Anti-Bullying Activities

Anti-Bullying Activities

Bullying can be one of the most devastating experiences of a child’s life. Studies have shown that there are several negative effects of bullying that impact everyone involved, including the child on the receiving end as well as the child who does the bullying behavior. (MentalHealth) Bullying can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on a person’s self-esteem and general emotional well-being.

The reality is that most classroom settings can make bullying difficult to monitor and counteract. Students in a classroom outnumber their teachers, often thirty-to-one. Simple math makes it clear how hard it is for a teacher to even know about every instance of bullying behavior, let alone have the capacity to intervene. Therefore, being proactive can help mitigate the issue before trouble starts.

It’s important for teachers to recruit their students into a classroom-wide anti-bullying effort.

Anti-Bullying Activities for the Classroom

The fundamentals of teaching anti-bullying include (GSE):

  • Encourage students to be part of the solution. Children often rise to the occasion when they’re invited to do so.
  • Have honest conversations about the effects of bullying. For children, awareness of the consequences of their actions will help them make more empathic decisions.
  • Find opportunities to strengthen community and friendship. Stronger community ties help children both avoid bullying behaviors themselves and feel like they have choices when it comes to doing something about bullying when it occurs.
  • Use role playing. Learning through role play helps children use their imaginations and provides the opportunity to experience life in someone else’s shoes for empathy and understanding. It also involves problem-solving in many scenarios which helps prepare them for challenging social encounters.
  • Reinforce positive behavior. Children often look for reinforcement. Providing clear reinforcement of positive behavior through acknowledgment, rewards, etc. helps children to evolve.

These principles can be incorporated into anti-bullying activities.

Anti-bullying activities give students the chance to develop and practice the skills of empathy, fairness, and kindness. These activities will create a foundation for conversations about bullying and help children learn how to take care of each other.

Here are a few ideas for anti-bullying activities for elementary students to get started.

Anti-bullying Activities

Tube of Stuff Activity

The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate that actions have consequences that can’t be taken back. It’s appropriate for small children in kindergarten or first grade.

In this activity, children are given a tube of paint or toothpaste and a long roll of butcher paper. Children take turns squeezing the contents of the tube in a long line. When the tube is empty, they will be asked to put the paint or toothpaste back into the tube.

The teacher can then explain that what we say is like that paint or toothpaste. You can’t take things back. (MeraKilane)

Pledge Activity

pledge activity

Providing children with chances to take ownership of their actions creates opportunities for growth. Children, if given the chance, will often rise to the occasion if they’re asked to act with integrity.

Teachers can create an anti-bullying pledge that their students all sign. This helps show students that what they do matters. It also creates buy-in when implementing an anti-bullying classroom culture.

Gamify Kindness

Giving positive reinforcement for acts of kindness helps students feel excited about being kind to their fellow classmates. It also creates a precedent for children to carry kindness outside of the classroom, and into adulthood.

If educators create positive feedback loops for their students to receive small rewards for acts of kindness, it can help encourage a culture of kindness.

Create an “Acts of Kindness Chart”:

  • Acts of kindness receive gold stars.
  • Multiple acts of kindness within a specified period might lead to a classroom celebration.
  • Kids might play “I spy” to report acts of kindness that they see each other carry out.”

Compliment Circle

compliment circle - anti bullying activity for the classroom

This activity turns the practice of kindness into an interactive game. Have students sit in a circle. Students take turns saying something complimentary to every member of the classroom. Depending on the age group, encourage students to go beyond superficial compliments such as “I like your shoes,” to more meaningful compliments such as “You are always nice on the playground.” Go around the circle until everyone has had a chance to compliment the entire class.

Reading Books

Find reading lists that include books about understanding bullying and what to do about it. (WeAreTeachers) Books are some of the best ways for children to think through complicated social and emotional situations like bullying. Then, through questions and guided conversation, children can talk through solutions.

Anti-bullying through Social and Emotional Learning

At Soul Shoppe, we use social and emotional teaching techniques to help educators and parents. It’s important for all students to see the classroom as a safe place. Our Peacemaker Training teaches educators how to build anti-bullying environments in schools. Contact us with questions about creating anti-bullying activities for the classroom. 

Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools or our Peacemaker Trainer Certification programs.

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Talking About Feelings

Talking About Feelings

If you’re a parent or teacher, you know your small kids experience big feelings. Sometimes they seem to come out of nowhere, while other times, your kids have emotional responses that you can easily trace to some prior moment in the day. Regardless of how their feelings are stirred up, we must normalize talking about them. 

