Playing SEL games is a fun and effective way to help understand, express, and manage emotions while promoting emotional intelligence and communication skills. These games make learning about feelings enjoyable and provide opportunities for youth to practice emotional awareness, empathy, and communication skills in a safe and supportive environment.
Tower of Emotions
This activity helps youth recognize and label emotions and express them in various ways. It also encourages empathy as players observe each other’s expressions and tones.
- Duration: 30 – 45 minutes
- Materials: Jenga blocks; permanent marker
- Separate a box of Jenga blocks into two piles: Pleasant emotions and Unpleasant emotions. You can use emotion words like happy, excited, sad, angry, surprised, calm, anxious, etc.
- Ask the youth to label each Jenga block with a different emotion word. Each block should have a different emotion written on it.
- Have the youths build the Jenga tower by stacking the labeled blocks in an alternating fashion (three side-by-side blocks, crisscrossed with the next layer).
- Play the game as you would with a traditional Jenga set. Each player takes turns removing one block from the tower and placing it on top to create a new layer.
- The Catch: Before placing their block on the top of the tower, players have to express that emotion using one of the following creative methods:
- Body Language: Act out the emotion without using words.
- Humming/Singing a Song: Hum or sing a song that reflects the emotion they pulled.
- Saying the Word in the Tone of the Mood: Say the emotion word in a way that conveys the feeling. For example, if the emotion is “excited,” they might say it with enthusiasm and excitement.
- Encourage creativity and variety in how youth express emotions. They can choose the method that feels most comfortable for them.
- If a player successfully expresses the emotion in the chosen manner, they can place the block on top of the tower. If they struggle or fail to convey the emotion effectively, the block is returned to the tower, and the next player takes their turn.
Creating a breathing board activity is a creative and interactive way to teach mindfulness and relaxation techniques. It is beneficial for stress management and emotion regulation.
- Introduce the Board: Gather your youth and introduce the breathing board. Explain that it’s a tool for practicing relaxation techniques and mindfulness.
- Demonstrate: Demonstrate how to use the board by choosing one of the breathing exercises and going through it step by step. Use props or visual aids if you’ve included them.
- Engage youth: Invite youth to take turns selecting a breathing exercise from the board. They can use the visual cues and instructions to guide their practice. Encourage them to express how they feel before and after the exercise.
- Reflect: After each participant has a turn, hold a brief discussion to reflect on their experiences. Ask them how they felt during the exercise and if they noticed any changes in their emotions or stress levels.
- Encourage Regular Practice: Encourage youth to use the breathing board regularly, especially when they need to manage stress or anxiety.
Youth Create their own Breathing Board
- Duration: 20-30 minutes
- Materials: Card board; hole-puncher; colorful yarn; pipe cleaners; thin juice straw, stickers
- Choose Your Theme: Decide on a theme for your breathing board. For example, you can make it ocean-themed, space-themed, nature-themed, or even just colorful and abstract. This theme will help make the activity visually engaging.
- Design the Layout: Use colored markers to design the layout of your breathing board on the poster or foam board. You can draw different sections or zones for various breathing exercises. For instance, you might have deep breathing, square breathing, or guided imagery sections.
- Label the Sections: In each section, label the type of breathing exercise it represents. For instance, you can have a section labeled “Deep Breathing,” another one for “Square Breathing,” and so on. Write clear and concise instructions for each exercise.
- Add Visual Elements: Make your breathing board visually appealing by adding decorations, stickers, or drawings that align with your chosen theme. Use different colors to make it engaging and easy to follow.
- Include Props (Optional): You can include small props or objects related to each breathing exercise to enhance the activity. For example, you can attach a feather or a small fan to symbolize the calming breeze for deep breathing. You can include a small square piece of fabric or paper for square breathing.
- Create a Centerpiece: In the center of the board, consider creating a visual centerpiece that represents calmness, such as a serene scene or a calming word or phrase.
*Tip: Create your own breathing board before discussing with youth!