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.

      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 skills 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!

      5 Fun Ways to Support Emotional Vocabulary

      teach emotion words and support emotional vocabulary development in preschoolers

      It can be a challenge to teach develop emotional vocabulary in children and teaching emotion words to preschoolers. In this blog post, you’ll find out how our bodies react to our emotions in threatening situations, how to teach the most common emotion words to preschoolers and strategies to help young children understand emotions by giving them tools to support their emotional development.

      Oh no! There Suzy goes again. She’s crying and I don’t know why. She seems hurt. Or maybe she’s nervous. Or is she sensitive to the classroom surroundings. Is she irritated or annoyed? All I did was hand her the red cup of water. I wish she knew the emotion words to communicate so I knew what the problem is.

      How to teach emotion words in preschool to support emotional literacy and emotional vocabular development through play.

      What is Emotional Vocabulary?

      Do you ever find yourself confused to why your child is screaming? 

      Did you know that there are over 34,000 different emotions?

      Dr. Robert Plutchik was able to create an emotion wheel that categorized emotional vocabulary into these 8 areas, making a comprehensive list of emotions. 

      1. Joy
      2. Sadness
      3. Trust
      4. Disgust
      5. Fear
      6. Anger
      7. Anticipation
      8. Surprise

      If there are over 34,000 emotions, you can imagine how children with only 300-600 words may feel when trying to communicate them. 

      Tantrums and meltdowns usually occur because children don’t have the emotional vocabulary to communicate their emotions in a way that others would understand. There may be a component of personal experiences or an affective states that impacts how a child expresses their feelings in a given situation.

      Think back to Suzy from the beginning of this blog. It turned out she was scared of the blender noise making the smoothie that was going to fill her red cup. In the moment of irritation/tenseness, she was too scared to remember the words she needed, so she started screaming instead. She didn’t know the emotions words to tell me the problem. 

      Emotional vocabulary, or emotional literacy is essential to a child's social emotional development.

      Why is Emotional Vocabulary Important?

      And, why is it so hard  for children to use emotion words to communicate while they are upset?

      It is very difficult for young children to express words that they are feeling. 

      Emotional vocabulary like feeling impatient, helpless, uneasiness, hopelessness, nervousness, anxious feelings, fury, or apprehensive feelings contain a lot of meaning that aren’t part of the preschooler’s vocabulary just yet. Negative emotions that “take over” a situation in the way of a tantrum, breakdown, or other behavior can impact mood, learning, and personal relationships.

      Similarly, positive emotions such as feelings of happiness, optimism, excitement, and euphoric behaviors can result in difficulty paying attention, silliness that interferes with learning or safety, or other strains on self-regulation.

      Those are feelings that we definitely see expressed in the child’s body language, facial expressions, and behavior!

      When a child has words to express their emotions, they develop resilience. They improve emotional literacy so that they can verbally express how they are feeling. Children move from feeling misunderstood to feeling certain of their situation. 

      And, when we understand components of emotion, we can help a child develop their emotional literacy by giving them words that they can recall and use even in the heat of the moment.

      Developing emotional skills by building a library of emotion terms also helps children to navigate social environments in the school, home, classroom, and community. This emotional competence carries over with experience and practice in using and understanding emotional terms, especially in the thick of big feelings. Having words for the feelings children feel fosters positive interactions with others. Improving emotional vocabulary even impacts physical health. A robust emotional vocabulary comes with time and practice, but developing experience helps in so many ways.

      All of this is related to emotional competence! 

      We all have an emotional vocabulary. Preschoolers need help to learn emotional terms.

      Emotional Literacy

      On January 15, 2021, Carolyn MacCann Ph.D., Psychology Today explained psychology Professor James Gross’ four components of feeling an emotions and Professor Klaus Scherre’s process model of emotions. She states:

      “Having emotions is a universal experience, and every person in the world has felt angry, shy, scared, or embarrassed at some point in their lives. According to psychology Professor James Gross, there are four components of feeling and emotion:

      1. The situation you are in (whatever is happening to you at that moment)
      2. The details you pay attention to
      3. Your appraisal of what the situation means for you personally
      4. Your response, including the physical changes (like blushing or shaking), and your behaviors (like shouting or crying).”

      She goes on to explain Professor Klaus Scherer’s component-process model of emotion that includes the following 5 components to emotions:

      1. Feelings (subjective feelings, like “I feel scared”)
      2. Appraisals (though patterns, like “I am under threat”)
      3. Expressions (facial and bodily expressions of emotions, like being wide-eyed with fright)
      4. Action tendencies (the tenancy to prefer certain actions like freezing or hiding); and
      5. Physical changes (physical symptoms of emotion, such as butterflies in the stomach).”

      Imagine what a small child must be feeling as they interpret the situation around them, processing what they are physically experiencing and trying to come up with a solution to the situation – all at the same time! Let’s look at Suzy, the little girl who is afraid of the blender. 

      Using Professor James Gross’s four components of feeling and emotion, she is likely feeling the following:

      1. The situation you are in – mom just handed me a red cup but I can’t hear what she is saying because there is a loud, grumbling sound coming from the counter.
      2. The details you pay attention to – I hear chopping and grumbling sounds that are deep and scary.
      3. Your appraisal of what the situation means for you personally – The blender is so loud that I can’t hear mom talking, or even hear myself telling her to stop.
      4. Your response, including the physical changes – I feel my heart beating faster, my hands are shaking a little and I’m closing my eyes because all my senses are on overload. Nothing is helping so I scream and cry, hoping mom will turn the blender off. 

      Now let’s look at Professor Klaus Scherer 5 emotional components as Suzie processes her emotions:

      1. Feelings – I am scared.
      2. Appraisals – I am in danger. My mom is in danger.
      3. Expressions – I’m closing my eyes really hard and have my hands over my ears.
      4. Action tendencies – I’m screaming because mom can’t hear me.
      5. Physical changes – I feel my heart beating faster, my hands are shaking a little and I’m closing my eyes because all my senses are on overload.

