SEL & Summer Camp – Part 2

We’re continuing our conversation with social and emotional learning (SEL) expert, Jennifer S. Miller. She’s the author and illustrator of the Confident Parents, Confident Kids blog and she’s sharing tips on how to incorporate SEL in the summer camp experience.

LN:  Summer is right around the corner and many children will be attending summer camps and programs. What can these programs do to incorporate SEL in their activities?

JSM:  Summer camps and programs offer a unique opportunity to advance children’s social and emotional skills because of the spirit of exploration and fun that are expected to accompany the summer sunshine. Staff can:

  • Explore ways to play daily name games,
  • Offer regular personal sharing opportunities,
  • Play cooperative games offering ways to deepen trusting connections between, and among children and staff and to exercise teamwork and collaboration skills.

Some camps bring kids together from a variety of neighborhoods, offering them a chance to deepen their social awareness and relationship skills as they form new friendships and experiences through socialization with others they may not normally encounter in their own schools and neighborhoods. Exploring nature is another opportunity to build empathy. Staff can lead studies of trees, plants, and animals and how best to care for, and become, stewards for the environment.

One study compared a group of preteens who spent five days in nature with no screen time with a demographically similar group of preteens at home who engaged in regular activities including daily screen time. That study showed that the children who spent the time in nature after only five days were more skilled at taking social cues including nonverbals and understanding each other’s emotions. That short time spent with peers in nature enhanced their abilities to connect and communicate with one another.

Study Reference: Uhls, Y. T., Michikyan, M., Morris, J., Garcia, D., Small, G. W., Zgourou, E., Greenfield, P. M., (2014). Five days at outdoor education camp without screens improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues. Computers in Human Behavior, 39, 387-392.

And what about the big feelings that happen at summer camp — for both campers and staff members alike? There will be skinned knees and hurt feelings. So instead of merely packing a first-aid kit, why not plan for those big feelings? Questions to keep in mind…

Is there a comforting-spot where campers can choose to go when they feel upset and need some time to calm down?
Is there a buddy plan between camp staff in which one staff member who is frustrated can call on their buddy to take over while they take a moment to calm down?

Planning ahead for the big feelings that happen when we are working with children is not a sign of weakness but of strength. We’ll be ready to respond with our best, most emotionally intelligent selves in those tough moments. Introduce campers to those plans so that they are aware in advance and can build their self-management skills by self-selecting the calm down spot and taking care of their needs.

LN:  Can SEL be incorporated in to play (playtime)? If so, what are your suggestions for doing so?

JSM:  The mere setting of a collaborative goal with children helps set a mindset for teamwork. The same is true for competition, if that goal is set by adults. So why not build the ability to work together by reflecting on what collaboration looks like in play and setting a goal for it? Then, when playtime is over, reflect on what they did well and what they could improve upon for next time. Play naturally involves the building of social and emotional skills so while children are playing – aside from providing imaginative tools and toys and a safe environment – staff can stand back and let children do their thing.


Jennifer S. Miller, SEL expert and author of Confident Parents, Confident Kids blog.

SEL & Summer Camp – Part 1

This week, And I Still Fly is focusing on social and emotional learning (SEL) at camp. The objective of our children’s book series, Lulu Noire’s Black Butterfly Tales®, is to promote positive social interaction among children. The current school year is coming to an end and many of you plan to have your kids attend summer camp. While some of you are hardworking, fun-loving camp facilitator’s who want to create a warm, exciting, and inclusive environment during those few weeks. Well, our 5-part interview series with SEL expert, author, and illustrator Jennifer S. Miller shares answers to all of your questions on the subject.

Meet Jennifer S. Miller, a social and emotional learning (SEL) expert.

Jennifer S. Miller, author and illustrator of the blog Confident Parents, Confident Kids

LN:  In your words, what is SEL?

JSM:  Social and emotional learning (SEL) is how we come to more deeply understand who we are and how we can relate to and understand others, including those we view as different from us in ways that strengthen relationships and do not harm. These skills — including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making — allow us to set and advance toward our own goals and authentically collaborate with others. We never stop engaging in our social and emotional learning from childhood through our adult lives.

LN:  List some benefits of SEL.

JSM:  Social and emotional skills serve as the foundation for all of our relationships, including the one we have with ourselves. We require these skills in order to accomplish positive, healthy goals we set and to grow and sustain our most important relationships with our family, friends, work colleagues, and more.

LN:  How long has this form of learning been around and when did it start becoming popular? Is it popular?

JSM:  Social and emotional learning has always existed. Every time a parent chooses a reaction in response to a feeling, they are teaching their child about their values. Every time a teacher reacts to a child’s big feelings in the classroom, they are teaching that child about appropriate reactions to that moment. The field of research and specific term “social and emotional learning” was coined in 1994 when national thought leaders came together to form CASEL – the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning with the charge of defining what SEL is and looks like. Since that time, there has been a robust research and practice knowledge base that has been established and shared by multiple organizations and stakeholders to show how SEL has a direct impact on academic achievement, on child well-being factors, and on children’s future success in higher education, career achievements, and sustained, healthy family and community relationships.


From Confident Parents, Confident Kids – Jennifer S. Miller has more than 20 years of experience working with educators and families to help them become more effective with children through social and emotional learning (SEL).

Summer Camp Free-Time Activity Sheets 4 the Young Ones

To all the camp directors and counselors out there, this is for you… Are you ready for summer camp to begin? Are you working on program details, setting up field trips, and finalizing your camp attendees’ lists? As you put together free-time ideas for the young ones, keep Lulu Noire’s Black Butterfly Tales® in mind?

Our free-access printable activities sheets include coloring pages, matching, crossword puzzles, word searches, and word play. To view and download all of our activities sheets for fun free-time, visit our Pinterest page. For a sampling of the sheets, see below or click on the “Printable Activities” link at the top of this page.

Fill in the Blank
Word Play

Today is National Stress Awareness Day

Know a child that’s stressed? It happens to everyone. Even me and my friends here in Kaleidoscope Garden. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to keep things as stress-free as possible. How do we do it? Here are a few tips for you to try to help prevent stress in the kids you know.

Keep a set routine. We do. Routines are a great way to establish a safe environment. We get up early, eat, and then play together. Establishing a routine like eating dinner at the table each night and family-time can be comforting and feel like a safe space.

Monitor TV shows and video games. We don’t watch TV or play video games in Kaleidoscope Garden but, we’ve heard that graphic visuals or stories on TV can produce anxiety. Our biggest source of anxiety around here is the mean, scary gator that shows up every now and then – but, more on him at another time.

Listen to them. Sometimes kids can feel like no one is listening and nothing they say is important. We’re constantly chatting each other up around here. Giving an ear to a child so they can share their fears, feelings, or discuss specific situations in their lives encourages them to become more open. Letting your child vent about their issues is an excellent way to de-stress.

And lastly, grab a book and read to, or with them. I know a good story to read out loud. It’s called, I’m a Different Butterfly and it’s about me, Lulu Noire.

Today is National Encourage a Young Writer Day

I love this day! As a storyteller, I think it’s so important to share your story.
Encourage the young writer in your life to jot down their thoughts, dreams, rhymes, the plot of a script, or the start of a memoir. Yes. I said it… a memoir. They might not have done enough yet to have a memoir, but they have ideas about life… their life. Then, you do it too – and share your writings with one another. Not only is it a good way to communicate, but you just might learn something about that young writer you didn’t know.