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!

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!”

Activities like these emotions playdough mats can offer calming and organizing heavy work through the hands and fingers, while supporting emotional vocabulary, including emotion names.

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). Work on turn taking by 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.

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 the skills of turn taking in conversation, or how 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:

These emotions playdough mats can be used to teach kids emotion names and emotions they may have felt in the past. Kids can create the facial expression that matches the emotion name, building self-awareness 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.

Emotions Check in– You can foster a sense of self awareness by allowing kids to identify their emotions. This can be a part of the routine in the classroom, home, or with each therapy session. A sightly different strategy would be identifying feelings with a feelings check in.

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. Be sure to check out our resource on calm down toys for more ideas.

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). We have a great resource on teaching turn taking skills.

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.

A final note on social skills lists

These social skills checklists are to be viewed as educational and informative resources. If you suspect a child or individual of any age has trouble or regressions in any of the areas listed, be sure to seek out individualized support via a pediatrician, therapist, or other professional.

In addition, for the toddler-aged children, changes, regressions, or lack of development as typically expected when it comes to social and emotional skill achievement can be a toddler behavior red flag that should be explored in greater detail.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Friendship Activities

friendship activities

Today, we are covering friendship activities. These are friendship crafts and lessons that support the social emotional skill development of interacting with others by creating close relationships. Friendship activities are great for therapy interventions and as a supplement to social emotional skills. Friendship activities involve learning and using empathy, and activities to support friendship skills are a great way to develop these learned skills.

These friendship activities support the social emotional skill development of interacting with others by creating close relationships. Friendship activities are great for therapy interventions and as a supplement to social emotional skills. Friendship activities involve learning and using empathy, and activities to support friendship skills are a great way to develop these learned skills.

I am excited to share a collection of friendship activities designed to help children establish and build friendships. How do you teach friendship? This can be an abstract concept for kids, but by using friendship skills activities like games to teach social skills, friendship crafts, friendship recipes, and printables about friendship, we can teach children skills like empathy, perseverance, sharing, cooperation, and other essential components of friendship.

Be sure grab these friendship activities for teletherapy:

Writing about Friendship Slide Deck – writing prompts, writing letters to friends, and handwriting activities to develop friendship skills, all on a free interactive Google slide deck.

Personal Space Friendship Skills Slide Deck– Friendship involves allowing personal space, and body awareness and all of this is part of the social skill development that some kids struggle with. Use this free Google slide deck to work on body awareness and personal space.

Friendship activities to help kids develop social skills for friendship skills. Includes friendship recipes, friendship crafts, social stories information, and more.

Friendship Activities

Are you a good friend? Do you make a good friend? Do you have good friends? All of these are such important questions for children who are learning each day the necessary social skills that build lasting friendships. Strong social skills are an important piece of everyday life and the earlier this is recognized, the better social growth and development a child will experience. 

Strong social skills are an important piece of everyday life and the earlier this is recognized, the better social growth and development a child will experience.

Demonstrating and recognizing the friendship qualities that makes a good friend and keeps friendships strong is an important skill to have early on in childhood. Children will develop friendships with others from different backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles, and abilities.

Adults have a responsibility to teach children about kindness and friendship to all. Learning this along with how a good friend acts and behaves and what is the right and wrong way to treat a friend is essential for strong social skill development.

Friendship activities can help children begin to explore the friendship qualities and behaviors that are important to learn how to be a good friend, if they make a good friend, and recognize do they have a good friend.

Read on for some creative ways to engage children in learning friendship skills.

Teaching Friendship Skills to Kids

There are many wonderful activities that can be used to help children develop friendship skills. What are some of the specific skills that are needed for building and maintaining friendships?

  • Empathy
  • Acceptance
  • Sharing
  • Listening
  • Asking questions/being interested
  • Helping others
  • Responding to social situations
  • Communicating
  • Turn-taking
  • Cooperating
  • Solving problems
  • Perseverance
  • Being supportive
  • Trustworthiness

Some of these concepts are very abstract.

Using concrete examples, modeling, social stories, and activities that provide examples of these social skills can be powerful.

One way that I’ve loved to help children with social skill development in hands-on, and memorable ways is through play. To bring real-life visual examples that provide an opportunity for conversation and discussion is to use children’s books to inspire exploration of friendship skill development. Here are children’s books and activities that develop friendship skills.

Use the books to inspire discussion and play-based exploration of concepts such as empathy, acceptance, and differences.

Another way to address abstract concepts is through play. Use everyday toys to explore and develop turn-taking, communication, sharing, and problem solving.

Or, address turn-taking with blocks as kids communicate and practice taking turns.

