it’s time to start visual scanning and coding the elves at the top of the page.  Encourage your students to scan in an organized way.  Students who struggle with executive functioning might have a hard time completing this task in an organized and efficient manner.  Here is an opportunity to provide some coaching on how to improve their execution of this visual task.  

    For students who struggle with visual perception, you could provide the following intervention strategies and accommodations:

    • Demonstrate how to use a tracking tool such as a ruler to help keep their place as they work
    • Try covering some of the elves with another piece of paper to limit the amount of visual information.  Move the paper down as they scan.

    Other ways to address Emotional Regulation

    The Zones of Regulation program is often used by school staff to address emotional regulation with students.  You may be wondering about other ways you can address emotional regulation during your therapy sessions.

    Mindfulness is a proven tool for promoting regulation in children as well as adults.  With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it may be a great time to start incorporating a “mindful minute” into the beginning or end of your sessions with students.  A “mindful minute” is just what it sounds like!  Have your students find a comfortable position sitting on the floor or at the table. Take a deep breath and exhale. On the inhale, start a timer for 1 minute.  Count the number of breaths you take in and out in 1 minute.  For students who may have a hard time taking deep breaths, you could encourage them to lie on a yoga mat with a little stuffed animal resting on their belly.  Can they give the stuffed animal a ride as they take deep breaths in and out?  

    Here are some other mindfulness activities and resources:

    Another great strategy for promoting regulation is deep breathing.  Deep breathing encourages self regulation by sending a message to the brain to slow down.  Taking deep breaths is an effective way to calm the sympathetic nervous system.  Here are a couple more holiday themed deep breathing resources for you to print and use with your students:

    These are perfect to incorporate into your mindful minute or to use as students transition into your therapy space or back to the classroom.  

    Identify Elf emotions on the Elf Worksheet

    Asking your students to identify 2 tools for each zone using the elf emotions is another way you could extend this activity in your therapy sessions. 

    For example, what are some tools a silly elf could use to move from the yellow zone to the green zone?  Would deep breathing or stretching theraband help the elves regulate?  Have the students practice the tools that match up with each zone.  This will help them build their own tool box for self regulation!

    Free Elf Worksheet for I Spy Emotions

    Want to add this elf worksheet to your holiday therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below and the printable will arrive in your email inbox. OR, if you are a Member’s Club member, just log into your account and find this and hundreds of other resources ready to download.

    Free Elf Emotions I Spy Worksheet

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      Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Looking for done-for you therapy activities this holiday season?

      This print-and-go Christmas Therapy Kit includes no-prep, fine motor, gross motor, self-regulation, visual perceptual activities…and much more… to help kids develop functional grasp, dexterity, strength, and endurance. Use fun, Christmas-themed, motor activities so you can help children develop the skills they need.

      This 100 page no-prep packet includes everything you need to guide fine motor skills in face-to-face AND virtual learning. You’ll find Christmas-themed activities for hand strength, pinch and grip, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, endurance, finger isolation, and more. 

      Printable Santa Emotion Worksheet

      Printable Santa Emotion Worksheet

      Want a printable Santa emotion worksheet designed to support facial expression identification? This Santa emotion PDF is just that! And even better yet, if you are looking for ways to address visual discrimination using visual scanning activities with your students, this Santa Claus Emotions I Spy will check all the boxes!  Not only will you be able to address visual discrimination and visual scanning skills with this fun printable, but you can easily incorporate many other skills addressed in occupational therapy including fine motor control and emotional regulation.  Not to mention, this feelings worksheet is an easy way to have some fun this Christmas season in your treatment sessions with your students!

      Kids will love this printable Santa emotion worksheet to work on emotion identification and visual discrimination skills.

      Visual discrimination is one skill that makes up our visual perception. Visual discrimination is an essential skill for students to participate in school in both their roles as a student for tasks such as reading and writing, as well as their role as a friend.  We use our visual discrimination skills to read others emotions or changes in the environment.   As you can see, it is so important to address visual discrimination skills using scanning activities. This printable Santa Emotion worksheet I Spy activity will make it easy!