Children who are taught that talking about feelings is healthy will learn not to bottle up their life experiences. Instead, they’ll learn to share them and process them. Just like adults, when kids begin to understand their emotions and name them, they have a fighting chance of working through their feelings. 

This article will discuss talking about feelings and teaching your child to identify and express them.

Talking About Feelings

What Is The Difference Between Emotions And Feelings?

While emotions and feelings are used interchangeably, they are slightly different. Emotions are bodily reactions that occur through neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain (iMotions). Feelings, on the other hand, are a conscious experience.

Talking About Feelings Helps Children Process 

Though emotions can be as unique as the children who experience them, there are generally four big emotions in which everyone’s feelings are grounded: anger, sadness, fear, and loneliness. We could easily break down each of these big emotions into resulting feelings, but for the sake of this article, we’ll focus on the main ones.

Suppose you are looking for a more extensive representation of the full array of emotions to help teach your child that talking about feelings doesn’t have to feel overwhelming or frustrating. In that case, you can check out our feelings poster.

The Big Four Feelings and Emotions for Kids

Let’s discuss the big four feelings and emotions for kids and how you can help your child identify them.


anger - talking about feelings

In general, anger is secondary to hurt, fear, frustration, or injustice. Sometimes your child will feel triggered to anger by one of these emotions, and sometimes they will feel all four of these emotions at once. 

Anger is an uncomfortable emotion for both adults and children. It’s also an uncomfortable emotion to witness in another person. Anger for children often manifests itself as a temper tantrum, hitting, grabbing another child’s toy, or having an emotional outburst such as crying coupled with screaming. 

It’s important to understand that anger triggers your child’s fight or flight response. Jaclyn Shlisky, PsyD, writes, “Anger may seem irrational, but for a child that hasn’t yet learned how to regulate emotions, it’s an immediate natural reaction to some sort of wrongdoing your child feels” ( To help your child recognize and self-regulate when talking about the feelings and emotions that are stirred up by anger, you can do the following:

  • Identify and explain the feeling using age-appropriate language and materials, such as songs, movies, pictures, or facial expressions.
  • Teach your child different ways they can deal with their feelings
  • Praise your child when they talk about their feelings.
  • Reinforce your child’s attempts to discuss their feelings by incorporating feelings into game time, car rides, when you’re sharing a meal, etc. 

Using anger as an example, you can help your child identify and explain the emotion. For instance, if your child doesn’t want to follow their bedtime routine one night and begins to have a temper tantrum, you might say, “It seems like you’re feeling angry about having to brush your teeth tonight. You are crying, and your face looks like this. What can you do? I think you can ask for help or take some deep breaths and try again.” 

Acknowledging your child’s emotions not only helps them identify their feelings using self-awareness skills, but also helps them understand how they can deal with them. The next step is to praise your child when they acknowledge the emotions they’re experiencing. Additionally, praise them when they decide how to handle that emotion. While at the beginning, you might provide examples of solutions for them, they will eventually learn to come up with solutions on their own.

Later, when their emotions have settled–this could be an hour later or even a couple of days later–you can reinforce your child’s attempts to discuss their feelings. You can also discuss the choices they made to process the emotions. For example, “Last night, you seemed angry about brushing your teeth. I was so proud of you when you figured out you were feeling anger and then took some nice, deep breaths before finishing brushing. You handled your anger so well!” This kind of reinforcement lets kids know what they did well, and it can help build their confidence during future moments with difficult emotions. 


Parent with children at table - child with sad expression

When you’re teaching your child to identify and express emotions, sadness is one of the first you will want to explore. We all experience sadness at one point or another, and children tend to present sadness in similar ways to adults. 

The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning at Vanderbilt University suggests playing the game Make a Face to begin conversations about emotions with your child or student. 

This is a great way to open a conversation with a child who feels sad. The game begins when you say, “I am going to make a face; guess what I am feeling by looking at my face.” This game helps the child assign a name to the feeling and then allows the adult to reinforce their connection in the moment. Once the emotion is established, you can ask the child what has caused their sadness and then follow the steps above (identify and explain, teach them ways to deal with their emotions, praise the child, and reinforce their attempts). 

When children deal with difficult emotions, it’s essential to let them know that while their feelings belong to them, they are common among children and adults alike. They are not alone. 


In most educational materials on feelings and emotions for kids, fear is at the top of the list. The reason for this is obvious–just think back to when you were a child. Perhaps you had a fear of the dark, or big animals, or loud noises. Much of this fear is rooted in feelings of uncertainty and the vastness of “the unknown.” Often, children express fear in uncertain ways and this can lead to anxiety later in life. 