Explore differences with this friendship sensory bottle.

These other friendship activities will give children the time to play and read to help them build a better understanding of good friendship behaviors and how to demonstrate them. Let’s take a look…

Sensory Friendship Activity

Friendship Countdown Chain

Friendship Ice Cream Cone Throw

Friendship Recipe

Food is always a fun way for children to learn!  Using food is a great way to explore different friendship characteristics while making a tasty friendship treat to eat!

These recipes include food items like cereal, fruit, chocolate, and nuts. Be sure to always check for food allergies and especially peanut or nut allergies, if you include these in your treats. 

Freight Train Activity – This mesmerizing book teaches basic concepts of shapes and colors, but can be expanded to discuss differences, awareness of others.

Friendship Treat Recipe

Friendship Snack Mix

Friendship Snack Mix

Friendship Fruit Salad

Friendship Games

Games are another fun way for children to learn important skills like sharing, empathy, making friends, kindness, differences, and more.  What child doesn’t like games? 

Engage children in these fun games that include a version of I Spy with monsters, bean bag activities played in a group while in a line or a circle, tossing of a yarn ball to say why someone makes a good friend, and activity ideas in a cooperation blog post that includes elements of friendship.

What Makes a Friend? Monster Game

Core Strengthening Friendship Activity

Friendship Yarn Game

Cooperation: 12 Group Activities for Kids

Friendship Crafts

Friendship activities such as those that support the development of social emotional skills through crafts are always a hit. In occupational therapy, crafts are a creative way for children develop motor skills, executive functioning, and emotional regulation, but they are also a fantastic way for kids to express themselves, share and create with others, and develop their skills.

These friendship crafts incorporate all of these elements while focusing on friendship to include spreading kindness, sharing, turn taking, and giving.

Empathy Activity– Use beads and a children’s book to explore empathy.

Super Friend Capes made with tee shirts.

Friendship Rocks Fingerprint Hearts made with rocks and fingerprints.

Friendship Flowers made with construction paper.

Foam Heart Friendship Necklaces made with foam hearts, beads, and yarn.

Beaded Friendship Bracelets made with beads and stretchy cords.

Friendship High Fives made with handprints and construction paper.

Secret Friendship Messages made with white crayons and revealed with watercolor paints.

Friendship Printables

In the classroom, therapy room, and hallway are great places to display friendship posters that show the importance of friendship and help create a positive classroom and school community. They show how to be a good friend and how not to be a good friend as well as help children to gain an understanding of good friendship qualities.

Friendship Posters

How to Be a Friend Posters

Friends Play Dough Printable

Friendship social stories

Social stories, or printable, hand-held stories that describe situations can give kids a concrete plan for everyday tasks. Using social stories to explain social situations is a great way to help kids with abstract concepts.

There are many nice templates out there that cover aspects of friendship, but for the most part, a social story should be individualized for each child.

This article on Autism and Friendship Skills includes important research on this topic to explore, but when it comes to using online social stories, they may not always be appropriate. Writing a social story for your child will be far more effective when you use the images, vocabulary, and terms that make sense to YOUR child or client, and the specific situations that are appropriate to your individual child or client.

Friendship Activities with Books

Mentioned briefly above, using books to help kids explore friendship is an incredibly rewarding way to pair friendship activities with the world of books.

Parents can cozy up with a child under a cozy blanket, for a calming and regulating experience of reading books togeter. Then, there is the oppourtunity to communicate about the characters, their friendships, and their conflicts, and their social situations that they had to navigate.

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.

social emotional activities for kids
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!

Fun Baseball Matching Game

baseball matching game

This Baseball matching game is another free slide deck to use in digital or face to face therapy sessions while working on a variety of occupational therapy skill areas. It’s a fun way to foster visual perceptual skills and social emotional learning through a baseball theme!

Baseball matching game.

Today we have another social emotional resource for teaching emotions and showing children how to match facial expressions to meaning of emotions this baseball emotions game uses the spot it matching strategies to work on social emotional development as well as visual perceptual skills kids can.

This is a free therapy slide deck, so it can be used in teletherapy services or virtual sessions. However, now that more schools are moving to a face to face setting in the fall, this resource is still a great way to outline therapy sessions. Use the slides as activities with a baseball theme in therapy.

Kids can work on social emotional development skills that they need for communication playing with others and social participation by using the game as a tool for social emotional learning skills such as naming facial expressions.

Baseball matching Game

This baseball matching activity is great for a baseball theme or for kids that love all things sports and baseball.

On the slides kids will notice baseball gloves and baseball mitts that have different facial expressions.

