As we gingerly tiptoe into the new normal of the post-pandemic era, most students have returned to school. Lots of them made the transition back to in-person learning seamlessly and eagerly. However, there are children of all ages, for whom returning to school is anything but easy – even after months of being back! At their young age, nearly two years of academic disruption is a good chunk of their lives. In this post, we highlight ways students have been affected, the behaviors that can impede learning, and tools you can add to help alleviate these issues. Some of these tools can easily be added to the summer backpack giveaways, or given to schools for use in the classroom – allowing students and teachers to get ahead of these behavioral challenges.
Quiet But Withdrawn
In the first scenario, students are withdrawn, quiet, and reluctant to participate or interact. Children who grew comfortable in the security of life at home behind a computer screen, only communicating electronically with their teachers and peers, can face major challenges when thrown back into the social climate at school. They can feel stressed out and disengaged. They might struggle when asked to answer questions, work in small groups, or self-manage unstructured school time such as recess and lunchtime. These kids are often overlooked because they do not disrupt classroom learning.
Tools that are geared towards interacting with others are very beneficial for these students. These tools are appropriate in different forms for students of all ages! Here are a few examples:
- Puzzles: The graphics and quality of puzzles, especially for teenagers, have improved a great deal from puzzles of the past, and there is a new and expanding market of appealing puzzle designs. Puzzles in a small group facilitate collaboration, communication, and connection.
- Simple knitting kits (with child-safe knitting supplies): Research has shown the act of knitting quiets the mind, has a calming effect, and enhances social skills. These kits can be used in a small group setting to facilitate conversation while learning a skill that produces tangible products.
- Collaborative games: Collaborative board games and card games require students to work together to achieve a common goal. They can also enhance strategic thinking and analytical skills. Available at different ages, some collaborative games also help with basic math and/or reading skills.
Boisterous and Disruptive
The second scenario includes kids who have trouble sitting quietly when it is time to do so. They might have trouble keeping their hands to themselves and refraining from talking when they aren’t supposed to. While learning from home, kids did not have to sit still and focus for nearly as long as is needed in the classroom. Now that they are back, they aren’t always able to adjust their actions to reflect the current educational setting. They may be eager to speak out, get out of their seats, and otherwise draw attention to themselves. This not only impacts the affected child, but also the other learners in the room. Providing calming tools to these students improves focus and self-regulation and increases awareness of how their behavior affects others. Examples of helpful tools include:
- Stress balls
- Therapy putty
- Bubble fidget sensory toys
- Fidget spinners
- Coloring books
Social-Emotional Tools for Back to School
Traditional school supplies are as important as ever – students cannot learn without basic supplies like pencils and paper. However, as we are exiting the COVID era, there is another pandemic left behind in education – countless teachers have spoken about the behavioral issues now rampant in schools, an unexpected side effect of a year of online learning. The importance of social-emotional wellness in learning should not be underestimated.
Nonprofits should consider adding social-emotional items to their summer school supply programs. These items could be included in backpacks given to students or provided directly to school personnel, who can determine their use for the greatest impact. There is no quick fix, but having brain tools on hand can greatly shift the mindset of students to help them healthily center themselves and be more equipped to thrive in their school setting.
In you are interested in items to add to your school supply program to support social-emotional learning, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to help you design a comprehensive online school supply drive, or assist with a bulk purchase.