      What is visual discrimination?

      Visual discrimintation is the ability to recognize similarities and differences between visual images or objects.  Visual discrimintation is an important skill for students in school because of its link to reading and writing.  When looking at words on the page, readers need to be able to discriminate between subtle differences in letters like “b” and “d” or “5” and “S”.  Providing opportunities to build visual perceptual skills helps students engage in their occupations as a student! 

      Why is visual scanning important?

      Visual discrimination is a component of visual perception, but in order for students to use visual discrimination skills effectively, they also need to use their visual scanning skills.  Visual scanning sends the visual information to the brain, visual discrimination tells us why that visual information is important.  In order for the visual system to work, we need both!  Visual scanning is an important component of visual perception and there are so many fun ways to address scanning in your treatment sessions.  Try marble painting, using a flashlight, or looking at a Christmas I Spy book to address visual scanning.

      As mentioned before, students also need to rely on visual discrimination skills when reading other’s emotions.  When you begin this activity with your students, start by reviewing the pictures of Santa at the bottom of the page.  Talk about the similarities in the pictures, then talk about the differences.  Have the students select a color to match with each emotion.  This would be a great place to include Zones of Regulation colors and terminology if you use that program.  Emotional regulation is essential for social participation and this is a great way to hit on that skill with your students.  

      identifying emotions worksheet with a Santa Theme!

      Once you have reviewed the visual information and the emotions and filled in the coordinating colors, now it’s time to start coding or coloring in the Santa faces!  As the student scans and discriminates each Santa, watch to see that their visual system is working to support their performance.  There are many ways you could adapt or modify this activity to meet the needs of your students. 

      Here are some ideas to support visual scanning:

      • Use another paper to cover some of the visual information
      • Teach a strategy to help scan by making a mark on the page to indicate which row they are working on
      • Use a ruler to help students keep their place as they are working

      More ways to use this feelings worksheets pdf

      • Use bingo daubers for students who have not yet developed fine motor precision skills
      • Use tape or sticky tack to secure the printable Santa emotion worksheet to a vertical or inclined surface to address shoulder strength
      • Set up a container of markers on one side of the room and put the worksheet on the other side.  Have the students use a scooter board back and forth to retrieve the markers they need.
      • Use tongs and pom poms or beads to work on fine motor skills at the same time

      If your focus is on emotional regulation, you can easily extend this activity to target the student’s ability to identify their emotions.  When discussing Santa’s emotions, ask your students to think of a time when they felt happy, sad, excited, or mad.  It may also be fun for students to think about the self regulation tools Santa might use to help him regulate his emotions throughout the Christmas season!

      Free Printable Santa Emotion Worksheet

      Do you know a kiddo that would love this printable Santa emotion worksheet? You can download this emotions PDF and start working on skills like visual discrimination, scanning, coloring, feelings identification, and more!

      Free Santa Emotions I Spy Worksheet

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        Katherine Cook is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience primarily working in schools with students from preschool through Grade 12.  Katherine graduated from Boston University in 2001 and completed her Master’s degree and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study at Tufts University in 2010.  Katherine’s school based experience includes working in integrated preschool programs, supporting students in the inclusion setting, as well as program development and providing consultation to students in substantially separate programs.  Katherine has a passion for fostering the play skills of children and supporting their occupations in school. 

        Multisensory Learning: Emotion Activities

        multisensory learning emotions activities for preschoolers

        In this blog post, you’ll discover 4 Multisensory Emotion Activities for Preschoolers that utilize multisensory learning and exploration to promote emotional intelligence for kids in the preschool age. Let’s take a look at these social emotional activities for children ages 3-5. In this blog post, you’ll learn how to teach children about emotions through hands-on learning activities, designed to help children remember how to process their feelings even in times of stress. Simple activities like emotions playdough mats can support skill building in playful and fun ways.

        multisensory learning emotions activities for preschoolers

        Multisensory Learning: Emotion Activities

        When children are overwhelmed, they don’t listen to reason. Learning new skills through play, using multi sensory forms, help children recall these skills at a moments notice. 

