Launching Success firmly believes in play as a means of helping to create well-rounded and happy kids. Educational toys are what we are all about and toys for emotional development are an important part of that. Social-emotional toys are designed to facilitate social-emotional learning through play, encouraging children to engage with imaginary situations with a thoughtful approach.
Social-Emotional Learning: Play With a Purpose
From a kid’s perspective, toys are made for play. They exist to entertain and as a conduit for fun. That is how it has always been and how it should be.
Adults know that toys can serve a variety of purposes and help achieve important developmental goals. We tend to think of practical skills such as math and reading when it comes to toys with an educational component, but in recent years, social-emotional learning (SEL) and by association, social-emotional toys, have become an important piece of the developmental puzzle for our youngsters.
Beyond the Three Rs: SEL Education
Social-emotional learning is exactly what it sounds like: learning that centers on the social and emotional development of children. SEL has five core skills that it focuses on, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Research has shown that giving kids tools in these areas helps increase empathy and kindness and decrease depression and stress. SEL activities are becoming increasingly common in school curriculums and social-emotional toys are a great way to teach and reinforce social-emotional development both at school and home.
These toys are designed with social-emotional learning first in mind. Many are designed by experts in psychology and early childhood development, while others are inspired by their work.
Text That Teaches: There’s more than one way to learn from a book, and Dr. Sharie Coombes’ Mindful Kids books allow kids to work through a variety of common feelings and situations through participating in exercises that are both fun and gently thought-provoking. Dr. Coombes social-emotional activity books have such titles as Hello Happy, Stay Strong, Be Positive, Letting Go, and Be Brave, each addressing a different area of social-emotional development.
Conversation Cards: Much in the same way that books can be used to teach more than traditional classroom lessons, flash cards aren’t just for math anymore. They too can be tools for SEL education. I Heard Your Feelings Conversation Cards are made to encourage social-emotional development in a screen-free environment. The front of each card depicts a common emotional situation with questions on the back to help kids work through feelings that might result. Not only is this an exercise in building empathy, but it also helps give children the vocabulary they need to name and describe their own emotions in the future.
50 Activities: In the same family as Conversation Cards are Activity Cards. These sets of cards—50 Emotion Activities and 50 Mindfulness Activities—use interactive tasks such as dance, art, music, group projects, and more to teach kids how to be more mindful and to process emotions in a healthy way, core tenets of social-emotional development. For kids drawn to hands-on exercises, Activity Cards can be valuable toys that promote social and emotional development.
Puzzle It Out: At the heart of social-emotional learning is developing the ability to recognize and name feelings in other people and themselves. Watch This Face combines a puzzle game with a matching exercise to help kids pair facial expressions with the emotional or physical situations that would potentially cause them. As social-emotional toys go, your kids might not even realize that they’re learning valuable lessons in emotional literacy while playing what to them is just a fun game.
Read All About It: For more traditional book learners, there’s All About Feelings, which is not so much a toy for emotional development, but is a book that teaches children of all ages how to speak the language of emotions, from how feelings can change during the course of a single day, what body cues look like and mean, and why feelings happen in the first place. The book is a great social-emotional learning tool for parents and teachers alike—adults may learn a thing or two from it as well!
We know that books and toys are more than just playthings. They’re valuable tools to help gain practical skills as well as for social-emotional learning. For questions, suggestions or to purchase social-emotional toys, please contact us. At Launching Success, we’re serious about play!