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Social Emotional Learning With Feelings Faces

Did you know that including social emotional learning activities when teaching can lead to better academic performance?

For so long, schools focused only on teaching academics, but with more and more research, people are understanding the value in teaching the whole child. Social emotional learning helps kids understand themselves and others, leading to better quality relationships and interactions.

Play dough mats with sad faces

Learning about feelings: recognize and name emotions

When we put value into feelings, we are showing others that they matter. In a classroom setting, the teachers with the best understanding of how to teach academics may still fail in teaching their students if they don't address the whole child, feelings and all.

The teacher who cultivates a classroom culture of caring makes students feel welcome, respected, and at home. In this kind of setting, students are best able to take risks, make mistakes, and learn. Their minds are more open to learning if their basic needs of feeling safe, relaxed, and cared for are met.

In The Fun Club, social and emotional skills are a part of our weekly curriculum. We spend time understanding, labeling, and recognizing different feelings in order to help parents and children better regulate and cope with feelings that come up while learning and during the day.

Want to know more about The Fun Club? Parents and children learn with hands on activities that are play based, minimum prep, and maximum fun. Click here to see what we do.

Where do I start with social emotional learning at home?

You probably are already discussing feelings and emotions at home, which is a big part of social emotional learning!

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has created a systematic way to teach kids about social and emotional intelligence.

Their acronym RULER stands for the 5 skills of emotional intelligence: Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing and Regulating. To learn more about RULER you can visit their page: https://www.rulerapproach.org/about/what-is-ruler/

Parents can improve social emotional learning through the following ways:

  • Recognizing your own feelings and labeling them for your child.
  • Talking about specific feelings and how to achieve them.
  • Narrating your child's behavior using feeling and emotion words.
  • Expressing your own feelings and how they affect your actions.
  • Discussing different strategies for how to deal with certain feelings.

Feelings Faces: Build Social Emotional Learning while recognizing, understanding, and labeling feelings

One activity that helps kids learn to recognize, understand, and label emotions is Feelings Faces. We do this activity with Feelings Play Dough Mats. You can download them for free below:

Materials: Index cards, play dough, Feelings Faces Mats, and marker

Play dough mats with surprised faces on them

Social Emotional Learning Activity

How to play:

1. Start by asking for background knowledge on the topic. What feelings do you know? As your child lists off feelings they know, write them down on index cards. When you are done, have your child pick a card from the pile.

2. Together try to make faces of that feeling on the Play Dough Feelings Faces Mat. Discussion and guided questions:

  • What makes you feel ______?
  • How do you know that someone is feeling ________?
  • What does your mouth look like when you are ________?

3. If your child is unable to recreate a feeling on the mat, ask them to try to make the face of that feeling, or describe your face when expressing that feeling.

  • What do you notice about my eyes?
  • My eyebrows?
  • My mouth?

When we build feelings on the Feelings Faces Play Dough mats we are deepening our knowledge surrounding that feeling. Only once we understand the feeling and are able to discuss it, can we recognize it when it's "happening" to us and then regulate it, if needed.

Kids who understand their own feelings have more success recognizing and understanding emotions in other people which can help them have more positive interactions and build stronger relationships. Focusing on social emotional learning is never time wasted!

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Bonus: Fine Motor Skills Development

Though the focus of this activity is social emotional learning and development, anytime you play with Play-dough you're helping strengthen the small muscles in your child's hands.

These muscles are the fine motor muscles that they'll be using the button, zipper, draw, and write! Fine motor development can be done in so many engaging ways that don't involve writing, so if your child is struggling to hold a crayon or pencil, try some of these fine motor activities before expecting them to write.

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My mission is to bring fun hands-on learning to your home through simple activities and games that capture your child’s interest.

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