In the early months of the pandemic induced 2020 I received a frantic phone call from a panicked friend. Her little girl had a cough a few days back and believed that coughing in her sleep made the tooth fairy sick and caused the pandemic.
Two things sprung out here, the first being that the imagination truly knows no bounds at the age of three and second but more importantly children tend to believe that they are the centre of the universe. While children believing that the world revolves around them is commonplace, the way for them to truly grasp the vastness of their society and universe is to develop better social and emotional understanding. Congratulating the girl on her empathy with a re-assurance that it was certainly not her fault was the way to go for this call.
One of the cornerstones of environments like playschools, is its ability to provide a safe space for the little ones to play with others and grow their social skills. From waiting their turn for the slides and sharing toys, to letting a classmate finish their sentence before contributing to the conversation, playtime has long facilitated the growth and development of social and emotional development in our little ones. This has been the long-standing approach to social and emotional learning (SEL). It is therefore important that as a subject it should not be left behind when institutes move their activities online.
At its core, SEL helps understand emotions. Can you imagine being unable to read emotions? You wouldn’t know when a friend was happy or that your manager was upset. SEL isn’t a new subject but during most curriculum planning, this subject was until a few years back more an applied learning.
Some signs of good social emotional learning are when children:
Are well-mannered and polite
Learn from their mistakes
Can effectively communicate non- verbally (Using gestures and expressions)
But even during isolation and lockdown, parents can still develop a strong emotional quotient in children.
E-learning, E-books, E-motion
When you and your child are watching or reading a story together, take a minute and pause. Ask your child to reflect on the story so far, “What would be going through the character’s mind? How would they feel?” Once the child answers, then you can also provide your own answer, “I think Mylo is scared because he’s started to sweat and cry.” Stories featuring Mylo the Mongooseare ideal story options for talking through feelings. In E-learning platforms, integrating these interactive pauses would go along way to building SEL.
Beat boredom with board games
Playing board games is a good old-fashioned way to practice and encourage social skills. It surely checks all the boxes, everybody must follow the rules, wait their turn, and have fun doing it. Games like Cats ‘n Snapper and Red & Rusty’s Farm even introduce an element of friendly negotiation, all while tactfully reinforcing some measure of academic skill development too!
Furniture, Utensils, Bits and Bobs for Good Manners
Try roleplay with objects around the house and invite Mr. Spoon and Ms. Toothbrush to the birthday party of young Master Pencil. Then look to your child and ask, “how would you greet a person on their birthday?” Even e-learning platforms can use activities like this to teach lessons on proper social behaviour, take for example an activity like: Which option must Mr. Spoon say?
a) Happy Birthday my dear friend!
OR b) Where’s the cake, it’s all I came here for.
There’s no end to learning a subject like SEL, but the basics are clear and strong when we have RULERs walking around. What are RULERs you ask. Well, RULER is an acronym:
Recognising your emotions and those of others
Understanding the cause and effect of these feelings
Labelling your emotions and feelings with accurate terms;
Expressing emotions using good and appropriate manners;
and learning to control and Regulate your feelings.
These we believe are the baby steps to self-awareness and unleashing one’s full potential in a social setting.
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