Social Emotional Learning: Remote Style

The Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as “…the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

CASEL also reminds us that social emotional learning starts at home. Families play a crucial role in the child’s development of self-regulation, emotion management, problem-solving skills as well as the building of a healthy positive self-esteem.

Social emotional learning is more critical than ever right now but the challenge for teachers is how to help students engage in SEL activities through remote or distance learning. I developed a week of activities for families to complete together. Keep checking back to journeyintoearly for further weeks of activities or just sign up to receive the blog directly to your email on the home page.

Please feel free to use any part of this slide deck that will benefit your students. If sharing with other staff members, please refer them to this website page.

Click picture or “FREE DOWNLOAD” to access the week of SEL Activities


See additional SEL resources in my TpT store- many free resources:

Greetings Every Day in the Classroom- No Touch Ideas

Back in February of 2019, we talked about the importance of daily greetings…

TOP 10 Reasons Why to Greet Students at the Door  Each and Every Morning

Greetings FREE
• Provides a smile and a reassurance that the teacher is glad the student came to school today, which sets the tone for a positive day
• Promotes a strong relationship between the teacher and student
Enhances a positive classroom climate
• Provides a moment of connection when you greet them by name- young children love to hear their name – let’s use them in positive statements
• Assists children with letting go of issues that may have occurred on the bus or at home- they are being welcomed to a new start to the day
• Promotes a sense of belonging and trust that the classroom is a safe place
• Provides social and emotional support
• Demonstrates and models of how to greet others, how to use kind words, and how to be respectful
• Provides a proactive, preventive technique to reduce challenging behaviors
• Starts the day for the teacher with LOTS of smiles and positive interactions!

Tips for using greetings are listed in the post, Greeting Students Each and Every Day.

Greeting our students is more important than ever. Students need to feel wanted and welcomed into the classroom. However, for now, we need to modify our greetings to include no touching options- including even no bumping of hips or elbows. ESPECIALLY elbows since we ask students to cough into their elbows!!

No Touch Classroom Greetings 20 Greeting Choices on CirclesFREE DOWNLOAD of 20 ideas for no-touch greeting options…

No Touch Classroom Greetings 20 Greeting Choices on CirclesGreeting Ideas with No Touching journeyintoearlychildhood


For more ideas that include greeting each other by saying “hello” in different languages,Greetings No Touch and Different Languages journeyintoearlychildhood visit… Daily Greetings 20 No Touch Options PLUS 16 Options for Saying Hello in Different Languages




Learning at Home: Teaching the When and the How of Taking Deep Breaths

Teaching Your Child When to Take a Deep Breath (noticing signs in their bodies)Variety of Ways to Teach Deep Breathing

and How to Take Deep Breaths

We, most likely,  all need some deep breaths right now.

Sit with your spine in a line, feet flat on the floor, inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth.

Repeat 3 times.

Why- there is scientific evidence that taking deep breaths truly slows down our stress response- it is like slowing but firmly stepping on the gas pedal. It also produces a feeling of calm, it is relaxing, we don’t need any equipment, it provides more oxygen to the brain which improves our thinking and we can take deep breaths anywhere!

Children need to be taught when they need to take deep breaths and how to take deep breaths. If a child is already escalated and upset, this is NOT the time to start teaching how to take deep breaths. It would be like someone telling us to slow down, stay calm and take deep breaths when we are out camping and running from a bear that just spotted us! If your child is upset, let them see you taking deep breaths- gift them your calm BEFORE you tell them to take deep breaths. After they see and respond to your calm, then you can gently encourage them to breathe like a bunny or smell the flower and blow out the candle.

Remember to gift your calm – when you exhibit calm behavior and slow, even, deep breathing, the child will start to mimic. An escalated adult cannot deescaluate a frustrated child.

Teach different ways to take deep breaths when the child is calm. Have fun! Make it into a game.