When they play the game they can begin with the first slides that ask them to name and label emotions.

Kids can type right into the slide deck and name the emotions on different baseballs.

Then, the slide deck includes a matching component. Users can look at each circle on the slide and look for one matching pair. When they find the match, they can move the baseball bat to cover the matching baseballs.

Use this game to work on visual perceptual skills such as:

  • Visual discrimination
  • Form constancy
  • Visual attention
  • Visual memory
  • Visual scanning skills

These visual perceptual and visual motor skills are needed for hand writing and copying materials from a written source such as the chalkboard or dry race board.

If you were looking for baseball themed activities for therapy this slide deck is a great resource.

Access this slide deck in by entering your email into the form below and you can receive a free printable PDF which will lead you to the slide deck. This is a great activity for teletherapy or for using to facilitate face-to-face therapy sessions with children who love all things baseball or sports.

Free Baseball Matching Game Slide Deck

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    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Emotions Game (Frog Theme Slide Deck)

    emotions game frog theme spot it activity

    This frog emotions game slide deck is a tool for helping kids to identify emotions based on facial expression. It’s a social skills activity for young children that goes perfectly with this frog writing activity and our cute frog crafts. Use all frog games together as frog themed activities that develop skills.

    Teaching emotions is an important part of social emotional development. That’s why this emotions game (with a cute frog theme) is so much fun, but also a great way to help kids learn to identify emotions, match up emotions by facial expression, and label different feelings. It’s just one of the many free slides here on the site, and one you’ll want to add to your toolbox.

    Emotions game with a frog theme. This free therapy slide deck is a fun social emotional learning game for kids.

    Frog Emotions

    You might be wondering “frog emotions? What does that mean?”

    But we are not talking about the emotions of frogs here…we mean that you can use a fun theme like frogs and toads to talk to kids about emotions and emotional expressions! It’s an activity like this that uses frog emotions to help us explain to kids how they feel, how mood and affect impact their overall wellbeing, and how we all (even the cute frogs in this free slide deck activity) have feelings. It’s empathy skills through play!

    Working with kids in occupational therapy sessions have shown me one thing…and that’s the fact that if we can make things fun and engaging (like the cute frogs in this activity) that we can help kids build skills!

    This emotions game is modeled after several other similar emotions games we have here on the site. You can use all of these in sequence or to fit with different themes in therapy or in the classroom or home. Each emotions game includes a “spot it” type of matching game that allows kids to feel challenged, but also builds essential skills.

    These other emotions games might fit with some of your themes you have planned:

    The emotions games in these activities and in the one shown below, children can label different facial expressions and give a name to the visual emotions. The important thing here is to note that there is no right answer. Some children might have different names for emotions or the feelings that they experience.

    In the frog theme slide deck, there are different facial expressions for each frog’s face. Kids can type right into the slide deck and add a label for those expressions. You can extend this activity in several ways:

    1. Ask kids to mimic the visual facial expression that they see on each frog’s face.
    2. Ask the user to identify a time that they have experienced that particular emotion.
    3. Ask the user to tell about a time that they have seen other’s experiencing that emotion. You can talk about what might lead up to another person experiencing a particular feeling or emotion. This task helps to build empathy for others.
    4. Ask the child to identify ways to reach out to others when they might be feeling particular emotions. How can they help others who are feeling sad or angry? How would they like others to reach out to them when they themselves are feeling a particular feeling?
    5. Ask the child to specify ways that they respond to particular emotions. What do they do when they feel upset, silly, or frustrated?

    You can even use this as an emotions check in activity with kids. Ask them how they are feeling right now. It’s a tool for emotional regulation.

    The next part of the slide deck includes matching activities in a “spot it” type of emotions game. The slide decks are interactive, meaning that kids can move the lily pads to cover the matching emotion on each slide.

    Each slide has only one matching facial expression, and the player can look at each image and try to find the matching expression.

    Frog Emotions Game

    As an occupational therapist, I’ve found that incorporating themed activities like a frog emotions game can be incredibly beneficial for children. This type of activity not only targets emotional regulation skills but also adds an element of fun and engagement to therapy sessions.

    Children are often drawn to themed activities because they provide a novel and exciting experience, making therapy feel less intimidating and more enjoyable. The frog theme adds a playful twist, allowing kids to explore and express their emotions in a lighthearted manner. By integrating games like this into therapy sessions, we can create a motivating environment that encourages active participation and enhances the overall effectiveness of treatment.

    The frog theme activity is a social emotional learning game that kids can use to build awareness and strategies, too.