If your child or student is having a hard time identifying and expressing fear, here are some tools you can give them to help them express it more productively: 

  • Encourage them to ask for help.
  • Invite them to say the emotion instead of showing it. (For example, “I am feeling scared,” instead of crying, hiding, or throwing a tantrum.)
  • Relax and try again. (For example, if a child fears reading aloud in class, invite them to take some deep breaths and try again.)
  • Tell a grown-up.

Teaching your child to identify and express emotions allows them to connect with you and with others in a way that keeps them safe and gives them a greater sense of confidence when they are not with you. It also builds camaraderie and community because it teaches them that we are all in this together. 


loneliness - talking about feelings

The final emotion we’ll discuss here is loneliness. 


Research shows that children form attachments to other people right from the start. Children who have a secure attachment with at least one adult experience benefits and learn that connection to others is a positive thing. Conversely, when children feel disconnected from others, they can experience loneliness. 


Unfortunately, loneliness in kids has skyrocketed as a result of the pandemic. As you might imagine, kids attending classes online or being taken out of their normal activities has resulted in an epidemic of loneliness.


Loneliness is a complex emotion but helping your child identify it in themselves and then process it, benefits them greatly.  Bethany Vibert, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, suggests some helpful strategies to talking about the feeling of loneliness with your child. Dr. Vibert writes:


Ask open-ended questions. For example, if your child says they miss spending time with someone they used to see a lot, you can ask questions about that. “What did you really like doing with her? What do you miss the most about seeing her?”


Make observations. Sometimes comments are a good alternative to questions. So, if you notice that your child isn’t spending time with people as much as they used to, you might point that out. Then leave space for them to talk.


Validate their experiences. Showing genuine interest goes a long way. Do your best to listen without judgment (or visible panic) to whatever they have to say. Try also to avoid overreacting with too much sympathy or emotion, since that might make them feel even worse. You can show that you’re listening by reflecting back on what they’re saying (“It sounds like you’re having a hard time”), or saying supportive things like “That sounds tough. Would you tell me more about that?” 


Talking about feelings and emotions with your children or students teaches them that their experiences are valid, they can manage their feelings, and that you care about them. 


Soul Shoppe supports parents and school communities by creating and facilitating dynamic social-emotional learning programs, parent workshops, and more. For more information on how to talk about feelings with the kids in your life, please contact us.


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Pandemic Effects on Children

Pandemic Effects on Children

The pandemic has caused major disruptions in routines and social activities for children. These disruptions have led to social isolation and a crisis that is reaching into 2022. 

Many children have missed their sports games, music lessons, birthday parties, and other activities. At the same time, they’ve been kept from friends and family, making it more difficult for them to enjoy much needed social support. All this has taken a toll on children’s social and emotional health. Additionally, it has affected their academic performance and led to a stark situation overall. 

It is imperative that adults understand the pandemic effects on children. The more clearly we see the big picture and its overall effects on kids, the more we can help them cope with the changes and difficulties they have faced. Our ability to relate to their current trauma can improve the accuracy and effectiveness with which we embolden children with resilience and the ability to navigate the unknown. 

In this article, we will explain pandemic effects on children and provide strategies to help you support your kids at home.

What are the Pandemic Effects on Children

Childhood Development

child in mask - pandemic effects on children

The pandemic effects on children are broad and far-reaching. Children have been one of the most adversely impacted demographics internationally, as they have experienced disruptions, fear, and social isolation during a most vulnerable time in their lives. 

Some skills that can only be developed in the company of other children have been disrupted. For younger children especially, the inability to access daycare and play dates has been problematic. Being separated from their peers and teachers has slowed their social and emotional development. For older children, the isolation has made it harder to build vital relationships (Children’s Hospitals)

According to Children’s Hospitals, the main list of childhood development skills being interrupted by the pandemic include:

  • Self and social awareness
  • Learning to have positive relationships
  • Self regulation
  • Good decision making
  • Problem solving

Also at risk are learning skills, which have been halted abruptly with the need for distance learning. COVID has affected every child; it’s resulted in a collective traumatic event. 


Children have been unable to regularly attend school in person. Consequently, they have fallen behind academically. 

During the first year of the pandemic (2020), children’s grades and ability to learn new information began to decline. Unfortunately, they have not yet caught up in 2022. 

One study by the NWEA studied 8th graders. They found that 1out of 3 8th graders are testing at lower levels than normal in both math and reading (NY Times). Additionally, the students whose test scores are suffering most are Black, Hispanic, and living near or under the poverty level. According to Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “We haven’t seen this kind of academic crisis in living memory” (NY Times).