How to Teach Deep Breathing:

  • Choose one metaphor or way of taking deep breaths that your child can relate to, when your child is calm and in a good mood.
  • Show a visual of the method and hang it on the refrigerator, in the play area or in the child’s sleeping area.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice at all times of the day. Students need lots and lots of practice so that the techniques can be used automatically in times of stress. It takes LOTS of practice to become an expert.
  • Teach your child to recognize signs of stress, frustration, and anger such as face getting hot, clenched fists, heavy breathing, crying, sweating, scrunched eyebrows, pounding heart.
  • Teach your child the difference between short, quick, shallow breaths and long, deep, calming breaths. We want students to be using deep breathing since short breaths can actually make anxious feelings increase.
  • Model and role-play different situations practicing self-talk such as “I am upset that he took my toy. I can breathe like a bear 7 times.” “I am nervous about your mom working at the hospital today. I can take 7 bunny breaths.” “I’m frustrated that I don’t know what to make for dinner but I can take 7 deep breaths and that will help me think better.”

I have opened my packet of 11 different ways to teach deep breathing as a FREE DOWNLOAD. I hope the visuals and ideas for different methods of teaching deep breathing are helpful for both you and your child.for blog


Learning at Home: DRAMATIC PLAY

Why is play important to your childdramatic play learning at home

Play is a vital part of your child’s development. Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.  For young children, play and learning are one and the same, they cannot be differentiated.

Through play, important brain development is established. Play is not a break from or a reward for learning- Play is Learning!

What is your child learning by playing?

Through child-directed, free-choice play,

  • … children solve problems and pursue ideas
  • … healthy connections are made in the brain
  • … there is an increase in academic skills as noted in multiple research studies
  • … children are learning how to learn- how to persist and persevere through challenges.
  • … creative and critical thinking are developed
  • … social skills such as collaboration, turn-taking, and conflict resolution are developed
  • … emotional skills such as empathy and self-control increase significantly
  • … children engage in science, engineering, and math skills including hypothesizing, experimenting, testing and concluding
  • … vocabulary and language skills grow

Dramatic Play

There is documented research that demonstrates

the high level of cognitive, social, and emotional benefits

from children’s engagement in dramatic play.

Social/Emotional Skills:

  • Sharing
  • Cooperating
  • Building empathy as they take on the role of someone else
  • Solving social problems
  • Building of compromise
  • Persisting

Critical Thinking Skills:

  • Expressing their creativity
  • Flexibility in thinking
  • Connections of experiences and learning
  • Problem-solving
  • Predicting

 Academic Skills:

  • Storytelling
  • One to one correspondence
  • Thinking symbolically
  • Writing to convey meaning (treatment plan, check-up form, pet information)
  • Identification of letters/numbers/shapes

Communication Skills

  • Using an expressive vocabulary- often will use more complex vocabulary such as in this center, we may hear them saying words such as examination, stethoscope, illness, fractured, etc.
  • Engaging in turn-taking conversation


Dramatic Play Ideas for Home that

Include VERY Little Set-Up or Supplies…

  • Build a fort, cave, or shelter
    • Supply Ideas:
      • Two chairs and a blanket
      • Big box
    • Suggestions:
      • Let your child’s imagination soar as he/she decides what the shelter will become and what is happening outside of the shelter.
        • Is it a cave near an ocean? Can you find seashells near the cave, go swimming, lay on the beach, dig up calms and cook them over a fire?
        • Is it a bear cave? Read books such as Bear Snores On, Bear Can’t Sleep or Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson and have your child design the cave and then react the story or make up their own using the same characters.
        • Are they on the island of lost boys with Peter Pan and it is a hideout from the pirates?
        • Are they stranded on an island?
        • Is it Rapunzel’s tower?
        • Is it Elsa’s ice fort?
      • Forts also allow your child space to be alone, to chill, to read, to play with puzzles, etc.


  • Window Washer
    • Supply Ideas
      • Spray bottle with water
      • Rag
      • Paper to schedule appointments
      • Phone (not plugged in)
    • Suggestions
      • Call to make an appointment with the window washer, have your child keep a schedule of appointments.
      • Give him/her a spray bottle with water and a cloth and allow him/her to clean your windows.
      • Don’t forget to have your child write a receipt and for you to pay. Do you need change? How much change?
  • Basic Home Living and Grocery Store

Let your child’s imagination take off while taking on the role of mom, dad, brother, baby, dishwasher repair person, mail carrier, etc. in a basic home set up- add a grocery store for some extra fun and creativity

