Creating Activities Based on the Theories of Stages of Play

Creating Activities Based on the Theories of Stages of Play

When you hear the word play, do you think of outdoor recess, toys, or downtime from “real” classroom learning? A common misconception is that play is simply a form of entertainment or a way to pass the time. It’s actually quite the opposite – for young children, play is absolutely essential for the mind and body!

Play is SO Much More than Fun & Games!

In this article, we’ll cover different types and benefits of play, and ways to promote cooperative play in the classroom. Whether you’re a new or experienced educator, having a strong foundational understanding (or a helpful refresher!) of the leading theories of stages of play will help you brainstorm new and engaging cooperative play activities and activities for cooperation for your young students to learn, grow and work together in the classroom. This will help build crucial skills they’ll need later to collaborate, cooperate and excel at school and in other typical social settings outside of the classroom, including sports, as they age up.

The Many Benefits of Play

For educators, understanding the theories of stages of play is crucial, because play has numerous and varied benefits for growing brains and bodies. At a high level, play can promote cognitive development, help develop executive brain functions, and improve academic achievement for growing tots.

More specifically, this includes crucial areas like memory, visual and spatial awareness, language, communication and social skills, attention span, and fine and gross motor skills. There’s more: emotional self-regulation, sequencing, inhibition, verbal reasoning, cognitive flexibility, and anticipation are also developing skills already at work at a young age – all thanks to play! Your little learners are absorbing information fast and furiously.

Luckily, play comes naturally for all ages, from babies and toddlers to preschoolers and kindergarteners. And with your expert guidance, having certain kinds of play in the classroom will help your curriculum go from good to great!

Parten’s Stages of Play

Before we dive into ideas for cooperative play activities, let’s review the basics. Sociologist Mildred Parten Newhall’s social stages of play theory, known as Parten’s Stages of Play, covers play progression for children from newborn to age six. Parten’s Stages of Play is one of the leading theories of stages of play and has contributed greatly to our modern understanding of play.


  1. Unoccupied Play: When a child is not playing, just observing. An example may be standing in one spot and performing random movements. In this phase, an infant is beginning to experience a new and exciting world through their senses.
  2. Solitary (Independent) Play: When a child is alone and maintains focus on an activity. The child is usually uninterested and unaware of what others are doing at the time, and this behavior is common in ages two to three.
  3. Onlooker Play: When a child watches others play but doesn’t engage in it. Motivated by curiosity, the child is learning how play “works” through observation, learning the skills he’ll need when he is ready to jump in.
  4. Parallel Play: When a child plays separately from others but in close proximity to them, mimicking their actions. In this phase, children enjoy the excitement and buzz of being around other kids, but don’t know how to step into another child’s game or vice versa. (This is a term that most parents have likely heard! You go to a playdate, but the kids seem to barely interact.) In fact, this is a very important transitory stage from the social immature solitary stage and onlooker play to the more mature associative and cooperative play.
  5. Associative Play: When a child is interested in the people playing but not in coordinating activities with those people (or, there may be no organized activity at all). There is a lot of interaction involved, but activities are not in sync, and there is no common goal.
  6. Cooperative Play: When the child is interested both in the people playing and the activity they are doing. There are usually distinct roles and desired outcomes for the group at play. Kids usually begin to engage in this final phase of play, with activities for cooperation, around four to five years of age.

According to Parten, as children become older and improve communication skills – and as opportunities for peer interaction become more common – social types of play (associative and cooperative) become more common.

Cooperative Play Ideas

Now for the fun part: brainstorming and creating cooperative classroom activities based on the theories of stages of play! We’re going to focus on cooperative play, the developmentally appropriate type of play for your classroom’s age ranges, and ways to brainstorm these activities for cooperation. Cooperative play in the classroom involves children playing and working with others towards a common goal or purpose, so it’s important to remember that is the ultimate overarching goal as you work to develop classroom curriculum in this area.

Cooperative play activities are organized and structured, with participants often assigned roles working toward a desired team outcome. For more advanced classrooms beyond preschool and kindergarten, these might include more dramatic play activities (like playing school) or a game with official rules to follow (like freeze tag).