Behavior Problems at School

Although many people believe that children’s lives have gone back to normal since being allowed to go back to school on a limited basis, they have not. 

Our “new normal” is rife with uncertainty, less social interaction, and a sense of loss. As a result, behavior problems in school have increased. Children have struggled in a variety of ways. Some have become more aggressive and started fights in both the classroom and online. Similarly, some children have taken up swearing while others are vandalizing their schools. Still others are running out of their classrooms as a result of built-up pressure and panic attacks, or have stopped participating in class altogether.

School used to be a haven for many students. Over the course of the pandemic, they have become microcosms of international chaos caused by the pandemic. 

Furthermore, practices such as making children sit apart from their friends at lunchtime, social distancing at school, and fear of the virus are making the situation worse. According to the NY Times, the car rides to and from school have even become fear-laden since they have been recognized as an opportunity for the virus to infect children. 

The trade off of protecting children from the virus at the expense of their academic and social development is wreaking havoc on our children’s emotional well-being. 

Mental Health

mental health of children and teens

Students’ mental health has suffered. Being isolated from their friends, activities, and routines has had a profound effect. In addition, as economic effects worsened, families are experiencing a greater degree of poverty. In turn, children are witnessing more family stress. The culmination of these adverse consequences of the pandemic has led to a large increase in anxiety and depression. 

It was reported in one study in late 2020 that 22% of children showed increased signs of depression, anxiety, and stress (KFF). At the same time, children have had less access to mental health services so parents have had to bring their ailing children to emergency rooms in the midst of a mental health crisis. 

As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national state emergency for children’s mental health. This was based on the number of emergency room visits for mental health crises. 

At the same time, suicide attempts have risen primarily in children aged 12 to 17 (KFF). In particular, the number of ER visits for suspected suicide rose by 51% for girls aged 12-17 since 2019  (NY Times). For younger children aged 5-11, there was a 22% increase in ER visits for mental health (Yale Medicine). It’s evident that children are suffering greatly from the pandemic. 

In the midst of this chaos, there are ways to help re-establish order and safety for your children at home.

How to Support Children at Home

mother hugging child

There is a wide variety of activities that can help support your child’s cognitive and behavioral development at home during the pandemic. Here are 5 activities you can complete in less than 10 minutes a day. 


1. Teaching emotional intelligence by labeling emotions. 

Help them label their feelings, and then empathize with why they feel that way. If they need help, offer words to help them articulate their feelings. Questions such as, “Do you think you feel frustrated or angry, or sad?” will help them label their feelings.  


2. Encourage self care activities for mental health.

Teaching your children the tenets of self-care is an important way to combat anxiety and depression. Activities such as having a dance party at home, drawing or painting, or taking a hot bubble bath are all useful. There are many self-care activities you can incorporate into your daily routine at home depending on your family’s time limitations. 


3. Teach your children how to adapt to change.

The pandemic has increased stress on children. As a result, teaching your kids how to adapt to change is an important tool. Keep routines at home as consistent as possible and discuss change before it happens, if you can. Acknowledge your children’s worries and fears, and allow them to feel their emotions (WISC). It can be helpful to write a list of to-do’s for each day with your child so they know what to expect. 


4. Work on mindfulness with your children. 

Mindfulness is very effective at lowering stress. It teaches children to accept and pay attention to what is occurring in the present moment. This, in turn, helps them face daily challenges. There are many apps that teach mindfulness practices. There are also age-appropriate activities provided on numerous child development websites. 


5. Utilize positive parenting tips

For as long as the pandemic lasts it is crucial to be supportive of children at home. We recommend parents utilize positive parenting tips. These help children cope, build emotional skills, and adapt during difficult times. Chief among these tips is nurturing your children and building connections with them so they know they can come to you with their questions, concerns, and burdens.


Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs for schools. homes, and businesses. In addition, we teach a variety of self-care activities. Please reach out to us with questions. 


You May Also Like:

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Effects of Social Isolation on Children 

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Sources: Children’s Hospitals, KFF, Positive Psychology, WISC, Yale Medicine

There’s No Such Thing As A Bully

There’s No Such Thing As A Bully

At some point in our childhoods, most of us have been bullied. If not bullied ourselves, we’ve witnessed someone else getting bullied. Some of us have even been the bully. So how can we say “there’s no such thing as a bully”? It’s a radical proposition, and it’s one of the core assumptions we make at Soul Shoppe.