  • Supply ideas
    • Bowls, spoons, pots, plates, etc.
    • Empty big boxes to become the stove, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer
    • Bottle caps, corks, shells or jar lids with letters of the alphabet written on them to become food- “Can you bake me cookies that spell your name?”
    • Old clothes, old iron or iron not plugged in
    • Paper to write grocery lists and recipes
    • Cookbook
  • Empty and clean up food containers (cereal boxes, egg carton, cracker box, oatmeal container)
  • Suggestions:
    • Add a grocery store by setting up empty and clean food containers (tin cans, boxes, water bottles)
    • Turn the home living area into a restaurant by adding some menus and paper for ordering. You can use take out menus but even better is to allow your child to make his/her own menu- drawing pictures is great! There is no need to force writing – if your child is developmentally ready to start adding in some words, they can even start with just the beginning letter.
  • School
    • Supply Ideas

      Learning through Play


      • Stuffed animals
      • Paper, crayons, markers
      • Magazines
      • Scissors



Open-Ended Questions to Expand Children’s Play in a Dramatic Play Center:

  • What do you need to…                             * How is it different than…
  • How is it the same as…                             * What else can you do with…
  • What would happen now/ next if…       * What is your plan…
  • How would you describe…                      * How many different ways…
  • I notice…. Tell me more….                       * How does someone know…


Home Learning – Dramatic Play Suggestions: PRINTABLE VERSION FREE DOWNLOAD

Building Friendships through Intentional Design of Centers

friendships centers

Aristotle once stated,  “who would choose to live, even if possessed with all other things, without friends.”

Many of our students struggle with the basic components of building friendships such as asking to join in play, suggesting play “Let’s…”, sharing, taking turns, changing perspectives, cooperating, and using respectful language.

We, therefore, must directly teach friendship skills through intentional, deliberate discussions and opportunities throughout the day. These opportunities can be embedded into the activities and work that is already occurring in the classroom setting.

Intentional Design of Free Choice Centers and Small Group Learning Centers:

  • To encourage sharing, do not provide materials for each student. For example, if 5 children are working on a project that requires glue sticks, only provide three. Teach the students how to ask for the glue sticks instead of grabbing and model how to share.self reflection form FREE DOWNLOAD
  • Have students complete a self-reflection sheet on friendship skills following center time. Example of a Self-Reflection form. (FREE DOWNLOAD)
  • Designate students who are the distributors of certain materials. For example, in a small group, Carlos has all of blocks, Juanita has all of the magnetic letters and Ian has all of graphic organizers and pencils. Each student must ask their friend for the materials needed by using the student’s name and by using kind words.






NO Worksheets in Early Childhood Part IV

NO Worksheets in Early Learning


Reason Number Six: Worksheets do NOT develop social skills.

No Worksheets in ECIn the adult world, it is rare that we are told to do our own work and keep our eyes on our own paper. We collaborate on challenging tasks with colleagues. We gather information and learn new perspectives when we can work, brainstorm, and problem-solve together. This is the same for children. They are social beings who need multiple opportunities to engage in hands-on and inquiry learning experiences with their peers.

Follow Up on Teaching Deep Breathing

first pageLast week we talked about why it is important to teach students how to breathe deeply and different techniques to use.

Research tells us that children usually need to take at least 5 deep breaths and children who have experienced trauma may need to take 7-10 deep breaths.

It is helpful to give students a visual to count the breaths they are counting. Not only does this help them keep track of the number of breaths but also gives them a cognitive skill to focus on to move their thinking from flight-freeze-fight to frontal lobe, rational thinking.

Students can count on their fingers or use visuals in which they move a piece from one area to another. Deep Breathing free resource. The resource includes a board for both 5 and 7 deep breaths.

Teaching Deep Breathing

thumbnail for blog

Teaching Deep Breathing


1.Breathing influences all other systems in our bodies. Slowing our breathing and being conscious of our breathing helps us to calm our nervous system. Therefore, this is a skill that students will need throughout their entire lives.

2. Easy to do anywhere – with no equipment- it is portable!

3. Produces a relaxed state of being

4.Can be calming

5. Improves oxygen to the brain which in turn improves our thinking ability

6. Provides us with a sense of control

How to Teach Deep Breathing:

  • Teach each technique – one at a time to the entire class when everyone is calm and in a good mood.
  • Show visuals of each technique and post them in a place where students can use them as reminders.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice at all times of the day. Students need lots and lots of practice so that the techniques can be used automatically in times of stress. It takes LOTS of practice to become an expert.
  • Teach students to recognize signs of stress, frustration, and anger such as face getting hot, clenched fists, heavy breathing, crying, sweating, scrunched eyebrows, pounding heart.
  • Teach students the difference between short, quick, shallow breaths and long, deep, calming breaths. We want students to be using deep breathing since short breaths can actually make anxious feelings increase.
  • Model and role-play different situations practicing self-talk such as “I am upset that he took my toy. I can breathe like a bear 7 times.” “I am nervous about the fire drill. I can take 7 bunny breaths.” “He cut in line. I can say, “It’s okay” and take 7 deep breaths.”

for blog

11 Different Cards of Visuals for Teaching Deep Breathing

note: Send me an email at, let me know that you signed up for my weekly blog and I will send you this resource for free.