    After playing the emotions matching on the slide, then focus more on building awareness of emotions and social development. After the child finds the match, they can identify the expression that is depicted on that frog’s face. T

    hen, go back to what was covered in the beginning with some of the same questions: how do they think that frog feels? When did they experience that expression? If they felt angry (or frustrated, silly, sad, etc.) in school when they need to complete an assignment? How would they feel if they were playing a game and experienced feelings of frustration?

    All of these questions allow the child to think in situational experiences so they can be ready to function. Situational awareness, empathy of others, and social emotional development are all learned skills, and having experience, the words to use, and tools in their back pocket will allow them to function in future tasks or situations.

    After you are done playing, just go to the slide deck edit history and click “reset slides” to revert them to their original set-up. You can then play again…just click the lily pads and drag them to cover each matching frog face, and work on labelling emotions again and again!

    Free emotions game slide deck

    We have a free frog themed emotions activity in slide deck form.

    To add this free emotions game to your therapy toolbox, enter your email address into the form below. You’ll receive a printable that you can use in therapy, the home, or the classroom.

    NOTE- Email addresses on a school or work server may block the email delivering your file. Consider using a personal email address for better deliverability.

    Free Emotions Game (Frog Theme) Slide Deck

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      Add the Frogs and Toads Motor Skills Mini-Pack to this activity and build stronger, more refined motor skills in children. The mini pack includes:

      • Fine Motor Mazes
      • Fine motor paths
      • A-Z frog letters for word building
      • “Froggy Says” gross motor game
      • 1-20 Number Building Mats
      • Play Dough Mat
      • Handwriting Pages
      • I Spy page
      • Gross motor directionality sheets

      Done for you motor skills activities and FUN frog and toad themes combine in the Frogs and Toads Motor Skills Mini-Pack. Work on grasp, hand strength, eye-hand coordination, handwriting, scissor skills, heavy work, gross motor skills, coordination, and all things fine and gross motor skills in this 43 page printable packet.

      frog and toad activities motor skills packet

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Emotion Matching Game Slide Deck

      emotion matching game

      Today, I’ve got a fun emotion matching game that you can use in teletherapy sessions to teach emotions and feelings. This social emotional learning activity is an online game that kids will love to use in virtual therapy while working on things like identifying facial expressions as well as the visual perceptual skills like visual discrimination, visual scanning, and form constancy.

      Emotion Matching Game for helping kids identify emotions in a spot it game for occupational therapy teletherapy interventions.

      Emotion Matching Game

      If working on emotions in a spot it game is helpful in your occupational therapy interentions, this emotions matching game will do the trick.

      Emotion game to teach facial expressions and emotions to kids

      Kids can work through the slides and first, identify emotions based on facial expressions of the stars on each rainbow star.

      There is a text box under each facial expression where users can type the name of the facial expression.

      Next, kids can work through each slide to identify the matching emotions. There are only two facial expressions that match on each slide and kids can move the clouds over to cover the matching emotions.

      This slide deck covers a variety of skill areas:

      • Visual scanning
      • Visual form constancy
      • Visual discrimination
      • Visual attention
      • Visual memory
      • Social emotional learning
      • Identifying emotions
      • Eye hand coordination
      • Typing skills
      • Computer mouse skills

      Identifying and expressing emotions through play is an important part of social emotional development. This game offers an oppourtunity to work on these skills in virtual therapy sessions.

      For more ways to work on emotion matching, try these activities and resource pages:

      Want to add this emotion matching game to your therapy toolbox?

      Enter your email address into the form below and you’ll receive this Google slide deck game.

      Google Slide Deck TIPS:

      1. Save the PDF file that you receive once you enter your email below, because you can come back to it again and again and send it to the kids on your caseload (or classroom) so they can make their own copy on their Google drive.
      2. You will be prompted to make a copy of the slide deck. Before clicking that, be sure that you are logged into your Google account.
      3. Make a copy for each student’s Google Drive. When you share it, make sure you enable edit capabilities for users.
      4. The pieces will be moveable in “edit” mode. If you click “present”, the movable ice cubes won’t work.
      5. Be sure to make a copy of this slide deck and not change the url to indicate “edit” at the end. When you make a copy of the slide deck onto your Google drive, you will end up with your own version that you are free to adjust in order to meet your student’s needs. By changing the url to “edit”, you can potentially mess up the original version that many other therapists and The OT Toolbox users are given.
      6. To easily start a new game- Once you’ve gone through all of the slides, go to “history” on the top of the Google dashboard. You will be able to revert the slide to it’s original state using the history option, so all of the ice cubes go back to their original place. The history option is located on the top dashboard by clicking the link that says, “last edit was…”. When you click on that, you will see a list of edits made on the right side of your screen. Click on the edit titled, “New Game (Revert slides to their original state)”. This should move all of the movable ice cubes back to their original location on the slide deck. The typed in emotions on the text boxes will disappear as well. Note that you can delete edits from that list, so if several students are using the slides, you can keep the organization simple and delete edit versions that you no longer need.