        What happens when you sit your child down to teach them a new skill? Do they remember what they learned 5 minutes later? Do they seem interested in listening to you talk to them or would they be more engaged in their learning if they actively solved a problem with you. 

        If we use at least two of the following 4 components to teach new emotion skills, children (even adults) will remember better. 

        1. Touch/Tactile
        2. Sight/Visual
        3. Sound/Auditory
        4. Movement

        Why do children learn how to manage their emotions better when they learn a new skill in multiple ways?

        Multisensory Learning

        Multisensory learning engages all the different parts of our brain and our body! An amazing article discusses Multisensory Learning is an Effective Strategy for Teaching Students How To Read.

        As they dive deeper into the topic of reading, they describe the neuroscience behind multisensory learning as: “the human brain has evolved to learn and grow in a multisensory environment.

        According to the whole brain learning theory, all brain functions are interconnected for this reason. We remember how to do things best when the directions we’re given engage multiple senses.

        The definition of multisensory learning, then, is using the neuroscience behind how we learn to teach lessons that engage two or more senses.

        Most educators add audio or visual multimedia into their assignments, but multisensory learning can also include tactile, smell, and taste-related materials. As long as the activity engages multiple areas of the brain, it can help students develop stronger memories around how to do it.”

        The definition of multisensory learning is using the neuroscience behind how we learn to teach lessons that engage two or more senses.

        Multisensory Learning for Emotions

        As we teach children how to respond to their feelings and the feelings of others, we can use tactile, visual, movement and auditory cues to make these activities more meaningful and memorable. 

        Let’s take a look at some ways that using the senses as a tool supports development in these multisensory learning emotion activities based on sensory systems.

        Tactile Experiences and Emotion Activities

        When you hear the word “pumpkin goop” how do you feel? Do you instantly cringe? Do you think about the pumpkin seeds inside a pumpkin and feel hungry?

        Touching something directly affects the touch receptors on our skin. This signal moves through our body to the thalamus, which relays information to our brain! This powerful sense helps our brain understand what we are doing and associates an emotion that goes along with that activity (such as “eww,” or “this is hot!”)

        When we have a positive experience learning a new skill through touch, our brain remembers that feeling and makes it easier to recall the experience. If we use tactile activities within our teaching approach, children will be able to remember what they did and why, making recalling new skills easier. 

        Children engage longer with tactile experiences. 

        Visual Processing and Emotion Activities

        When children are toddlers, they need lots of hand gestures to know what to do when given a direction. Seeing an action helps them understand. When children are learning how to name objects, showing them pictures of objects (or showing them the object) allows them to associate the name of the object. This is true for all learning activities. Looking at visuals that explain a new concept, such as emotion faces or letters in a book, help children remember.

        Per this article, 65 percent of the population are visual learners. Hearing a direction or sound  goes into our short term memory, while seeing something goes into our long term memory. Per this report, 

        One of the easiest ways to ensure that learners store information in their long-term memory is to pair concepts with meaningful images. Visuals help students make sense out of the content and direct attention, increasing the possibilities that the learners will remember the material.”

        Visuals help with faster recall.

        Auditory System and Emotion Activities

        Listening to music during activities keep us calm and alert. Sounds of nature, environmental sounds and communicative words help our brain remember specific things. Do you remember what song you danced to at your wedding? Or the top 10 hits of 1985? I bet if you hear just one word, phrase or instrumental bridge from any of those songs, you will be singing at the top of your lungs in minutes! 

        When children learn new skills, paired with a song, such as “Old MacDonald,”  “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “BINGO” they remember the sounds of animals, how to spell BINGO (even if they don’t know how to spell their own name yet) and that the stars are up in the sky! Pairing new skills with sayings or songs help us recall the lesson quickly. Are there any emotion songs that you know?

        Auditory supports help children remember easier.