Sensory Bottles: Why Use Them and How to Make Them

Why Use Sensory Bottles and Directions to Make


Young children often have difficulties with self-regulation in response to an emotional or sensory-based stressor. We often use strategies in the classroom such as talking to an adult, holding a weighted animal, doing wall push-ups, gently squeezing hands and so on. (see Cozy Corner Strategies – visuals that help children choose how you feel and a strategy to help).

Sensory bottles can be added to the Cozy Corner or Safe Spot in the fidget box. They help children be able to focus on one thing to calm the body and mind. Shaking the bottles, which won’t harm the bottle, is also a great way to get some proprioceptive input.

Bottles can be made in a variety of different ways to accommodate different needs:

Be Kind Sensory Bottle journeyintoearlychildhood.comBe Kind bottle:

This bottle needs to be shaken. Shaking the bottles, which won’t harm the bottle, is also a great way to get some proprioceptive input.


  • 2/3rds of the bottle with water
  • Optional: add some blue food coloring and/or fine blue glitter
  • 1/3rd of the bottle with baby oil or vegetable oil


Sound Sensory Bottle journeyintoearlychildhood.comI Am in Control bottle:

This bottle makes the sound of rain. Sounds in the bottle assists students who are auditory learners and will still their bodies to hear soft sounds more than focusing visually.



1/4th cup of beans, rice or beads (beans and small beads together make very cool sounds)

(add more sticks until it makes a sound that is pleasing to you as you move the bottle upside down and back upright)


Focus Sensory Bottle Slowly Falling Items journeyintoearlychildhood.comFocus bottle:

Adding items that sink slowly or float to the top and items that sink fast provide children with an immediate satisfaction of action but then also slows their breathing and nervous center as they visually anchor their attention to the items that are moving slowly.

The bottle in the picture contains Perler beads that slowly float to the top and small pony beads which quickly sink to the bottom. It is quite cool to watch when they are both in the middle!


Clear dish soap (I found that Dawn is the thickest and therefore, works great but it is more expensive than other brands. Other brands work just as well, especially if you don’t make one with Dawn first to have a comparison!)

A couple of tablespoons of Perler beads (these are beads that you place on forms and then iron to melt them together).

A couple of tablespoons of pony beads or other small beads. (My beads were very small, so I added double the amount of small beads as compared to the Perler beads).


You can use any container of your choice. My favorite is Voss Water bottles. They are a perfect size and the label comes off so easily and cleanly. The middle bottle is a Protein 20 Drink bottle with rain scenes wrapped around it. I have also used Bai Water bottles- the wrapper comes off VERY easily- just pull up and I cut a circle to glue to the top bottle cap to cover the writing on top.

I used a Cricut to cut the letters but you can also print words on clear shipping labels, cut them out and attach to the bottle. (Words and Rain scene to be printed on 6 per page clear shipping labels)

Remember to glue the lids on!!

rain sensory bottle directions and labels to place on bottles FREE DOWNLOAD

rain pictures on 6 per sheet clear shipping labels for calm down sensory bottles



Executive Functioning Linked to Dramatic Play

I recently had the privilege of working with some amazing teachers at Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK. We discussed the benefits of dramatic play for children and the critical role of children developing complex play within dramatic play experiences for the development of their executive functioning capabilities.EF

PreK and K teachers are first and foremost teachers of social and emotional skills, self-regulation, attention, engagement, persistence, thinking symbolically, and cognitive flexibility. If students do not first learn these skills, then the academics and life with always be a struggle.

Research links dramatic play activities with the support of the teacher to  move students to more complex play as one of the best strategies for developing social/emotional and executive functioning skills.

The teachers developed visual analogies to help us always remember the link. Here are pictures of their insightful analogies. Thanks, Union Teachers!

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