      Emotion Matching Game Slide Deck!

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        MORE Emotions Games and Activities

        Want to help kids explore social and emotional learning through play? Exploring Books Through Play inspires social and emotional development though play based on children’s books. The specifically chosen books explore concepts such as differences, acceptance, empathy, and friendship.

        Exploring Books Through Play: 50 Activities Based on Books About Friendship, Acceptance and Empathy is filled with hands-on activities rooted in interactive, hands-on, sensory play that focus on creating a well-rounded early childhood education supporting growth in literacy, mathematics, science, emotional and social development, artistic expression, sensory exploration, gross motor development and fine motor skills. Kids can explore books while building specific skills in therapy sessions, as part of home programs, or in the home.

        Click here to explore acceptance, empathy, and friendship through play.

        Exercise and Mood: Why Does my Child Need to Exercise?

        Exercise and mood in kids

        Years of research and personal experience can tell us that adults tend to function better with regular exercise. Exercise helps us sleep better, reduce our stress, and manage our weight2. But what about our kids – how do they benefit from exercise? Today we are going to dive deep into the research and see why and how our kids should exercise to better their mood. Let’s look at the link between exercise and mood, and establishing healthy habits that lead to function and independence in kids.

        Related: Emotional Regulation and Executive Functioning Skills.

        Exercise and mood in children. Kids benefit from exercise to help with tantrums, behaviors, and confidence.

        Exercise and Mood: Managing TEMPER TANTRUMS

        If your child is having issues with emotional regulation, it may come out as a temper tantrum. You know the feeling of having no control over your emotions; being taken on a ride of sadness, aggression, and pounds of heavy frustration. Most adults have had enough practice honing their emotional regulation skills to keep them from screaming in the middle of the grocery store after a long day. Children, however, are still working on developing emotional regulation skills, and because of that, their overall mood can suffer.

        Also related is the mood of those around us, or co-regulation. This is another aspect of mood that we don’t always first think of as it relates to our behavior and actions.

        According to research new and old, exercise can help a child better regulate their mood9. Next time your child is screaming in the middle of Target, think to yourself – have they gotten enough physical activity recently? I have found that 30 mins of exercise in the morning can help even out moods for the whole day. Plus, you are bound to get a good nap time out of them if they have gotten enough physical activity – double whammy for everyone’s mood!

        Tips for Exercise and Mood

        Try these tips for encouraging exercise to reduce tantrums in toddlers:

        • Instead of pushing your toddler in a scroller on neighborhood walks, encourage them to walk next to you for a while.
        • Use classic movement songs to incorporate movement into their day – our favorites are “Animal Action” By Greg and Steve, “Jim Along Josie” By Pete Seeger, and “Pet Parade” by Hoyt Axton.
        • If screen time is a part of your routine, use videos like Cosmic Kids Yoga  to make the screen time more valuable.


        Research shows that regular exercise in youth can treat anxiety and depression in the short term and long-term 3,4. Some studies suggest that high-intensity exercises, that will increase cardiorespiratory activity, improve mood more than low-impact exercises, like yoga5.

        While there is lots of evidence to support that exercise can improve mood in both adults and children, some of the research points to other affects that exercise programs can have on children. For example, when children are enrolled in sports or other physical activity programs, they are also socially active and get attention from adults, which may also positively impact their mood7.

        Whatever way you look at it, exercise is likely to improve their mood and guard against anxiety and depression.

        Exercise for self-CONFIDENCE

        One way that exercise improves mood is through raising self-esteem – physical activity gives you a confidence boost! Research shows that all kinds of physical activity contribute to a rise in self-esteem5.

        Self-esteem is so important in all the occupations that children have, particularly in school. Academic and social success are partially dependent on self-esteem and self-worth, and both contribute to a positive mood.

        “Psychological and behavioural problems in children and adolescents are common, and improving self‐esteem may help to prevent the development of such problems” (Ekeland et al., 2004).

        Exercise and positive BEHAVIORS

        In one study, researchers found that teachers reported an increase in wanted behaviors for children enrolled in both high and low-intensity exercise programs5. The theory here is that when a child’s physical activity needs are met, they are better able to regulate their emotions, attention, and behaviors9.