Over the years, we’ve had many opportunities to interact with children who were identified as bullies. When we were able to get beneath the behavior, to really connect with them, we saw every time that there was a need not getting met. Something was going on – a parent was ill, parents were divorcing, violence in the environment – there was a lack of safety and security or some overwhelming event. Children who have to navigate these situations may feel isolated, misunderstood, afraid and lonely. The bullying behavior meets a small piece of their need, even if it’s in a negative way. They get attention. They have power. Their actions matter. Or maybe it just feels good to have someone else feel afraid and upset too.

When we look underneath any bullying situation, there is always a young person with big feelings and they don’t know what else to do. They have emotions they don’t know how to manage. Bullying is a symptom of a bigger problem, never the root of the problem. And those big emotions didn’t start with them.

There’s no such thing as a bully. There is only a kid who is hurting and needs support. When we label a child a “bully,” we make their behavior define who they are. We start to look at and interact with them as if THEY are the problem, instead of addressing the behavior and where it’s really coming from. Changing how we view the behavior is one of the ways we can stop bullying at its roots. We can give kids tools, time and space to manage their emotions. We can show them how to listen to and have empathy for one another.

Our Free To Be assembly is a great way to introduce these practices into schools. Educators who want to deepen their anti-bullying and community-building practices can get a few ideas here. And finally, check out Soul Shoppe founder vicki! Abadesco’s Tedx Talk to find out what happened when one class “bully” was given a chance to be heard.

Around the Shoppe

Around the Shoppe

Soul Shoppe Partners with

Over the next 8 weeks, Soul Shoppe is partnering with to help raise awareness about the impact that labeling has on people. Every week, will post a video with a Soul Shoppe staffer who tells their own story about labels. Personal stories like the ones you’ll hear in the coming weeks are an integral part of Soul Shoppe workshops.

Telling your story is important. It can help start a conversation or even start a process of healing. Someone hearing your story might be inspired to speak up, too.  Check out this week’s story here.

Got Soul Shoppe?

Are you thinking about bringing Soul Shoppe’s award winning programs to your school? Get in touch! Contact us for more information or to book for the 2018-19 school year. Find out what others have to say about the impact our programs have had.

Tend to Feelings and Needs

Tend to Feelings and Needs

We made it to June, and the end of another school year is here! In these busy days before we launch into summer, there seems to be an endless list of work to be done, meetings and events to attend, and people wanting to have important conversations. When we are pressed for time, our communication may not be at its best. Miscommunications and misunderstandings happen. We move so fast that it’s a challenge to think about what we are feeling and what we really need from others. It’s even a bigger challenge to take the time express these thoughts and feelings to someone to get clarification and, ultimately, connection.

At Soul Shoppe we use a tool to help us express our feelings and needs in a way that helps us keep our relationships healthy. It supports us to be heard so there can be more understanding with the people in our lives. Too often we don’t take the time to identify the words needed to share our true feelings about an experience. That can lead to resentment, unexpressed hurt, sadness or anger — and these feelings create a wall of separation between ourselves and the people we care about.

Welcome to the I-Message. The I-Message tool consists of four steps, each with its own small risk, where you have to get a little bit vulnerable and do things slightly differently in order to build stronger connections –both to ourselves and to others.

I feel … (usually a feeling word)
When …
I need … (what do YOU really need?)
Will you please …

And here’s how it might work in real life. We recently talked with a person who was having some challenging feelings with their spouse. They were upset that their spouse was sitting on the couch doing nothing. Initially, what they wanted to say was, “Will you get off the couch?!?” in a voice filled with attitude and accusation. We asked this person to talk more about what they were really feeling and what they needed, and they shared that they wanted connection. With that in mind, they created this I-Message:

I feel lonely
WhenI don’t have connection and attention
I need some time with you
Will you please let me know when we can connect?

Imagine that request came to you. Would you be receptive to that message and open to building connection? Probably. Entering into this process is about taking responsibility for ourselves. When we own what we feel and ask for what we need, we empower ourselves without disempowering someone else. That’s so much better than getting surprised by what we are feeling and not getting what we need!

We invite you to try out the I-Message the next time you feel yourself in a reaction. Take a step back and pause to notice and name what you are feeling. What happened just before the feeling? What do you need now? Then put it in the frame of an I-Message and say it to someone. Notice the response you get and how connection opens up. Most of all, notice the difference you feel within yourself. Every time we take the time to get in touch with our own feelings and have the courage to voice our needs, we take a step closer to creating the connected, loving relationships we want in our lives.

Spotlight on a Champion

Got Soul Shoppe?

Scheduling Now for the 2018-19 School Year

Are you thinking about bringing Soul Shoppe’s award winning programs to your school? Get in touch! Contact us for more information or to book for the 2018-19 school year. Find out what others have to say about the impact our programs have had.