      Wow! How do you feel after experiencing first hand what Suzy is experiencing? If only she would tug on mom’s shirt and say “turn off the blender, I’m scared of the loud noise.”

      What Can You Do to Increase Children’s Emotional Vocabulary?

      Adults have had years of experience processing their emotions and learning how to communicate them, but children need help. Learning emotion words is how preschoolers can reach out to us for help. 

      Activities that teach emotional vocabulary and specific emotion words to young children in a way that they understand and remember, will make it easier for them to recall the correct words to use to describe their feelings, even when they are in a stressful situation. Emotion word lessons are best taught through an active approach. Here are five fun ways to teach emotion words to preschoolers.

      These are hands-on, multisensory activities to support emotional development in young children. They are tools for Developing and Using Emotional Vocabulary. They are fun ways to develop personal experience in developing emotional vocab!

      5 Fun Ways to Teach Emotion Words to Preschoolers

      1.Practice emotional vocabulary with Emotion face paper plates! 

      Tackle those fine motor skills while teaching emotion words. Understanding the facial expressions that match feelings help children identify and describe how others are feeling, so they know how to respond. 

      Using play based crafts, like paper plates, will reinforce how different expressions mean different things. When a child is upset, have them look in the mirror and see if they can tell you what their face is saying. Is their face happy, sad, angry or mad? Once they respond with the emotional vocabulary, you can ask “why does your face feel that way?”

      Activities like this one offers children the opportunity to practice facial expressions and body language while practicing emotion words.

      2. Use Calming down with sensory supports to improve emotional vocabulary.

      These amazing fall themed calm down ideas will help children regulate so they can remember all those feelings words that we teach them. While using the fall animal walk, have your child make a feeling face while they “leap like a squirrel” such as “leap like an angry squirrel!”

      Children remember new emotional vocabulary while they are moving!

      3. Read books about calming down and talking about emotions. 

      Soothing Sammy creates a positive spin on calming down and talking about feelings. This three step program uses tactile prompts and visual cues from a friendly golden retriever named Sammy!

      Soothing Sammy is a book and curriculum created to develop a child’s emotional vocabulary and to teach them how to calm down in a positive way.

      As children read through the story, the simple images reinforce the lessons, ones even 2 year-olds will understand. 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. Once they are calm, talk with your preschooler about emotions and how to communicate what they are feeling. 

      Emotional literacy is the ability to identify, understand and respond to emotions in oneself and others in a healthy manner, and using books is a powerful way to practice these skills.

      Learn more about Soothing Sammy here

      Use Soothing Sammy to teach emotions through play.

      4. Play emotion pattern mirror games.

      Teaching children about patterns doesn’t only have to be on paper or with objects, we can use play patterns to teach preschoolers about their feelings.

      Children learn so much by looking at themselves in the mirror. Turn on the light in the bathroom or grab a foldable mirror and place it on the floor. 

      Ask your child to make the feeling face you say, when you say it (happy, sad, happy, sad). Take turns (as an adult) making the faces your kids name. This game is bound to bring some laughter! Repeat with more emotions words. Learn more about this activity here.

      5. Play emotion memory card games.

      Repetition is the foundation of memory! What better way to learn new emotion words then emotion flashcards.

      My favorite way to do this is with real pictures of children making different emotion faces. Print out 2 copies of your child making each of the following faces: mad, sad, scared, surprised, annoyed and excited. Place the images upside down (all mixed up) and see if your child can match them together!

      As your child learns these words, create some more picture faces of new emotions to create a more advanced emotion word lesson.

      *Note – if your child is under 4 year old, start by placing the cards face up for them to match!

      A final note on emotional vocabulary

      Emotions don’t have to get the best of us, or our children. As long as we learn the words to pair with our emotions, we are able to problem solve with family and friends. Learning emotional language will help our children as toddlers, preschoolers and all the way into adulthood.

      These five super fun emotion activities make learning emotion words enjoyable and entertaining! After repeating these games several times, little Suzy will be able to tell me that she is scared because of the noisy blender, instead of screaming at me when I’m trying to make her a healthy treat. 

      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.

      Paper Plate Activities

      Paper plate activities and paper plate crafts for occupational therapy

      In occupational therapy, paper plate activities are one of those OT intervention tools that are low-cost and can be used in a multitude of ways to support many different developmental skills. From paper plate interactive activities, to scissor activities, to fine motor development, paper plate crafts and sensory activities can be used to promote many skill areas in occupational therapy interventions or at home and in the classroom.

      Paper plate activities and paper plate crafts to develop skills like fine motor skills, social emotional skills, and gross motor skills.

      Paper Plate Activities

      I get really excited when I talk about the next subject – paper plate activities! Paper plate crafts and activities are so fun and often require very little materials with the end result being so wonderful for kids! 

      Paper plates can easily be used for arts and crafts, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, subject or topic learning, visual motor and perceptual skills, emotions and self-regulation as well as a myriad of games.

      Paper plates can be a go-to when you need a quick activity in any setting or on those cold, rainy days when you need something to keep the kids busy. They are a great motivator for kids and can help build important skills that a child needs to continue to learn and to grow. 

      Paper plates are a thrifty tool for therapy to build those motor and perceptual skills while providing a fun activity that any child will want to engage in during sessions. The use of paper plates in the classroom can be for exploring emotions and self-regulation, creating after reading a book and lots of subject and topic learning fun. Their use in the home can include arts and crafts, instrument making, and games that result in some fantastic family entertainment.

      Paper plates will give you the variety you need to help many kiddos on your caseload, in your classroom, or in your household. So, the next time you’re at the store, grab some plain or even festive paper plates and see what fun you can create with kids and you may find that you enjoy the fun too! 