        This comes with the awesome effects that exercise has for executive functioning, which controls many cognitive abilities6. With this increase in desirable behaviors, they will be more likely to develop positive relationships with their peers, teachers, and family members8.

        “Exercise…is highly relevant in preadolescent children… given the importance of well-developed executive functions for daily life functioning” (Verburgh et al., 2014). 

        Exercise has been shown to increase self-esteem, cognition and academic success, and decrease depression and anxiety in children3. Not to mention the obvious health factors associated with physical activity like heart and respiratory function. All said, exercise is integral to the overall health and wellness of our children.


        After all that exercise talk, we have to offer some great ideas to add to your list! Most important to any exercise routine – you have to do what you love! Find what your kids like and encourage them to try new activities.

        Another key strategy to encourage exercise in kids is to model healthy habits as the child’s parent. When parents model healthy choices, fitness, and regular exercise, kids see that and are more likely to follow suit with their own healthy choices.

        One way that adults can model healthy choices is through exercising in the home. When kids see adults exercising, they have that positive interaction with physical activity.

        Having a treadmill in the home is one sure-fire way to encourage movement, exercise, and healthy habits that are integrated into the day-to-day. With  Horizon Fitness treadmills and fitness equipment, you get the availablity of cardio equiptment right in the home. It’s there as a visable option for adding movement and regular cardio exercise on a daily or weekly basis.

        Plus, parents of children can benefit from the fitness programs for quick and effective workouts that fit into the busy family’s schedule. Horizon offers a number of entertainment apps and streaming options, including Bluetooth speakers,  live or on-demand fitness apps, and other streaming fitness opportunities. All of these extras are designed to promote improved physical exercise and meaningful motivation.

        Click here to join me in using Horizon Fitness equipment as a tool to ensure healthy families.


        1. Ekeland, E., Heian, F., Hagen, K. B., Abbott, J. M. & Nordheim, L. (2004). Exercise to improve self‐esteem in children and young people. Cochrane Libary of Systematic Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD003683.pub

        2. Oaten, M. & Cheng, K. (2010). Longitudinal gains in self‐regulation from regular physical exercise. The British Journal of Health Psychology,11(4). https://doi.org/10.1348/135910706X96481

        3. Ortega, F. B., Ruiz, J. R., Castillo, M. J. & Sjöström, M. (2008). Physical fitness in childhood and adolescence: a powerful marker of health. International Journal of Obesity, 32, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803774

        4. Pascoe, M. C. & Parker, A. G. (2018). Physical activity and exercise as a universal depression prevention in young people: A narrative review. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 13(4). https://doi.org/10.1111/eip.12737

        5. Telles, S., Singh, N., Bhardwaj, A. D., Kumar, A. & Balkrishna, A. (2013). Effect of yoga or physical exercise on physical, cognitive and emotional measures in children: a randomized controlled trial. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health,7(37). https://doi.org/10.1186/1753-2000-7-37

        6. Verburgh, L., Königs, M., Scherder, E. J. A., & Oosterlaan, J. (2014). Physical exercise and executive functions in preadolescent children, adolescents and young adults: a meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine,48, 973-979. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/48/12/973

        7. Williams, C. F., Bustamante, E. E., Waller, J. L. & Davis, C. L. (2019). Exercise effects on quality of life, mood, and self-worth in overweight children: the SMART randomized controlled trial. Translational Behavioral Medicine,9(3), 451–459. https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/ibz015

        8. Xue, Y., Yang, Y. & Huang, T. (2019). Effects of chronic exercise interventions on executive function among children and adolescents: A systematic review with meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine,53, 1397-1404. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2017-097600

        9. Zhang, Y., Fu, R., Sun, L., Gong, Y., & Tang, D. (2019). How does exercise improve implicit emotion regulation ability: Preliminary evidence of mind-body exercise intervention combined with aerobic jogging and mindfulness-based yoga. Frontiers in Psychology,10. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01888

        Sydney Thorson, OTR/L, is a new occupational therapist working in school-based therapy. Her
        background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about
        providing individualized and meaningful treatment for each child and their family. Sydney is also
        a children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.

        Exercise and Mood Resources for Kids

        You’ll love these resources designed to help kids get moving, exercising, and building skills, and kids won’t even realize they are “exercising”!

        Designed to use fun themes, these heavy work activity cards add proprioceptive input to help kids become more aware of their body’s position in space.

        Heavy work input allows kids to gain more awareness of motor planning skills, coordination, AND strengthening in fun and creative ways.

        Incorporate the themed exercise cards into learning themes or play.

        Grab your set of heavy work exercise cards, now.