        Kinesthetic System and Emotion Activities

        According to this link, in an article by Marwa Abdelbary, physical therapist, children are able to remember more when movement is embedded in their day.

        She reports that  “studies show that children who are more active exhibit better focus, faster cognitive processing, and more successful memory retention than kids who spend the day sitting still. Keeping the body active promotes mental clarity by increasing blood flow to the brain, making activity vital to both learning and physical and neurological health.”

        Learning while moving engages muscle memory and new areas of the brain. 

        Multisensory Learning for Emotional Awareness

        When you teach  a child a new skill using all of the components, they will remember the best! 

        This “Playful Alphabet Curriculum” is a great example on how to teach the name and sound every letter using visuals, tactile, movement and recall games.

        It starts with reading an interactive ABC book, then introducing each letter with five different activities: sensory, art, movement and literacy. Each of these activities use a different part of the brain to learn the letter name and sound. 

        Teaching children emotion words and how to process their feelings is a very important skill. Let’s teach them using every sense so they can remember quicker.

        We previously covered specific strategies to teach teach emotional vocabulary to preschoolers. Be sure to use those emotions words strategies.

        Multisensory learning activities for teaching emotions to preschoolers

        4 Emotion Activities using multiple senses

        These multisensory learning emotion activities use multiple senses to teach preschoolers and engage them in multisensory learning through play and hands-on activities.

        Multisensory Emotion Activity #1: Calm down and remember how to problem solve with “Soothing Sammy”

        Soothing Sammy” creates a positive spin on calming down and talking about feelings. This three step program uses tactile, visual, auditory and movement components to teach preschoolers all about their emotions! First, read through the “Soothing Sammy” story, then practice all the different ways to calm down (sipping water, squeezing a ball, jumping, and more!)  After, allow your child to build Sammy’s house out of an empty box, and place sensory calm down items in.

        Encourage them to visit Sammy’s house and read his book when they become overwhelmed. Play the Sammy music, create the Sammy mask and complete the calming down activities (like the lavender bubble mix) to help children remember how to calm down when they feel overwhelmed.

        Multisensory Emotion Activity #2: Use a fun theme!

        This Frog Themed Slide Deck offers a fun frog theme way to work on identifying facial expressions and practicing visual memory skills.

        Movement and auditory components can be added to any game, including this amazing frog themed slide deck. After having your kids match the emotions to the pictures, recreate the scene by asking your kids to jump like a frog! Add some music to initiate a freeze dance! When you pause the music, have the child jump like a frog and make an emotion face! What face are they making!

        Multisensory Emotion Activity #3: Get clear on facial expressions and emotion names.

        Use this Social Emotional Learning Worksheet as a guide.

        This freebie is a great way to prompt preschoolers to think about their emotions. Although they will be too young to write, let’s bring in a visual instead, a mirror! Ask your child what makes them sad, then make a sad face in the mirror. If available, take a picture of your child making the face, print it out, and allow your child to make their own facial expression book. 

        Multisensory Emotion Activity #4: Move with heavy work.

        Add Play Dough and Movement to this adorable Bugs Emotion Set.

        Heavy work activates the proprioceptive system and adds kinesthetic value to learning. Using play dough as a heavy work activity helps learning “stick” and makes activities fun and engaging.

        These adorable bugs are experiencing lots of different feelings! Have your child make the same face the bug is, then imitate how the bug moves. Does it slither along the ground? Does it crawl or does it fly by flapping its wings. Next, using playdough and a hard surface, have your child make the bug and create its emotion face with a toothpick!

        A final note on multisensory learning and emotions…

        These multisensory learning emotion activities are designed to help preschoolers develop social emotional skills in fun ways!

        Learning new skills through multi sensory activities help children recall their lessons faster. Through visual, tactile, movement and auditory enhancements, any activity can be effective. Teaching new skills through play, using more than two sensory components will help children remember how to respond to their feelings quickly and appropriately in a variety of situations.

        Generalizing this skill through multisensory learning experiences will help preschoolers at home, at school and out in the community. 