      Use these paper plate crafts to work on scissor skills, hand strength, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, and more.

      Paper Plate Crafts

      In occupational therapy interventions, we often use crafts as a medium for developing skills (taking us back to our roots of our profession!) These paper plate crafts are great for developing fine motor skills, scissor skills, bilateral coordination, motor planning, executive functioning skills, and more.

      • Mini Beach– Work on hand strength, utensil use, and more to make a paper plate beach craft.
      • Paper Bowl Scarecrow Craft– Use this paper plate craft to work on fine motor skills like precision, dexterity, and mixed medium use. Add in emotional learning to make the scarecrow personalized. Kids can take this craft and add their own unique twists for a multi-sensory craft with open-ended results.
      • Paper Plate Snail Craft– Work on precision, in-hand manipulation, arch development, and other fine motor skills with this paper plate snail craft.
      • Paper Plate Cars This craft is great for addressing scissor skills.
      • Paper Plate Baseball Craft– Improve scissor skills with this paper plate baseball craft.
      • Paper Plate Bubble Gum Machine Craft– Work on eye-hand coordination skills.
      • Thanksgiving Feast Plate – Use this craft to work on functional tasks such as meal skills and utensil use, as well as hand strength.
      • Tin Foil Moon– This is a great craft for working on graded hand strength and bilateral coordination skills.

      Paper Plate Activities for Emotions and Self- Regulation

      The best thing about occupational therapy professionals is that they can use ANY material to work on a variety of skill areas. Use paper plates to address social emotional learning and self-regulation skills!

      Paper Plate Fine Motor Activities

      Paper plates are a great fine motor activity to support hand strengthening, scissor skills, bilateral coordination, and more.

      Paper Plate Gross Motor Activities

      Paper plates can be used in therapy to support gross motor skills, too.

      Paper Plate Learning Activities

      Use these activities to work on functional tasks and executive functioning skills needed in daily occupations such as learning, math, using a phone, telling time, name writing, and more.

      Paper Plate Auditory Processing with Paper Plate Instruments

      You can use paper plates to work on auditory processing, too.

      Paper Plate Visual Motor Activities

      Paper plates are a great tool to use in therapy to address visual motor skills.

      Now, what are you waiting for? Go grab some paper plates and pick an activity!!

      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!

      Emotional Intelligence

      Emotional Intelligence activities for kids

      Emotional intelligence in children is a skill that takes practice, example, and more practice to develop. For all of us, emotional intelligence can be an ongoing skill that impacts social emotional skills, relationships, and functioning in day to day tasks. Here we are

      For those of us raising children and working with children it is clear that they need more than ‘book smarts’ to navigate the rather complex world that they are growing up in. For a long time the intelligence quotient or Emotional IQ was the only benchmark for measuring children’s potential and predicting how well they would achieve.

      In more recent times people studying development and psychology realized that there were other skills necessary for achieving success in the world. One of these sets of skills has become known as Emotional Intelligence.

      Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage and understand your emotions and those around you with empathy and perspective. These emotional intelligence activities for kids develop Emotional IQ through play.

      What is Emotional Intelligence?

      Emotional intelligence is described as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and to understand the emotions of those around you. The concept of emotional intelligence also known as emotional quotient or EQ developed in the 1990’s and has gained widespread acceptance in recent years.

      Instrumental in the development of the theory and models of emotional intelligence is Daniel Goleman a psychologist and author. Goleman and emotional intelligence may be terms that you’ve heard connected, where he describes four main domains that make up Emotional Intelligence.

      These domains are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. What do each of these emotional intelligence domains mean?

      • Self-awareness – Self-awareness is having conscious knowledge of your own character and feelings. This results in being able to recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Self-awareness in kids plays a role in emotional control, mindset, habits, and executive functioning skills.
      • Self-management – Self-management is being able to control and manage your emotions in a healthy way. Self-management for kids involves self-regulation, mindset, habits, and self-control. Co-regulation plays a role in this aspect as well.
      • Social awareness – Social awareness is the ability to pick up the emotions of other people and to understand what they are feeling. This can be a challenge for children of all needs.
      • Relationship management – Relationship management is the ability to build relationships with others through positive interpersonal communication skills (Segal, 2020). Children develop relationship management skills through example by watching others in their lives, by interacting with peers and adults, and through play.

      The domains are further broken down into twelve competencies and learnable skills that are relevant to the specific domain. (Matlock, 2017)

      At the bottom of this post, you can find hands-on activities for children that develop each area of these emotional intelligence skills.

      Emotional intelligence and emotional leadership

      Emotional leadership is a term developed by Goleman and others, and refers to leadership in groups, impacted by one’s emotional intelligence. When you take a look at the domains of EI, you can see how they play into the functioning of a group.

      Occupational therapists know a thing or two about group management and group leadership. At it’s infancy, occupational therapy played a major role in group therapy and mental health. While this domain of occupational therapy intervention is no longer primary area of intervention, there are still many OTs working in the mental health arena and especially in the group treatment intervention.

      Emotional leadership is an important part of group occupational therapy sessions, as the participants are interacting with others in the group and developing specific individualized goal areas but also group goal areas. Groups in therapy have a leader, often the therapist, but sometimes the therapist presents as a facilitator but one that keeps the group on track as the group interacts with other participants.

      In this way, participants can develop emotional leadership skills and skills that can be used outside of the group setting as a development of emotional intelligence and emotional learning.

      It is clear that a lot of work has been done on developing an understanding of emotional intelligence and the components that make up this construct. But how important is emotional intelligence in the lives and development of our children?

      Is Emotional Intelligence Important?