        Includes themes:

        1. Trucks Heavy Work Activities
        2. Insects Heavy Work Activities
        3. Sea Animals Heavy Work Activities
        4. Farm Animals Heavy Work Activities
        5. Jungle Animals Heavy Work Activities
        6. Woodland Animals Heavy Work Activities
        7. Superheroes Heavy Work Activities
        8. Sports Heavy Work Activities
        9. Monsters Heavy Work Activities
        10. Summer Heavy Work Activities
        11. Butterfly Life Cycle Heavy Work Activities
        heavy work activity card example

        Writing About Friendship Slide Deck

        Writing about friendship google slide deck for teletherapy

        Today, I have another free Google slide deck to share with you. This one is perfect for writing about friendship. In this teletherapy occupational therapy activity, kids can explore social emotional learning while working on handwriting skills. Kids can use this slide deck to write about the qualities of a friend, and use the friendship words and friendship writing prompts for developing social skills that is important for making friends. Also try this friendship skills for personal space and body awareness slide deck.

        Write about friendship with this free Google slide deck that helps kids with social emotional skills, resiliency, and handwriting skills.

        Writing about Friendship

        I have had this friendship activity on my mind for a while now. After noting the lack of social interaction that we’ve been seeing in kids more this past year, I’ve had this friendship writing activity planned as a tool to support kids’ social emotional needs.

        We know the power that socialization has on child development, mood, and

        When it comes to hybrid learning, virtual classrooms, and online activities and social events, kids are losing out on the social aspect of sports and activities that they have had in the past. This lack of face-to-face interaction impacts a child’s ability to make friends.

        And, children that struggle with social-emotional development are impacted by the added complexity of seeing face masks on faces. They can’t get social cues like smiles or other facial expressions that are a sign of a friend.

        To help children better understand facial expressions and emotional learning skills, grab this facial expressions worksheet.

        Additionally, children that are in virtual learning situations and those in hybrid classes are seeing all or half of their peers virtually. This isolation can potentially impact a child’s social participation, and may be especially impactful for children with social, emotional, or communication challenges.

        Participation in virtual classrooms and activities limits social participation in a way that limits the opportunities to make friends and nurture friendship relationships.

        Children who struggle with social skills or social participation in a typical school setting can have a difficult time with making friends.

        Even more to consider is the impact that this past year has had on a child’s perspective of interacting with others socially. One study took a look at children’s perspectives as a result of this year’s events.

        The study also noted that children expressed concern, anxiety, and worry about leaving their home after being on a lockdown mode. Because, here’s the thing: staying at home is safe, right? It’s where kids are protected. Staying home and interacting with others virtually has a sense of security.

        But, when kids are asked to leave the home, we are starting to see an emergence fear of going outside. There can be a fear of interacting with others.

        And that’s where an issue with making friends could come into play that REALLY impacts our kids down the line.

        It’s really interesting when you think about it.

        Because of the need for virtual interaction, kids are bored, angry, overwhelmed, tired, and lonely because they have to stay at home without being able to go out. Because there are so many unknowns related to the current situation, it’s hard to identify specific strategies to help kids struggling.

        But, there are options to assist with social and emotional supports. There are tools for mental health supports.

        attention must also be paid to the emotions of fear, worry, guilt, loneliness, boredom, and anger, with an emphasis on strengthening resilience and offering psychological support to parents and children, a point that has already been emphasized by a number of scholars during this crisis (Coyne et al., 2020)

        One thing that has been determined that we need to do for sure is to foster children’s resilience.

        Resilience refers to specific personal attributes that help children manage disappointments and even traumas to a point. In part, resilience involves emotional regulation and social emotional development.

        One specific way to foster resilience and social emotional development is through the discussion of friendships, specifically relationships that may be missing as a result of needing to work and learn online and in virutal settings.

        That’s where this writing about friendship activity comes into play. Use the interactive slide deck and Jamboard activity to drive discussion on friendships and offer a source of discussion points for building friendships during this strange time.

        Friendship Writing activity for handwriting and developing resilience in kids as part of social emotional learning.

        Free Writing About Friendship Slide Deck

        In the friendship writing activity slide deck, you’ll see that there are several aspects of friendship that kids can write about and dive into. These handwriting tasks each dive into aspects of social development, making friends, and understanding friendship. The writing activity can even be used as a tool for social supports during a time when kids are not interacting with freinds on a face-to-face basis.

        Maybe the slide deck is a starting point for coming up with ways to interact with friends virtually. Or, kids can explore how they can maintain friendships even when they do not see their friends for a while. This is all part of resilience that we can help to foster in kids.

        Help kids to identify  and write about qualities of a true friend paragraph writing that can develop social emotional skills.

