How to Teach Coping Skills: Social-Emotional Activities for Preschoolers

How to Teach Coping Skills: Social-Emotional Activities for Preschoolers

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Are you wondering how to teach coping skills to kids?

As parents and educators, we hear a lot about the importance of social-emotional activities for preschoolers and young kids. Gone are the days of wishing for our kids to be happy all the time – that’s not real life. I want my kids to be emotionally resilient, know how to process difficult emotions, and to be able to navigate the relationships and challenges of school (and life!). I think we can ALL get on board with all of the above, so how can we make strides in these areas and support our kids?

First things first, let’s nail down social emotional learning. The core topics within social and emotional learning are self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, relationship skills, and social awareness. This includes how we manage our emotions, show empathy, and navigate relationships.

Today I want to zoom in on coping, because teaching healthy coping skills can be a game changer in your home and your child’s emotional health. Even as adults we navigate finding our own healthy coping strategies, so teaching kids HOW to cope is powerful. I always remind myself – all FEELINGS are ok, but all behaviors are not. (Hitting, name calling, saying hurtful things – not ok.)

This could sound like:

  • “It’s ok to feel sad, I’m here with you. Let it out.”
  • “It’s ok to feel mad, but I can’t let you hit. Let’s move over here to be safe.”
  • “It’s ok to feel nervous. I feel that way sometimes too.”

That’s where we can help support our kiddos in how to process and manage those feelings in safe ways! Here are three concrete strategies to teach healthy coping strategies at home:

Teach Coping Skills with Cozy Corners

Support kids in developing coping skills by providing a quiet, safe space to relax, recharge, and recover.

Having a cozy corner offers a physical place to go and can be an actionable way for them to self-soothe and learn emotional regulation. In our space I include books, cozy pillows, and my son’s discman for CDs and audiobooks.

Social-Emotional Activities for Preschoolers - calming corner, cozy corner
Social-Emotional Activities for Preschoolers –
calming corner, cozy corner
Social-Emotional Activities for Preschoolers - calming kit
Social-Emotional Activities for Preschoolers: Calming Kits!

Teach Coping Skills with Calming Kits

A calming kit is a powerful social-emotional activity for preschoolers, because it offers another concrete method to show our kids how they can help themselves when they need to bring it down. This social-emotional activity for preschoolers teaches kids how to regulate their emotions.

  • When to use it? This is a great option when our child needs to relax, bring down their energy level, reduce stress, or tune back into what’s being asked of them.
  • What’s inside? Silly putty or play-doh for sensory input, markers, paper, stamps, stickers, and simple puzzles. I include high interest, preferred items. Anything goes!
  • Why? In the moment: this really helps my kid calm down. Big picture: I want to teach my kids how to listen to their bodies and give themselves what they need.

I use language like this to help kids build an inner monologue that can sound like:

  • “I can calm myself down when my body has too much energy.”
  • “It’s ok to take alone time when I want time by myself.”
  • “I can listen to my own body and mind to know what I need.”

Process Art as a Calming Method

Social-Emotional Activities for Preschoolers - process art
Social-Emotional Activities for Preschoolers – process art promotes self expression and emotional release

Social-Emotional Activities for Preschoolers - process art

Process art is perfect as a social-emotional learning activity for preschoolers.

This type of art and creating emphasizes the process of making art (rather than focusing on kids creating a specific, desired product at the end). As a result, process art is an amazing coping strategy, because it allows kids to release big feelings and can provide sensory input. On top of that, process art also builds confidence, encourages self-expression, and can channel energy.

I love that this is a skill our kids can use for a lifetime to process their feelings and navigate difficult seasons of life.

And here’s the beautiful thing – different kids will prefer different methods, just like adults! One of my kids is incredibly soothed by art and has always been so drawn to painting and creating. This is his preferred calming option! One of my kiddos needs their along time and prefers to have space and quiet to calm down – perfect. And another child really benefits from the sensory input of puddy, tearing paper, and using stamps that come from the calming kit. Keep offering different coping strategies and see what clicks for your child!

Bonus Strategies!

Looking for more ways to teach social emotional skills?!

Board games are an amazing tool. Check out all the details on the benefits of board games in this post from That Peach Mommy!

Or try this helpful feeling faces activity from Forward with Fun!

Thank you for reading to learn more about how to teach coping skills to kids! I hope you find this helpful with your own kids and students!

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Have young kids? You will love these 50 EASY things to do with toddlers!!

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