      Cognitive behavioral therapy recognizes that feelings or emotions can influence thoughts. When emotions run high they can alter the way our brains work and this can have a negative effect on our cognitive abilities. Our feelings can influence the decisions we make and how we interact with other people. It makes sense that having a greater understanding of our emotions will help guide how we interact with others.

      Improving our emotional intelligence makes it easier to resolve conflicts, manage our stress and interact appropriately with those around us (Segal, 2020). And children will definitely benefit from developing these skills. Children’s learning is influence by their emotional state so managing emotions in a positive way allows children to be receptive learners at school.

      Emotional intelligence includes the ability to name emotions. The act of naming emotions tends to diffuse their intensity and lessens the negative impact they may have on our cognitive abilities. The psychologist Dan Siegel refers to this as ‘name it to tame it’ (Schwartz, 2015). The value of recognizing feelings and emotions is evident but how does emotional intelligence develop.

      Development of Emotional Intelligence

      When asked how emotional intelligence develops in a recent interview Daniel Goleman stated that “emotional intelligence begins to develop in the earliest years. All the small exchanges children have with their parents, teachers, and with each other carry emotional messages. These messages repeat over and over to form the core of a child’s emotional outlook and capabilities.” (Scholastic, viewed 2021)

      As adults interacting with children it becomes important to ensure that we are able to recognise and manage our own emotions. Once we are able to do this we can become valuable role models for children and we can provide opportunities for them to see emotional intelligence in action. Recognizing and discussing emotions with children lays a foundation for their self-regulation.

      The development of emotional intelligence begins in infancy, through interactions with caregivers, and continues as children are socialized across their school years alongside parents, peers, and teachers. Emotional intelligence is gained through both informal experiences (observations and conversations) and through and formal instruction (being taught emotion vocabulary, learning self-regulation strategies).

      How emotional intelligence is taught depends on age, but unlike learning other skills such as math and science or English language arts, there is no age at which it is too early or too late to develop your emotional quotient. The parts of the brain needed to develop emotional intelligence are active from birth and will continue to develop throughout life.

      As with many developmental tasks it seems that the first few years of life the brain is at its most receptive to learning key skills. And emotional intelligence is one of these important skills. (Brackett, Cipriano, 2015

      This resource on executive functioning skills and emotional regulation shares more information on the role executive functioning skills play on emotional IQ.

       How to Teach Emotional intelligence?

      An essential part of developing emotional intelligence is being able to talk about feelings. This skill set is often termed emotional literacy and it is something that we are able to teach young children.

      We can teach children to read and understand emotions and to respond appropriately to their own emotions and the emotions of others. Goleman explains that you can teach young children about the most basic emotions, such as happiness and anger and when they get older touch on more complicated feelings, such as jealousy, pride, and guilt (Scholastic, viewed 2021)

      It is important to remember to include a range of emotions both positive and negative when talking about feelings.

      Although it is not always comfortable talking about negative emotions it is important that children recognize and accept the wide range of emotions that they are likely to experience during their lives.  We can incorporate opportunities to promote emotional intelligence in our everyday lives. 

      Emotional intelligence activities for therapy, the classroom, ad home to help children develop emotional intelligence skills for functioning.

      Emotional Intelligence Activities

      What does promoting Emotional Intelligence look like in a therapy session?

      As an occupational therapist (and a parent!) it can be overwhelming to think about the number of developmental needs that fall within your domain of influence. My therapy approach has always been aligned with building confidence and self-awareness in the children that I treat so in that way emotional intelligence has been fostered through incidental learning and interactions.

      In more recent times I have used tools and resources that focus specifically on building skills that will enhance emotional intelligence – empathy, self- regulation, communication skills – depending on what the individual child needs. 

      In my therapy session the first few minutes are spent getting a gauge of where the child is at and what their mood is like. By spending a few minutes engaging one on one with the child I am able to assess their level of attention, level of arousal and motivation at the time. I also have a mood meter on my wall and the kids love moving the arrow to the colour that corresponds to how they are feeling that day – low energy, just right energy, slightly high energy or off the chart energy levels.

      With a reluctant child I might get the ball rolling by sharing how I am feeling that day and using the mood meter to plot my energy levels. I also have a feeling chart called ‘How does your jellybean feel today?” adapted from a book by Susan Jelleberg (Jellybean Jamboree).

      This introduces the idea of naming emotions and of expanding our vocabulary related to emotions. In this way I feel I am working on the self-awareness component of emotional intelligence. 

      The next step is ensuring that the child is in a good space to learn and this means aiming for a calm-alert level of arousal. The Zones of Regulation offer a number of tools to help children reach that just right space. Some children need activities to lift their energy and some children need activities to lower their energy levels. I find deep pressure or proprioceptive activities work like a charm and I also use breathing activities frequently in my therapy sessions.

      In this way we tackle some of the self-management aspects of emotional intelligence. 

      Social management is a tricky one for young children to pick you. Learning that the people around them do not always think and feel the same is them is an on-going process. There are some lovely activities to encourage empathy in children and to help them become aware of other people’s feelings.

      Finally relationship management is encouraged through appropriate interactions between myself and the child during the therapy session. For some children this means learning how to deal with losing a game or competition, learning how to take turns or share or learning to give and receive complements.  

      So within the confines of a short therapy session, while working on other specific OT goals, it is very possible to facilitate and encourage a child’s emotional intelligence. An understanding of emotional intelligence and is various elements means that it is also possible to encourage its growth in the classroom and in our homes.

      And it is with this well-developed emotional intelligence that I believe our children will be able to successfully navigate the world they are growing up in and find meaning in their lives. 

      For further information on some of the component skills and activities related to emotional intelligence have a look at the following links. There are numerous resources on the OT Toolbox that deal with developing different components of emotional intelligence.  

      Self-Awareness Activities for Kids

      To develop self-awareness it is important to be able to understand what you are feeling. Children can participate in some of the following activities in increase their awareness of emotions.