        How can you incorporate these multisensory learning emotion activities into your home or classroom?

        Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

        Emotional Regulation Games

        emotional regulation games

        If you are looking for tools to support and develop self-regulation skills, then you are in the right place. In this post, you’ll find emotional regulation games for self-regulation and specifically, Zones of Regulation games. These children’s games for emotional awareness and self-regulation were selected because they are fun ways to support emotional regulation, self-control, and social emotional developmental milestone achievement through game play. And, importantly, they support and teach the Zones of Regulation program by playing games. Be sure to check out our comprehensive list of children’s books to teach the Zones of Regulation, too!

        Emotional regulation games to support emotional awareness an self-regulation and teach Zones of Regulation or other regulation curriculum.

        Emotional regulation Games

        Using over-the-counter games as emotional awareness tools is a cheap and creative way to foster the engagement of children in the learning process of emotional awareness and self-regulation. 

        Children love playing games and using them in this manner provides a great therapeutic tool for kids to practice these important skills.  Granted, some games do help children work on self-regulation naturally while others need just a little adaptation to make them worthy of being called self-regulation and emotional awareness tools.  

        How to use games to support emotional regulation

        How exactly do you use over-the-counter games to help children learn about feelings and emotions?

        Think about how the simple playing of a game or just a slight adaptation to the game can create the just right therapeutic activity to help children work on identifying and expressing feelings and emotions. Maybe just adding simple facial expressions, emojis, or even a descriptive word to the board, tokens, spinner, or the game cards could give the ‘just right’ challenge for a child. 

        How exactly do you use over-the-counter games to help children learn self-regulation skills

        Think about how playing these games naturally can help children to practice emotional regulation skills:

        • Recalling the rules
        • Keeping their focus
        • Attention to game play and the play of others
        • Accepting and coping with winning and losing
        • Flexibility of thinking as they play against an opponent
        • Inhibition of impulses during play

        These are all necessary skills that are directly related to self-regulation. 

        Zones of Regulation Games

        Take the time to consider how you may be able to adapt or modify an over-the-counter game allowing game play to incorporate regulation and emotional awareness programs such as, The Zones of Regulation®, The Alert Program®, and SuperFlex…A Superhero Social Thinking Curriculum®.

        Maybe just adding the colors from these curriculums like red, orange, yellow, green, and blue might be all you need to do to easily add-in learning of these curriculum concepts during play. 

        Adapted Over-the-Counter Games

        Over-the-counter games are a great go-to and others have taken the time to do just what is discussed here.  Read on to discover some of the fun ways that others have used to address these important skills with children of all ages.

        Amazon affiliate links are included below.

        Don’t Break the Ice Coping: This game can be used to help children learn and discuss coping strategies by having them perform the techniques or discuss strategies that are printed on each ice block. Makes a wonderful self-regulation game by simply just writing on the blocks – easy! 

        Grab Don’t Break the Ice HERE.

        Don’t Break the Ice Worries: This game was adapted with the simple use of dots and 4 questions. How easy is that? Makes it a unique way to have children share about worries, what happens in their bodies, gain some understanding, and learn helpful coping strategies. 

        Grab Don’t Break the Ice HERE.

        Connect 4 Emotions: This game is adapted by simply placing emotions stickers on the red and yellow chips and when a player picks up a piece to place it, they must share a time that they have felt that emotion. This can easily be used to identify emotions or even identify an appropriate coping strategy to deal with an emotion.

        Grab Connect 4 HERE.

        Emotions Twister: This is a super fun way to work on emotions while using the Twister mat and incorporating the Zones of Regulation® colors by drawing facial expressions on the dots! Makes for a great supplement to the curriculum! 

        Grab Twister HERE.

        Emotions Uno: Using a deck of Uno cards, children talk about the emotions related to the card colors with an adult providing subject prompts. Children can talk about experiences and the emotions they felt during those times.

        Grab UNO HERE.

