Summer Play Series: Social-Emotional Supportive Play

Summer Play Series: Social-Emotional Supportive Play

Summer Play Series: Social-Emotional Supportive Play

With summer is in full swing, the desire to get a bit lazy, move slower and drop the routine is real! And here’s some great news: you can do all those things AND still work on important social-emotional skills!

We’ve got some summer-loving, super fun ideas to have a blast and practice those social skills. Use the unstructured, easy days to your advantage and try them all!


a young boy and girl putting on a play


Put On A Puppet Show

But make it a rich social-emotional learning experience! Role playing is an awesome way to practice social skills. Grab a few fun puppet characters, or even make some with a couple old socks, and encourage your kiddos to create a story. Let kids talk through various scenarios using feeling words, body language and maybe some real life experiences. Practicing these skills in a safe space will increase confidence in your kiddos!

Create A Tech Free Space

It’s become a common problem – too much screen time. So this summer, create a space in your home and declare it “Tech Free”!

Stock the area with craft supplies, games, books, whatever low tech toys you have and encourage time each day for creative, imaginary play away from screens. This kind of play can help regulate mood and inspires cooperative collaboration between kids. It also allows the brain to create instead of simply absorb as they do when one their devices. 

young girl sitting at a table coloring on paper

Plan Playdates

Being out of school and away from the regular peer interaction doesn’t have to mean backsliding on social skills. For kiddos who struggle with initiating play and socializing outside of the school setting, scheduling regular playdates, park meet-ups or day trips with friends create situations where social time happens naturally. These orchestrated situations can also take some of the social pressure off of the kiddos. 

During these play times, allow your child to interact without too much direction. Encourage cooperative play, turn taking and exploration. Providing a safe and supported environment for them to interact with friends will build their social confidence!

Crafting with A Purpose 

  • Scrapbook
    Create a summer scrapbook and include favorite activities, keepsakes and memories. Talk about how each memory feels, what activity was a favorite and why some things should be included and other things not. This can help kiddos process emotions and feelings about past events in a positive way.

  • Writing
    We love a good journal! This is a great option to help older kids who struggle to process feelings and emotions work through what they are feeling in a safe, private way.

    For younger kiddos, story writing is a way to express feelings and emotions in a format they understand. Let them create the storyline, characters and conflicts and don’t worry about the spelling, sentence structure or mechanics, allow kiddos to simply express themselves and create.

  • Create a Vision board
    Creating a vision board is an awesome activity to help process feelings, look ahead in a positive way and boost confidence in our kiddos. A vision board could include what they are looking forward to in the coming school year, goals they want to achieve, events they are excited about and even ways they want to approach tough situations they might encounter.

    Allow your child to guide the vision boarding and remind them it’s about how they feel, what they want to achieve in the future and why these things are important to them.
  • Painting or drawing
    Artistic expression is always a wonderful way to process emotion and express feelings in a truly personalized way. Allow kiddos to simply create or give them a bit of direction by asking them to paint a picture of a particular feeling or draw their favorite summer memory. Use thoughtful questions and provide safe space for them to talk about their artwork.

Board Games with a Social-Emotional Focus

Multi-player games are one of our favorite ways to help kiddos work on important social skills. During game play, kids have the opportunity to practice turn taking, problem solving and emotional control

Get a small group together for a game night or choose 1 on 1 games to play with your kiddo. As you play, talk about using patience, good sportsmanship and ways to manage their emotions if the outcome is not what they expected. 

Maybe choose a game where you have a bit more control over the outcome so you can allow them opportunities to win AND lose. Experience with both results will help kids understand what winning or losing feels like and let them practice healthy, positive ways to react to both. 

Click here and scroll down to check out some of our favorite social-emotionally supportive games.

woman and boy playing a social emotional supportive card game

Alternative Programs for Non Sports Kids

For a lot of kids, summer is when sports camps, leagues and events are in full swing. But not every child has an interest in, or are comfortable with, team focused sports and activities. For these kiddos, there are still tons of ways they can participate and have some fun! 

  • Check your local library for events and programs. Most libraries run summer reading programs or special activities and events.
  • Museums and zoos also have camps or programs with a focus on various areas of interest. 
  • Check local rec departments for non-sports programs and activities like cooking, STEM programs or crafting

Embrace Unstructured Time

These days when we seem to have unending appointments and activities and plans, it can be hard to remember to allow our kiddos the time and space to simply play. This summer, give them the opportunity to get a bit bored, figure it out for themselves and play without direction or too much intervention. 

Unstructured time allows the brain to imagine and create and for our kiddos to feel a sense of ownership over their play time – all healthy, confidence building things! 

2 girls laughing and hugging

No matter how you’re filling your days this summer, remember to allow some extra time and attention to build up and support the social-emotional health of your kiddos. Throw the rule book out and create the summer experience that works best for them! 

Play with a purpose and watch them flourish!