      These self-awareness activities promote social emotional development through the awareness and process of practicing identification of emotions:

      Penguin emotions game– Use this penguin theme emotions activity to support emotional intelligence in kids.

      Social emotional learning– This social emotional skills worksheet supports the development of emotional intelligence by allowing children to draw in facial expressions that match various emotional states.

      Social emotional learning 2– This comprehensive resource on social emotional learning supports development of emotional intelligence by offering resources and information on how children develop emotional skills and ways to support that development.

      Spring matching emotions slide deck game– This Spring themed emotions activity supports the development of emotional skills by offering practice and matching of facial expressions.

      Self-Management Activities for Kids

      To develop self-management skills you need to move beyond identifying emotions and figure out strategies that will help to regulate these emotions and subsequent behaviours. 

      This Zones of regulation toolbox offers a collection of activities and resources designed to promote self-regulation and self-management skills for kids.

      Breath control is an important skill for kids to achieve in developing and refining self-management skills.

      Deep breathing exercise cards are a powerful tool to use in building and developing self-management skills for kids. Print off these cards and use them over and over again to meet the interests and needs of a whole classroom or clinic of children.

      Proprioception activities are heavy work movement activities that provide children with a sense of awareness when it comes to how their body moves through space or in a given situation.

      Social Awareness Activities

      To develop social awareness you will need to understand other people’s emotions effectively. These hands-on social awareness activities are strategies that children can use to develop emotional intelligence in social situations.

      Empathy for others- Developing empathy requires practice and awareness. This Quick as cricket activity for Empathy helps children to understand the perspectives of others through a classic children’s book. The hands-on accompaniment activity gives kids a chance to practice their empathy skills and put them to work in social situations or through the social interaction with others.

      Try these friendship activities to work on specific skills in developing social awareness, relationships skills, and interpersonal skills in children.

      Through books, families can look at the pictures and come back to specific concepts again and again. And, adding hands-on, multi-sensory play experiences brings those concepts home.

      In the resource, Exploring Books Through Play, you’ll do just that.

      This digital, E-BOOK is an amazing resource for anyone helping kids learn about acceptance, empathy, compassion, and friendship. In Exploring Books through Play, you’ll find therapist-approved resources, activities, crafts, projects, and play ideas based on 10 popular children’s books. Each book covered contains activities designed to develop fine motor skills, gross motor skills, sensory exploration, handwriting, and more. Help kids understand complex topics of social/emotional skills, empathy, compassion, and friendship through books and hands-on play.

      Click here to get your copy of Exploring Books Through Play.

      Relationship Management Activities

      To develop relationship management skills you will need to know how to develop and maintain good relationships with other people. These relationship management activities are strategies to work on emotional intelligence during interactions and relationships with others. 

      These Social skills interventions are therapy activities designed to promote relationships with others through hands-on activities that give kids practice to support relationship skills with others.

      This resource on Executive functioning in school is helpful in addressing relationships with peers, mentors, and teachers.

      To work on emotional development requires many executive functioning skills, including impulse control, working memory, mindset, attention, planning, self-talk, inhibition, and more. To address these skills in kids, using a fun, hands-on approach to talking about these skills through lists, drawing, and goal-setting is key. You’ll find the exact tools to address these needs in the printable, Impulse Control Journal.

      Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

      The Impulse Control Journal…a printable resource for helping kids strategize executive functioning skill development. When saying “calm down” just isn’t enough…

      When a child is easily “triggered” and seems to melt down at any sign of loud noises or excitement…

      When you need help or a starting point to teach kids self-regulation strategies…

      When you are struggling to motivate or redirect a child without causing a meltdown…

      When you’re struggling to help kids explore their emotions, develop self-regulation and coping skills, manage and reflect on their emotions, identify their emotions, and more as they grow…

      Grab the Impulse Control Journal to build organizational strategies, planning, prioritization, habits, and mindset in kids.

      Contributor to The OT Toolbox: Janet Potterton is an occupational therapist working predominantly in school-based settings and I love, love, love my job. I have two children (if you don’t count my husband!), two dogs, one cat, two guinea pigs and one fish. When I am not with my family or at work I try to spend time in nature. The beach is my happy place.

      Social Skills Checklist

      social skills checklist

      Everyday, social skills are a part of every interaction we have with other people. Today, I have a social skills checklist that can be used to identify areas of difficulty and areas of successes related to social interactions, social emotional development, and a way to identify specific areas that impact in social emotional learning. This list of social skills for children can be helpful in breaking down social learning and social skill development.

      Social skills checklist for kids development from preschool through adulthood.

      Social Skills Checklist

      Before we get to the social skills checklist, let’s break down social skills into the components.

      This social skills checklist breaks down social abilities and social development in kids.

      Included in this checklist are the individual components of social emotional skill areas, or social abilities:

      • Conversational Skills
      • Interpersonal Skills
      • Emotional Skills
      • Social Play
      • Emotional Development
      • Emotional Regulation
      • Peer Interactions
      • Self-Awareness Skills
      • Self-Confidence

      You’ll see each of these social and emotional skills areas listed below with a checklist of each area related to social emotional learning. Use this list of social skills to support social emotional development in children.

      How to Use a Social Skills Checklist

      When we can identify specific aspects of our behavior and actions related to what’s happening around us, we can identify specific thoughts feelings, reactions and responses that impact our interaction in the environment and with others.

      Having an awareness of each aspect of social and behavioral responses and internal thinking is a helpful place to start when it comes to promoting social emotional development. Then, we can know where to start by identifying specific areas of need in kids.

      By helping individuals identify aspects of social skills, observing social emotional skills in others, identifying expected and unexpected behaviors, we can help the kids we serve to notice and the impact they have on others’ thoughts, emotions, reactions and responses.

