In addition to teaching ABCs and 123s, parents and teachers are also tasked with helping students learn life skills. One important life skill is learning how to take care of yourself. Focusing on self care activities for elementary students is a great way to help young people learn to focus on their physical health and mental wellness at a young age.
If kids begin healthy daily routines at an early age, they are more likely to take these good habits into their teenage and adult lives. These positive habits can help foster healthy relationships and good mental health.
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What is self care for young children?
Self care is engaging in activities that help you take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s doing the things you need to do to be your best self. For elementary students, it’s doing age-appropriate activities to foster healthy habits that positively impact their well-being.
Child Savers 100 says that elementary school is the perfect time to teach children to take care of themselves and their communities. They give specific examples of what slowing down and recharging can look like at various ages and stages of a child’s life.
Teachers and parents can encourage good self-care practices in elementary students to help them learn simple ways to prioritize themselves.
Why is self care necessary for elementary kids?
Taking care of yourself is a basic human need. In addition to teaching kids to take care of their physical needs (cleaning, dressing, feeding, etc.), they also need to begin learning about how to recognize and manage their mental and emotional needs. Teaching kids the importance of self-care is valuable and necessary and sets them up for success in the future.
Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility says that it’s not enough to simply teach kids about self-care and give them examples. A better way is to model self-care for students and support them as they figure out which activities are most effective as they establish and nurture their own self-care plan.
Kids of all ages should be given opportunities to learn how to stay grounded and present. It not only helps them learn how to meet their own needs, but it helps them to recognize and respect the needs of others.
There are several reasons that it’s important to teach elementary students about self care:
- To improve mood
- To boost confidence
- To increase energy levels
- To help manage frustration and anger
- To improve physical health
- To improve concentration
- To help reduce anxiety and depression
- To help them better manage stress (Yes, kids have stress, too!)
- To become more aware of mental health
- To improve relationships with friends and family
Who should teach kids about self-care?
Parents are the first teachers in children’s life. Even though parents are the primary teacher in a child’s life, teachers, the school counselor, social workers, and other trusted adults and family members can teach children about self-care.
Medical professionals can also be a part of the team of people teaching children to put themselves first.
How do you teach self care to children?
Communication is critical when it comes to teaching students about prioritizing their needs. Have open conversations with kids about what it means to put yourself first and allow them to ask clarifying questions.
Start slow and make sure that you are communicating at an appropriate level. Pay attention to their facial expressions as you talk so that you can carefully explain anything that confuses them.
Arguably the best way to teach children to take care of themselves is by modeling healthy self-care practices. Kids often imitate what they see their parents and other adults in their lives doing. So, if they see you taking good care of yourself and practicing good self-care habits, they may do some of those same things.
Community Access Network lists other ideas for teaching children about self-care.
What are some effective activities to teach children to slow down and focus on themselves?
An important thing to remember when choosing self-care activities for children is to make the activities fun and meaningful. You can attach meaning to the activities by briefly talking about the benefits of the activity and having conversations with students about how they feel when they are engaging in the action and how they feel afterward.
Go for ice cream.
A fun activity to add to a kid’s self-care plan is going out for ice cream. Going for ice cream can be a fun way to celebrate reaching a goal or it can simply be a treat for having a good day.
Getting ice cream can also be a “just because” treat. It’s important to teach children that self care doesn’t have to be earned. It’s okay to treat yourself for no reason at all.
Write in a gratitude journal.
Take time to walk kids through the process of being aware of the present moment. Have them close their eyes and think for a few seconds about the things that make them happy. Teach them to be appreciative of the things they have. As they begin to say what they’re thankful for, guide them through the process of writing about it in a gratitude journal.
Here are some prompts for elementary children to get started with a gratitude journal:
- Name two friends that you have and tell why you like them.
- What is your favorite thing to do with your family?
- Who is your favorite teacher and why?
- What is the last nice thing you did for someone else?
- If you are feeling sad, who would you go to cheer you up?
Take long walks
A great way to spend quality time, destress, and get some physical activity is by taking a long walk. It’s also a great way to unwind at the end of a difficult day. Long walks are an excellent way to ease feelings of stress and it’s also a great way for parents and children to spend some quality time together.
Play silly games
Playing silly games is a fun way to teach children to have fun and not take themselves too seriously.
Have a healthy conversation
Being able to engage in a healthy conversation is an important life skill. Be intentional about engaging in conversation as often as possible to help young children learn to express themselves appropriately.
Take a brain break
Help children learn to self-reflect and sense signs of overwhelm and frustration. Encourage them to take brain breaks when they need to reset and refocus.
Limit screen time
No matter what society says, screens are not the only way to have fun. Limit screen time for kids so that they don’t rely on screens as their only form of fun and entertainment. Limiting screen time also teaches children self-control.
Engage in imaginative play
Kids love to play and imaginative play is a great way to encourage young kids to be creative.
Create a safe pace
Adults love having a place where they can feel safe and secure. Help children create their own safe space where they can relax and be comfortable.
Take a Tai Chi class.
Tai Chi classes include activities such as visualization and meditation, both great forms of self-care. Check your local community to see if any Tai Chi classes are offered. Tai Chi is also a great way to promote physical activity.
Increase physical activity
In addition to encouraging a healthy body, physical activity also has mental and emotional health benefits. Find ways to incorporate more physical activity to help students form healthy habits that will positively affect their overall wellness.
Encourage healthy eating
Kids tend to love candy and other junk foods, but we all know a good habit is to eat healthy foods. Try to introduce kids to healthy snack options regularly to limit their junk food intake. Our bodies need the vitamins and nutrients found in lean meats and vegetables.
Take Deep Breaths
There’s a reason people encourage those who are overwhelmed to take deep breaths. Deep breathing is proven to help you feel calm and relaxed. Practice taking deep breaths to model for students how they can control their mood by becoming more aware of their needs.
Monitor energy levels
Young children, and even young adults, have difficulty monitoring their energy levels. That’s why young children often whine or act out when they are sleepy. They skate their low energy levels for other emotions and feelings. For example, they might say they don’t feel good, when in all actuality, they’re tired and just need to rest or take a nap.
Helping your children recognize when their energy levels are low is a great way to help them become self-aware and learn to rest when they reach they are tired.
Repeat positive affirmations
Positive affirmations are a powerful tool to help students be more confident. Gratitude Blog lists several positive affirmations for children to help you teach them about how effective positive self-talk can be.
Other self-care ideas for children
Here are some other ideas for self-care activities for children:
- listen to fun music
- do a puzzle
- go for a bike ride
- read a fun book
- play a board game with a friend
- play outside
- blow bubbles
- write a note to a friend
- enjoy some quiet time
- spend time with the whole family
One of the best ways to promote self care with elementary students is to find ways to incorporate self-care activities into everyday life. Practicing self-care activities is a healthy way to take care of your physical and mental health. You can use various strategies to emphasize the importance of monitoring their physical and mental health and trying new activities to help children increase the number of tools they have to help them deal with difficult situations.
Life experiences can sometimes be overwhelming. Knowing how to practice take care of yourself is a skill that will help young people learn to deal with future stressors and be the best person they can be.
Additional resources for kids
The Every Mom, 4 Ways to Teach Self-Care and Mindfulness to Kids
Parents, A Self-Care Checklist to do with Your Kids