As parents we want to protect our children from any hurt, but it is inevitable that they will all face some difficulties at some point, the best thing we can do as primary care givers is to ensure our children are equipped to deal with such times by nurturing their social emotional skills using simple games or books such as the ones in this article.
Why are these skills so important? A survey published by NHS Digital in 2021 ‘found one in six children in England had a potential mental disorder’.
It is widely accepted that children who learn to express and recognise emotions in themselves and others will see the benefits long into their adult life. In Danial Goleman (New York Times science reporter) Book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (1995) He outlines 5 social emotional learning skills:
- Emotional self-awareness
- Social skills.
This started the social emotional movement and subsequently all research seems to suggests that. Cultivating these skills enhances academic success and helps prevent mental health problems. It can also help children to form healthier longer lasting friendships and relationships, be more confident, have less behavioural issues, have a more positive sense of self and develop more resilience and coping skills.
So how can we help develop these skills in our children?
Today I am looking at the Edx Education sorting bears. Identify feelings surrounding situations can open up conversations, help elevate any worries or put a plan into action to help. Being able to name emotions and identifying that experiences can be made up of a different range of emotions can help to unpick those differing and sometimes confusing feelings it also helps develop emotional intelligence .
In this activity we pick a situation or event that involves feelings such as going for a sleep over at a friends for the first time, starting school, mummy going back to work or even just a check in on how the day/week has been.
You could use the book ‘Conker the Chameleon’ to introduce the concept of different colours representing different emotions (zones of regulation).
- Red for cross
- Yellow for worries
- Green for happy
- Blue for sad
You can also use the orange and purple for other important emotions that might suit the situation you are talking about for example embarrassed, shy, motivated or tired. We learn 75% through sight so using visual prompts enhances and simplifies the learning experience.
Lets think about starting school;
Ask your little one how they are feeling about starting school, this can also develop the concept that feelings can be mixed. By having a visual representation, it can help children make sense of feelings and make it easier to unpick different emotions.
One bear would represent a little bit of that feeling, adding more bears would represents a larger degree that the feeling is being experienced. For example they might choose 5 happy green bears, 3 yellow and 1 blue, talk to them about this. ’I can see you have five happy bears, it looks like you are happy to start school’.
Find out what it is that is making them positive about the experience (what are the good factors) . then notice that are three yellow bears, “I can also see you are also feeling worried, Do you know what is worrying you?” you can then take steps to ease their worries if appropriate, normalise these worries, Acknowledge that being away from home for the first time can feel exciting and worrying. You can set up a plan to help if the worries get bigger or so they feel more in control of their feelings and the situation. Make a plan to help, maybe they are worried they might get lost or wont know where the loo is.
You could use the same game to see how the day went. It takes skill to connect with emotions so by providing a game that encourages practicing naming emotions supports vital skills. Providing thes prompts helps children to make sense of what is going on for them by talking but also seeing, in turn the visual aids can also help you understand better therefore helping them to feel heard and validated.
The bears can also represent friends ‘who did you sit with at lunch?” ‘was there anyone you wanted to play with today but didn’t’ Talking alone with young children can feel overwhelming so turning chats into games by providing recourses that enable the child to sustain interest for longer. It opens up an incite into their world as they act out a situation. Maybe one of the bears wont share or is unkind, you can help your little one make sense of this in a safe environment and help them decide what to do if their feelings have been hurt, or it could open up the opportunity to blue print an apology.
As parents, we all want to protect our children from ever feeling emotional pain, but we can’t stop difficult things happening. What We can provide them with is the skills and understanding so they can cope when challenging times do occur, and that is what my books aim to do.
Conker the chameleon (my first title) has won best children’s book at the 'Selfies’ awards 2022 and bronze at the Junior Design Award 2021. It is a teachers pick on Amazon and is Good Toy Guide recommended and Story Monsters approved. It is a gentle introduction to feelings that focuses on the zones of regulation.
Climb has a back cover endorsement from the lead author of Development Matters, the department of Educations non statutory guidance for the Early Years Foundation stage. It is Good Toy Guide recommended and Story Monster approved. It helps children to celebrate their differences and think about their own unique talents. Although my primary focus is a beautiful meaningful story, I consolidate the learning with some activities on the back pages.
For the launch of my latest children’s book ‘Conker and the Monkey Trap’. There will be an activity trail through the woodland gardens at Leonards lee lakes and gardens (Sussex) and a workshop, which includes Edx Education sorting bears for children aged 3-8 years, at 10am on July 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 16th and 24th.
This article was written by multi award-winning author Hannah Peckham whose books ‘Conker the chameleon’ and ‘Conker and the monkey trap’ help to lay the foundations that are key for social emotional learning. In July Hannah has teamed up with Leonards Lee Lakes and Gardens for a conker themed well-being trail and holding readings and workshops.