      By having individuals observe their own behavior, they can recognize how it impacts others, how it impacts participation in functional tasks in various environments, and they can make the connection between emotions, regulation, social skills, and functioning.

      A Note About this Social Skills List

      Remember that all children develop differently, and when it comes to social emotional learning, there is a close compont of executive functioning. Executive functioning skills down’t fully develop until adulthood. And so, social skill development can occur through adulthood as well.

      This list of social skills is meant to be comprehensive. Not all aspects of social skills will be achieved and steps can be skipped or developed in various orders based on experiences. In general, the lists are written in a developmental order, but the segments of social skills (Conversational skills, Interpersonal skills, Emotional Skills, Social Play, Emotional Regulation, Peer Interactions, Self-Awareness skill, and Self-Confidence) can all be developing and occurring at once. These social abilities are all happening at once and are fluid in development.

      Use this social skills checklist to identify areas of development, including self and social awareness in one-on-one tasks, peer tasks to function, learn, and play.

      conversational Skills

      Conversational skills occur throughout almost all functional tasks and environments. From the home, to school, to the community, conversational skills are needed for social interactions all day long.

      • Participates in conversation (verbal and/or non-verbal)
      • Responds to yes/no questions
      • Answers questions
      • Initiate conversation when it is appropriate to do so
      • Initiates conversation around specific topic
      • Adds to a conversation around a specific topic
      • Asks questions around a specific topic
      • Responds to questions around a specific topic without getting off track
      • Makes a variety of comments, related to the topic, without getting off track
      • Ends conversations appropriately
      • Waits to interject in a conversation
      • Maintains appropriate proximity to conversation partner
      • Recognizes the facial expressions of others
      • Recognizes the nonverbal cues, or “body language” of others
      • Requests assistance from others when needed
      • Understands the jokes of others
      • Maintains eye contact during conversations (able or unable)
      • Maintains an appropriate distance when interacting with peers
      • Speaks at an appropriate volume in conversations
      • Speaks at an appropriate volume on virtual/digital conversations online or via a device
      • Considers the perspective of others
      • Notices when others may be struggling
      • Offers assistance to others
      • Verbally expresses their feelings
      • Responds to greetings expressed by others
      • Joins a conversation with two or more people without interrupting
      • Maintains back and forth conversation
      • Initiates greetings to others
      • Provides compliments to others
      • Introduces self to others
      • Politely asks others to move out of their way
      • Acknowledges the Compliments Directed at Him/Her by Others
      • Allows Peers to Join Him/Her in Activities
      • Responds to the Invitations of Peers to Join Them in Activities
      • Allows Others to Assist Him/Her With Tasks
      • Responds to Questions Directed at Him/Her by Others
      • Experiences Positive Peer Interactions
      • Compromises During Disagreements With Others
      • Responds Slowly in Conversations
      • Changes the Topic of Conversation to Fit Self-Interests
      • Misinterprets the Intentions of Others
      • Makes Inappropriate Comments
      • Engages in Solitary Interests and Hobbies
      • Ends Conversations Abruptly
      • Fails to Read Cues to Terminate Conversations
      • Exhibits Fear or Anxiety
      • Regarding Social Interactions
      • Experiences Negative Peer Interactions
      • Engages in Socially Inappropriate Behaviors
      • Exhibits Poor Timing With His/Her Social Initiations
      • Is Manipulated by Peers Engages in Solitary Activities in the Presence of Peers
      • Conversational skills online in email or text messages
      • Conversational skills during times of stress such as tests, games, etc.

      Interpersonal skills

      Part of interpersonal skills is the self awareness and social awareness involved in peer interactions. Interpersonal skills refers to interacting with others in social situations, classrooms, homes, and the community. Also involved is interpersonal skills on a digital manner, which is a new ballgame for many adults who are raising children in this digital era.

      Types of Interpersonal Skills

      Interpersonal skills can be broken into several areas:

      1. Listening
      2. Collaboration
      3. Empathy
      4. Problem solving
      5. Conflict resolution
      6. Constructive feedback
      7. Diplomacy

      Interpersonal skills enable us to interact with others. These social skill checklist includes aspects of interpersonal skills.

      • Introduces him/herself to someone new
      • Introduces people to each other
      • Makes eye contact (if able/willing)
      • Uses manners
      • Problem Solving related to others in a specific situation
      • Referring back to previous situations where they needed to use problem solving (working memory)
      • Seeks help from peers in a one-on-one setting
      • Seeks help from peers in a group setting
      • Seeks help from adult
      • Accepts consequences
      • Plays a game successfully
      • Wins a game with appropriate behavior
      • Wins a game with appropriate conversation to others
      • Loses a game with appropriate behavior
      • Loses a game with appropriate conversation to others
      • Responds to constructive criticism
      • Shows self-confidence in group situations
      • Shows self-confidence in one-on-one situations
      • Shares with others (when appropriate)
      • Shows ability to compromise
      • Shows ability to cooperate on a problem
      • Shows ability to cooperate on a disagreement
      • Listens to others
      • Takes turns
      • Uses personal space
      • Respects the personal space of others
      • Follows directions in a given situation
      • Works with others to follow directions as a group (walking on one side of the hallway)
      • Identifies/defines problems
      • Generates solutions to problems
      • Carries out solutions by negotiating or compromising
      • Understands impact his/her behavior has on peers
      • Interprets body language in others
      • Interprets or recognizes body language in self
      • Clearly communicates
      • Offers constructive feedback to others in a one-on-one basis
      • Offers constructive feedback to others in a group setting
      • Responds to constructive feedback from others in a one-on-one setting
      • Responds to constructive feedback from others in a group setting
      • Offers input to problem solve
      • Accepts input from others to problem solve
      • Uses given information to problem solve with flexibility