        Feelings Jenga or Exploring Emotions Jenga: This is a fun way to help children explore and talk about feelings and emotions by having children answer questions related to specific emotions. Makes a great tool to use in small groups!

        Grab Jenga HERE.

        Feelings Mancala: This old-time game has been turned into a game for emotional awareness and development. Facial stickers are placed into the bottom of each hole on the board and then the game is played with each player sharing about a time they felt a particular feeling or emotion. 

        Grab Mancala HERE.

        Another idea is to simply use the Jeepers Peepers Guessing Game Glasses or the Hedbanz Headbands with cards from the Superflex curriculum. Children don the glasses or headbands from these games and then place the Thinkable or Unthinkable cards onto the glasses or headbands and have a child try to describe them.

        Grab Headbanz HERE.

        Classic Games to teach emotional regulation

        How about trying some of the classic games or even classic toys that we all know and love but that do not require the use of a board game?  That’s right.  Enjoy these fun ideas designed for children to learn about emotions and feelings as well as self-regulation and coping. 

        Feelings Matchbox Cars Parking Lot: Kids love Hot Wheels and Matchbox Cars and there are cars designed for every child’s interest.  But have you thought about using them to park in spots of a feelings and coping parking lot? Makes an easy DIY activity using some classic toys! 

        Grab Matchbox Cars HERE.

        Hopscotch: This is a super easy gross motor activity that kids can use to identify and discuss emotions and feelings.  Makes a classic turn into a newbie! 

        Grab this Portable Hopscotch Board (with Zones Colors) HERE.

        Hula Hoops and Zone of Regulation: Everyone loves to try using a Hula Hoop!  Kids and adults alike will pick one up and try to play with it.  This activity uses this fun classic toy by helping children identify the different zones and what makes one be in that zone. So, they are learning about the feelings while also learning about curriculum concepts. 

        Grab a Hula Hoop set in Zones colors HERE.

        Zones of Regulation Lego Towers: Kids enjoy building with Legos and they have been a core toy for years and years. Children see Legos and they immediately go to them and begin creating something fun! Try using them to create some fun Lego Towers that helps children identify emotions, feelings, and coping strategies. Makes for Lego love on a whole new level! 

        Grab DUPLO blocks HERE. (larger blocks)

        Grab LEGO blocks HERE. (Smaller blocks for hand strengthening)

        Social Emotional Games

        Maybe you have the money to spend on actual board games that address the skills of emotional awareness and self-regulation.  If so, take a look at these fun games designed just for that purpose!

        BBQ Emotions – This game has large skewers that help children to recognize and manage 10 different emotions. Children will discuss them and how to deal with them as if they are ingredients. This makes for a fun game that can be played individually or in a small group. 

        Grab BBQ Emotions HERE.

        Emotion-oes – This fun domino game helps children to recognize and identify emotions by matching the pieces just as they would if playing regular dominoes.

        Emotional Roller Coaster – This anger management game helps children learn coping and calm down strategies when they are experiencing the feeling of anger.

        Grab Emotional Roller Coaster HERE. 

        Emotions Bingo – This simple bingo game helps children to recognize and identify emotions by scanning and matching the pieces just as they would if playing regular bingo. It helps kids to talk about how to handle feelings in a healthy way.

        Grab Emotions BINGO HERE.

        Grab Emotions BINGO for Teens HERE.

        My Feelings Game – This game has 280 scenarios that help children to express their feelings and how to cope with them appropriately. 

        Grab My Feelings Game HERE.

        Social Skills Board Games – This is a set of board games designed to help children work together to improve their overall social skills and can help children to learn about their feelings and the feelings of others. One particular board game is designed to show emotions and how to manage them.

        Grab this 6 Pack of Conflict Resolution Games HERE.

        No Waries – This game is a social emotional card game that helps children to learn about and understand emotions and in turn, helps them to acquire important social emotional skills.

        Grab No Waries HERE.

        So, get brave and use your over-the-counter OT eye to find a game or toy that you can use to help a child build or develop important social-emotional skills while having some creative fun!

        Regina Allen

        Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!