        Sort the qualities of a good friend

        The first part of this slide deck is two slides that allow kids to sort aspects of good friends from qualities of “could be better” friends. The slide deck is interactive when it’s used on edit mode of Google drive, so kids can actually slide the images into the correct category.

        Use this friendship writing slide deck to work on handwriting and writing about friends.

        Identify ways you are a good friend

        Users can then identify ways that they are good friends to others. This is a place where users can type in their responses, making the ways to be a friend very open-ended.

        This is a nice space to identify novel ways of maintiaing friendship during a time where virtual interactions are necessary. How can kids interact and maintain friendships with others when there is not face-to-face school or activities?

        Children can use this space to identify aspects of friendship that can be maintained virtually or from a distance.

        Kids can work on typing skills here. Or, take the writing piece off the computer and ask that children work on handwriting on paper. Focus on letter formation, letter size, margin use, etc.

        A friendship mind map to explore social emotional skills.

        Friendship mind map

        The next slides ask kids to copy onto paper, a mind map. We covered drawing mind maps here as a specific strategy for this skill. This is a great visual motor activity as they see the image and break it apart into pieces so that they can copy the shapes. Work on visual motor integration and ensure the child doesn’t miss any pieces, overlap lines, and copies all aspects of the mind map. This is a great way to work on the skills needed for reading and writing.

        Then, on their own friendship mind map, kids can write qualities of a friend. This visual exploration turns friendship into a picture as kids brain dump various aspects of social friendships.

        Friendship words for working on handwriting skills, in a free Google slide deck for therapy.

        Friendship words handwriting activity

        The next slides on the deck are spaces where kids can copy various friendship words. This part of the friendship writing activity can meet various needs.

        Children can work on copying words with accuracy, and correct letter formation, without omitting or adding letters. This is an exercise in visual perceptual skills.

        Kids can work on letter formation as they write the letters on their paper. I’ve included directional arrows for proper letter formation.

        Cursive writing activity with a friendship theme, in a Google slide deck for occupational therapy.

        There are slides with cursive writing, too, for older children working on their cursive handwriting.

        And, finally, there is a visual cue of lined writing space with highlighted portions for smaller letters. In these spaces, kids can type right onto the slide to copy the friendship terms.

        AND, maybe my favorite part, is that when you access this free deck, you’ll also get access to the JAMBOARD version, so kids can “write” right on the screen using a fingertip, stylus, or mouse. Then, they can write the words on the lines with they highlighted spaces. Therapists, teachers, or parents could also use the lined spaces to correct or star good use of the lines.

        Friendship writing prompts for social emotional development and handwriting.

        Friendship writing prompts

        The next aspect of the slide deck is a writing prompt. Kids can use the writing prompts to write sentences or a paragraph onto paper to further extend the activity.

        Free Friendship Activity Slide Deck

        Want access to this free Google slide deck?

        You can get access to this free slide deck and JAMBOARD by entering your email into the form below. This is necessary to deliver the PDF containing a link to the slide deck to your Google Drive. Save the PDF because you can add it to your toolbox for future use.

        Save that PDF file, because you can come back to it again and again and send it to the kids on your caseload (or classroom) so they can make their own copy on their Google drive.

        Be sure to make a copy of this slide deck and not change the url to indicate “edit” at the end. When you make a copy of the slide deck onto your Google drive, you will end up with your own version that you are free to adjust in order to meet your student’s needs. By changing the url to “edit”, you can potentially mess up the original version that many other therapists and The OT Toolbox users are given.

        FREE Writing About Friendship Slide Deck

          We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

          More Social Emotional Learning Resources

          Want to help kids explore social and emotional learning through play? Exploring Books Through Play inspires social and emotional development though play based on children’s books. The specifically chosen books explore concepts such as differences, acceptance, empathy, and friendship.

          Exploring Books Through Play: 50 Activities Based on Books About Friendship, Acceptance and Empathy is filled with hands-on activities rooted in interactive, hands-on, sensory play that focus on creating a well-rounded early childhood education supporting growth in literacy, mathematics, science, emotional and social development, artistic expression, sensory exploration, gross motor development and fine motor skills. Kids can explore books while building specific skills in therapy sessions, as part of home programs, or in the home.

          Click here to explore acceptance, empathy, and friendship through play.

          Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

          Coyne, L. W., Gould, E. R., Grimaldi, M., Wilson, K. G., Baffuto, G., and Biglan, A. (2020). First things first: parent psychological flexibility and self-compassion during COVID-19. Behav. Anal. Pract. 6, 1–7. doi: 10.1007/s40617-020-00435-w