      Emotions and Social Skills

      • Understanding emotions in general
      • Identifies emotions in others
      • Identifies emotions in self
      • Able to identify a potential reason for emotional displays in others
      • Able to identify a potential reason for emotional displays in self
      • Justifies emotions once identified
      • Able to regulate emotions with appropriate responses
      • Displays empathy towards others
      • Displays a variety of emotions
      • Identifies likes and dislikes
      • Demonstrates affection and empathy toward peers
      • Refrains from aggressive behaviors toward peers
      • Refrains from aggressive behaviors or self-talk toward self
      • Identify emotional state during a conversation or situation
      • Uses different tones of voice to convey messages
      • Compliments others
      • Appropriately receives compliments
      • Asks for a favor appropriately
      • Apologizes independently
      • Says thank you
      • Gives compliments to peers
      • Gives compliments to adults
      • Flexibility
      • Accepts making mistakes without becoming upset/angry
      • Accepts consequences of his/her behavior
      • Accepts unexpected changes
      • Continues to try when something is difficult
      • Ignores others or situations when it is desirable to do so
      • Conversational Skills
      • Problem Solving
      • Compliments
      • Flexibility


      Beginning Play Behaviors

      • Maintain proximity to peers within 1 foot
      • Observe peers in play vicinity within 3 feet
      • Parallel play near peers using the same or similar materials (Playing alongside a peer with own toys or games)
      • Imitate peer (physical or verbal)
      • Take turns during simple games (e.g., rolling ball back and forth)

      Intermediate Play Behaviors

      • Play associatively with other children
      • Shares toys during play
      • Changes play with flexibility
      • Respond to interactions from peers such as accepting a toy from a peer;
      • Answers questions during play
      • Return and initiate greetings with peers (e.g., wave or say “hello”).
      • Know acceptable ways of joining in an activity with others (e.g., offering a toy to a peer or observe play and ask to join in).
      • Invite known peers to play
      • Take turns during structured games/activities (social games or board games)
      • Ask peers for toys, food, and materials

      Advanced Play Behavior

      • Play cooperatively with peers
      • Game play with rule following
      • Game play with problem solving when rules are broken
      • Make comments about what he/she is playing to peers
      • Organize play by suggesting play plan
      • Plays the role of a leader during peer play
      • Follow another peers play ideas
      • Plays the role of a follower during peer play
      • Turn taking during structured activities
      • Take turns during unstructured activities
      • Invites unknown peers to play (age-appropriate unknown peers in settings such as playgrounds)
      • Give up toys, food and materials to peers
      • Offer toys, food, and materials to peers


      Emotional regulation is broken down into several areas when it comes to different social skills. this includes internal self-regulation as well as self-regulation during peer interactions, group interactions, problem solving, and flexibility of emotional regulation. A component to these concepts is working memory.

      In these ways emotional regulation is related to executive functioning skills.

      • Understanding emotions
      • Identify likes and dislikes
      • Identify emotions in self
      • Label emotions in self
      • Identify emotions in others
      • Label emotions in others
      • Justify an emotion once identified/labeled
      • Demonstrate affection toward peers
      • Demonstrate empathy toward peers
      • Ability to demonstrate intense fears
      • Uses tone of voice to convey a message

      Self Regulation and Social Skills

      • Allow others to comfort him/her if upset or agitated
      • Self regulate when tense or upset (using self-regulation skills independently)
      • Self regulate when energy level is high (using self-regulation skills or strategies)
      • Use acceptable ways to express anger or frustration (e.g., states they are upset or asks to take a break)
      • Deal with being teased in acceptable ways (e.g., ignore, walk away, tell adult)
      • Deals with being left out of group
      • Request a “break” or to be all done when upset
      • Accept not being first at a game or activity
      • Say “no” in an acceptable way to things s/he doesn’t want to do
      • Accept losing at a game without becoming upset/angry
      • Deals with winning appropriately
      • Deals with losing appropriately
      • Accept being told “no” without becoming upset/angry
      • Able to say “I don’t know.”

      Flexibility of social interactions

      • Accept making mistakes without becoming upset/angry
      • Accept consequences of his/her behaviors without becoming upset/angry
      • Ignore others or situations when it is desirable to do so
      • Accept unexpected changes
      • Accept changes in routine
      • Continue to try when something is difficult

      Problem Solving in social situations

      • Claim and defend possessions.
      • Identify/define problems.
      • Generate solutions using working memory or with innovative thought generation
      • Carry out solutions by negotiating or compromising
      • Seek assistance from adults
      • Seek assistance from peers
      • Give assistance to peers
      • Identify when assistance is needed for self
      • Identify when assistance is needed by others

      Self-Regulation and Group Interactions

      • Participate in group interactions
      • Respond/participate when one other child is present.
      • Respond/participate when more than one other child is present.
      • Respond/participate in a group of children WITHOUT adult supervision
      • Respond/participate in a group of children WITH adult supervision
      • Use appropriate attention seeking behaviors (e.g., calling name, tapping
      • shoulder).
      • Follows the rules of a group
      • Remain with group during group tasks
      • Follow the group routine
      • Follow directions during group settings
      • Make transition to next activity when directed
      • Accept interruptions/unexpected change
      • Take turns with others in group settings
      • Work collectively as a group to solve a problem
      • Interact with group members
      • Refrain from breaking off into smaller groups
      • Refrain from gossip or turning other group members against one another

      Peer Interactions

      • Invites peers to join them in activities
      • Joins peers in activities
      • Takes turns during games or activities
      • Takes turns in situations such as waiting in line, using the bathroom etc.
      • Maintains personal hygiene
      • Interacts with peers during unstructured activities
      • Interacts with peers during structured activities
      • Asks questions about others
      • Asks questions to to continue a conversation
      • Engages in one-on-one interactions with peers
      • Interacts in groups of peers
      • Maintains the “give-and-take” of conversations
      • Expresses sympathy for others
      • Expresses empathy for others in conversation
      • Expresses empathy for others in action
      • Acknowledges the interests of others
      • Limits negative conversations about others
      • Responds to negative conversations about others

      Self-Awareness Skills

      Self-awareness is an important part of social emotional learning and development of social skills. Self-awareness refers to the ability to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values. This ability to be self-aware influences how an individual responds to situations. Self-awareness also impacts behaviors.

