Stuck Indoors? Use the Time to Build Social and Emotional Learning

The recent smoky conditions in the California Bay Area kept most of us indoors, creating long and sometimes stressful days for many families. We were forced to cope with a lack of outdoor time while also dealing with powerful emotions of sadness and fear related to the fires.

Whether we’re facing smoky skies, stormy weather, or just a bad cold/illness, we sometimes have to spend extended periods of time indoors, and this got me thinking about all of the social-emotional learning activities that could be useful during those times when we feel cooped up. Here are a few of my favorites:

Mindfulness: Try these breathing activities that are easy for kids to do:

  • Emotion Charades: This is just like the usual game of Charades, but you try to guess the emotion that someone is trying to convey.
  • Reading books about emotions is a great way to start the conversation about feelings and how to express them. Here are some options:
  • Nonverbal games: Help kids to increase eye contact and understand nonverbal cues. For example, hide a toy or other object and play “Hot and Cold” without words. The child searches for the object and watches your facial expressions to determine whether the object is nearby.
  • Personal Space: Kids can practice the skills of understanding personal space, regulating oneself in a group setting, and maintaining body awareness with games like Freeze Dance, Red Light/ Green Light, and Musical Chairs.

It can be difficult to be stuck indoors, but a focus on games, skill-building activities, and connection can provide a way to ease boredom, stay active, and get kids talking and learning!  For more ideas, check out page 16 on Indoor Anti-Boredom in Make Social Learning Stick (


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