I’m a believer in teaching social skills. If you’ve checked out my ebook or ecourse, you already know that. I’m also a big fan of learning through play. No surprise, right?
Today I have two social skill lessons you can teach using one of the most treasured treats of childhood — bubbles!
Lesson One: Self Control
This lesson is one I stumbled on in Pinterest from Peace, Love and Learning. (The lesson came to her via Teacher Tipster, Dustin Smith.) Donna’s post has a video from the Teacher Tipster that explains the whole activity, but essentially, you turn the universal activity of bubble-popping into a learning moment by encouraging the children to take a turn not popping the bubbles.
When I did this activity with a group of preschoolers, we talked about how there are times that you really want to do something but you have to tell yourself, “No. I’m going to make a better choice.” It’s a fun, simple, hands-on experience that you can refer back to to remind kids what it means to have self-control, and it’s a great way to build those incredibly important executive functions (even more fun ways to do that here).
Donna even created a great printable for your bubbles to turn them into official Self-Control Bubbles!
Lesson Two: Deep Breaths = More Willpower
I’ve been reading (ahem, listening to) an interesting book called The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It (and yes, I’ve giggled to myself more than once about the fact that it’s written by a “Professor McGonigal”). It’s written to an adult audience, but I have found it to be so interesting from a child-development perspective as well.
One section of the book talks about the physiological changes that occur from deep, calming breaths. There’s the obvious benefit of “calming down”, but it also actually makes people physically more capable to access their willpower and make better choices. That’s really what we’re after, right? It’s not just that we’re trying to get angry kids to calm down, but we want them to calm down before they make a heated, regrettable choice.
I thought I’d use this information for another bubble lesson. I talked with the kids about what it feels like to be upset, frustrated, and angry. I talked about how I feel so tight inside (as I clenched my fists and grimaced for illustration). Then I told them that when I need to calm down and get control, I take a deep breath and then let it out slowly. Sometimes a few times. It’s a little like blowing bubbles.
I then let the kids take turns blowing bubbles, talking about how it has to be a deep, slow breath. We watched the bubbles float away and I mentioned that it’s a little like blowing out the “grumpies” and letting them float away in a bubble.
Just as with the Self-Control Bubbles, this gives the kids the experience and visual imagery for future reference. All we need to say is, “Remember when we blew out the grumpies in those bubbles? Take some deep breaths and pretend you’re blowing bubbles again. Do you feel a little calmer?”
When we give kids experience and practice with coping skills though play we set them up to succeed when the situation becomes more tense.
Do you have a favorite playful approach to teaching social skills?
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These are great. My daughter loves bubbles and I’m looking forward to doing this with her.
Kim @ Little Stories says
Yes! Love this! I use bubbles in all of my circle times with young children (18 months – 3 years) because they are so motivating and the ultimate teacher of self-control! We do a version for a small group where the child only gets to pop the bubbles on their turn. On their friends’ turn they have to remind themselves to keep their hands down and wait. It works wonderfully well and the kids actually grow to love it and think it’s funny! We do something similar with musical shakers where I hand each of them a shaker and rather than shake it, they have to put it on the ground in front of them. Then they wait to pick it up until we all say “ready, set, go!” Then we shake, shake, shake together, sing a fun song, and then “STOP!” as we put the instruments back down on the ground. Fun and powerful stuff!
Can’t wait to try this with my preschool class! (I’m going to try Commentor Kim’s musical shaker idea too!) Thanks for sharing!
Suzita @ playfightrepeat.com says
These are such great lessons – to be used in the classroom or at home! Or, come to think of it, in the doctor’s and dentist’s offices as well. I think it’s particularly helpful to give kids a visual image of blowing bubbles or waiting to pop bubbles to start with. This type of image makes it easier for the kids to call the idea up in the future.
Thanks for the post!
Emily Plank says
Ooo…I love this idea! Have you ever used a soap solution (and straws) to blow bubbles on table tops? It achieves some of the same impulse control goals in a slightly different way…the longer you blow, the larger the bubble. If you can manage to stop the flow of air and take a new breath, there really is little to limit how big the bubbles can get! I will be trying this idea with my crew. Thank you!! Emily
So many fun ways to learn through play! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you! These are great ideas! I will be using them in my classroom this year. Last year we also used bubbles to talk about giving friends their personal space and calming our bodies in class. I had the kids imagine there was a bubble around each of them and if they got too close to each other they would pop their bubble. It was part of The Woven Word program. The kids were learning to “stop, think, and plan” before doing something. We also explored bubbles afterward with art created using bubbles, straws and paint. More bubbles to come this year- thank you for your ideas!
Hi Amanda, Louise here from Ouyen PReschool – I have asked you before about using your post for my newspaper column on early learning and you have kindly agreed – Could I send you through the version that I would like to use of your post and see if you are happy with it?
I agree with you 100% I have been saying this for years and have been successful with this FUN approach ! Our volume 1 video has a video on blowing bubbles which supports your work! Its fun, social, good for OT and playful!
Hmm, is my 3yo the odd one out who doesn’t like popping bubbles? She can’t figure out how to blow bubbles and gets frustrated. When I do blow bubbles she throws a fit when they blow away or pop. Bubbles are the complete opposite of fun in our house 🙁
Katherine Collmer says
Amanda, This is a wonderful post with great visuals and teaching strategies. Thank you so much for sharing. Bubbles are great for so many reasons; now I have 2 more:)