Saturday, November 19, 2016

Let's Get Social

Social Emotional Toys
In the last couple of years, I have become more and more interested in finding products that help with social emotional learning.  I've had the great pleasure of being a part of The Meeting House, an amazing recreational based after school program in New York City for children with social difficulties, for the last 7 years.  During this time, I have learned first hand that while most children are born with an understanding of how to be kind and understanding, there are still many children who need more support and help in developing these skills.  Many of the kids I work with have a difficult time with processing both verbal and non-verbal social cues so we have to come up with alternative ways to teach them.  Below, you will find a handful of games and toys that will help develop social emotional skills in a fun, engaging and meaningful way.

Make A Face!- this amazing wooden puzzle-like product by Moon Picnic is a wonderful way to teach kids about feelings and emotions.  Not all children are able to talk about or recognize emotions and feelings.  I love how you can flip, turn or twist the 8 different pieces of the face to make a wide range of emotions.  You can use the booklet to copy the different faces or make your own.  This is a great way to help begin a conversation with children about different emotions and feelings, when they might feel this way and what they can do when they are feeling certain ways.  Bonus:  great for working on improving fine motor and visual motor and perceptual skills.
Magnutto Make A Mood-this is another great toy to help children gain a better understanding of emotions and feelings.  When you lift open the box (where you store the 133 different foam magnetic pieces) you find two faces...the top of the box is a magnetic board and kids can add all kinds of details to the two faces.  Pictures of different expressions, a list of emotions and a list of questions you can ask your kids while playing that will help them not only analyze emotions but how to react to them are included with the toy.  You can work on improving social skills by having kids work on the faces at the same time and encourage them to have conversations about what they created.

Eggspressions-these cute wooden eggs by Hape help younger children learn about feelings and emotions.  This set comes with 6 wooden eggs with different emotions.  Kids can use the eggs to help express how they are feeling when they can't really talk about it with others.  The set comes with a book that helps to show kids how to share their feelings.

Many Moods of Me Journal-as kids get older, their moods and feelings can get really confusing for them.  This 75-page journal by Klutz is a great gift for children (8 and older recommended) who need a place to keep track of how they are feeling.  This journal is not organized by the date, but instead organized by the following moods:  happy, sad, afraid, icky and angry.  Included with the book are a multi-color pen (each color represents a different mood) and a mood ring.  Also included are postcards that you can write and save for your future self!  Lots of opportunities to color, doodle and draw throughout the journal.  This is a great gift for those kids who have big feelings but don't want to talk about them with you.  And let's be honest, sometimes it's best for kids to be able to jot down their thoughts and feelings in a private way to be able to understand themselves better.

My Mood Memo-teaching kids at an early age to understand, recognize and deal with feelings and emotions can help them be more kind and empathetic people.  In this game by Plan Toys, kids look for the matching emotion tiles.  Each of the emotions is paired up with a color that represents that feeling and helps them to group them.
Kid can work on visual memory and visual motor skills, focus and attention and organizational skills while learning about feelings and emotions.  Depending on the age of the kids you are playing with, you can encourage them to talk about times they feel certain emotions and how they can deal with those feelings.

Friends and Neighbors: The Helping Game-in this cooperative game by Peaceable Kingdom, kids learn about empathy through matching problems with solutions.  Kids take turns pulling tokens out of the Helping Bag and see if the token they have chosen can help someone on the game board.  Kids have to work, think and discuss together to match up all the tokens.  The best part of this game is that nobody is a all work together to fill up your boards!

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