      Self-awareness is greatly related to emotional regulation, the limbic system, and fight/flight/freeze concepts.

      Self-awareness involves body awareness, confidence, an awareness of interests, strengths, and weaknesses in given tasks.

      Self-awareness skills include:

      • Identifying personal strengths
      • Identifying personal weaknesses
      • Identifying one’s emotions
      • Identifying and developing interests, likes, and dislikes
      • Demonstrating an awareness of feelings and values
      • Having self-confidence
      • Understanding the concept of over-confidence
      • Being able to differentiate between abilities and inabilities
      • Examining prejudices and biases
      • Experiencing self-efficacy
      • Having a growth mindset

      Social Confidence

      It’s through the development of self-awareness skills that social confidence forms. When we are able to be aware of ourselves and build in the areas listed above, confidences in our abilities to react, respond, and use regulation strategies follow. This is one aspect of social confidence.

      Another aspect of social confidence refers to develop self-esteem and an ability to interact with others in a variety of situations. This can happen in established friendships, new friendships, established and known settings, and new or novel settings.

      Social confidence refers to these aspects of social skills:

      • Having confidence in our emotional response
      • Being yourself
      • Participating in new settings
      • Participating in new activities
      • Reaching out to others who the child doesn’t know
      • Participating in activities even through there is a chance of failure
      • Trying again after failure
      • Learning new things
      • Being supportive to others
      • Not worrying about what others think of one’s actions
      • Not worrying about what others may think of one’s behaviors

      How to promote Social Skills in Kids

      Take a look at the lists of specific social skills in this checklist. It is hard to think of any daily task that doesn’t require some aspect of social skill development. From interacting with family, the community, peers, there are tasks occurring all day long that require social skills.

      Use this social emotional learning worksheet to work on identifying emotions and to drive social skill development.

      Use these social development toys to promote social skill progression.

      For more ways to pinpoint areas of development in kids, try the Impulse Control Journal. This comprehensive resource outlines daily interactions and allows children to identify how they’ve behaved or responded to situations.

      Children can identify aspects of social situations that have worked well, and aspects that they can improve upon.

      The Impulse Control Journal has activities and tools to support and develop mindset, habits, goals, interactions, working memory, and much more.

      Click here to get your copy of this resource today.

      Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

      The Impulse Control Journal…a printable resource for helping kids strategize executive functioning skill development. When saying “calm down” just isn’t enough…

      When a child is easily “triggered” and seems to melt down at any sign of loud noises or excitement…

      When you need help or a starting point to teach kids self-regulation strategies…

      When you are struggling to motivate or redirect a child without causing a meltdown…

      When you’re struggling to help kids explore their emotions, develop self-regulation and coping skills, manage and reflect on their emotions, identify their emotions, and more as they grow…

      Grab the Impulse Control Journal to build organizational strategies, planning, prioritization, habits, and mindset in kids.

      Another fantastic resource that can help develop social and emotional skills is the activity book, Exploring Books Through Play.

      This digital E-BOOK is an amazing resource for anyone helping kids learn about acceptance, empathy, compassion, and friendship. In Exploring Books through Play, you’ll find therapist-approved resources, activities, crafts, projects, and play ideas based on 10 popular children’s books. Each book covered contains activities designed to develop fine motor skills, gross motor skills, sensory exploration, handwriting, and more. Help kids understand complex topics of social/emotional skills, empathy, compassion, and friendship through books and hands-on play.

      The book Exploring Books Through Play, has 50 different activities based on popular children’s books. Each book is used for 5 different activities that cover a variety of areas: sensory play, crafts, gross motor activities, fine motor activities, handwriting, scissor skills, and so much more.

      This book is designed to address emotional regulation and connecting with kids.

      social emotional activities for kids


      We have handpicked these easy and hands-on activities to help kids develop essential social emotional learning skills.

      As classroom curriculum becomes more focused on academics, social and emotional development can get lost in the shuffle. This book focuses on abstract concepts of friendship, acceptance and empathy. By using children’s books that foster understanding of these concepts through pictures and stories, we can help children understand and see these emotions in action. What if you could use books and interactive activities to teach friendship? What if you could read a book that centers on accepting differences and create or make an activity or craft that helps children see acceptance in action. What if you could explore emotions through story and interactive play? In this book, you will find books that cover abstract concepts and use play to build social and developmental skills.  The 10 books covered include:

      • A Sick Day for Amos McGee
      • Boy + Bot
      • Little Blue and Little Yellow
      • Red: A Crayon’s Story
      • Chrysanthemum
      • The Day the Crayons Quit
      • Leonardo the Terrible Monster
      • The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
      • Whoever You Are and Penguin and Pinecone

      Want to help kids learn more about complex concepts such emotions, empathy, compassion, and differences?

      Creative book activities that help kids develop fine motor skills and gross motor skills, while exploring books.

      Exploring Books Through Play uses children’s literature as a theme to engage in fun, hands-on activities that help children and adults delve deeper into the characters and lessons, bringing the stories to life and falling further in love with literature. Read a story and then bring the characters to life while learning and building skills. Each story offers unique activities designed around central themes of friendship, empathy, and compassion.

      Each chapter includes 5 activities for each of the 10 children’s books. The activities are perfect for children ages 3-8, can be used in small groups or as a whole class, and are easily adapted to a home or classroom setting.

      Click here to get the Exploring Books Through Play resource.

      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.