Some thought-starters for great cooperative play activities in the classroom include:

  • Treasure hunt
  • Puzzles
  • Painting a mural
  • Building dens or forts
  • Constructing buildings or cities (from boxes or blocks)
  • Acting out shared stories (using dolls or toys)
  • Relay races
  • Team games
  • Making up a synchronized dance
  • Board games
  • Recreating scenarios from everyday life with assigned roles (going to the doctor, visiting the grocery store or eating a meal)

If you feel like you’re running out of ideas for cooperative play in the classroom (we know – so many hours and so many days in a school week!), you’re not alone. It turns out, creating play can be really hard work. But while little learners and young children can thrive on routines, it’s always beneficial for learning and development to shake it up and introduce new ways for them to interact and play. Consider these ideas to keep it fresh!

Use available resources

The opportunities for cooperative play activities are truly endless. Brainstorm with co-workers (consider a shared running document with all of your combined ideas so everyone benefits!), search for new ideas online, and keep a notebook or calendar of the games and activities you’ve covered in the classroom and when.

Move between different environments

The world is your oyster. If you have a place to play and explore outside at school, little learners can work together to do activities like rake leaves, build a snow fort, or plant and take care of a garden. Additionally, children can collaborate to use what’s already there (e.g., playground equipment and toys) in a specific way that gives everyone in the group the opportunity to play. For example, tell kids to rotate between the swings, see-saw, and the slide.

Be your (child-like) self & other tips

Making space and time for cooperative play activities based on theories of stages of play will bring many benefits to your classroom environment, as well as the development of students, with long-term positive outcomes for little ones. Here are some of our top tips when considering your curriculum and supervising cooperative play:

  • Promote Diversity
  • Think of New Ways to Play
  • Remember The Power of Spontaneity
  • Be Your (Child-like) Self
  • Don’t Interrupt a Good Thing
  • Have Fun!

Want to learn more about this topic?

CCEI offers CHD 104: The Importance of Play in Early Childhood,  a two-hour, intermediate-level course that provides an overview of theories of stages of play and the importance of play for promoting optimal development during early childhood and beyond. Participants will learn about the benefits of play, different types of play, and ways to promote more play.

CCEI also offers CHD 105: Focusing on Expressive Play and Artistic Development. This two-hour, intermediate-level course focuses on the importance various forms of play have on development, with emphasis on expressive play, which can be incorporated throughout most activities.

Click here to learn more about these offerings, as well as CCEI’s entire catalog of courses designed to help you be the best educator possible!

How to Make Learning Fun

Kindergarten is an exciting time for children as they embark on their educational journey. However, keeping young minds engaged and motivated can be a challenge.

As parents and educators, we must constantly think about how to make learning fun and enjoyable for our little ones. By doing so, we can instill a lifelong love of learning and help them reach their full potential.

In this blog, we’ll explore a variety of strategies and activities on how to make kindergarten learning fun for everyone. From games and puzzles to hands-on projects and interactive lessons, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to keep your classroom engaged, motivated, and excited about learning. And, most importantly, help you have fun teaching kindergarten! So, let’s get started!

Keep Classroom Rules Simple

Classroom rules should be simple and logical so that students can understand them with minimal explanation. These simplified guidelines are a functional set of rules that will achieve their intended results:

  • Be concise. Keep your list of rules short to increase the chances of your students remembering them. Aim for no more than half the age of your students (e.g. 3-4 rules for second graders, 4-5 rules for fourth graders).
  • Include unwritten rules. Avoid assumptions and teach students the important behavioral standards that may not be obvious.
  • Use positive language. State what students should do, rather than what they should not do, to clearly communicate expectations.

Designing and introducing class rules is an important aspect of classroom management. By keeping rules simple, concise, and using positive language, students are more likely to understand and follow them and are the first step in how to make learning fun.

Additionally, it’s important to avoid assumptions about what students may or may not know and to include unwritten rules to ensure that everyone is held to the same behavioral standards. By following these guidelines, teachers can create a productive and safe learning environment for all students and have fun teaching kindergarten.

Break Up Your Lessons

As a teacher or a parent, you want your students to stay engaged and interested during every lesson. However, young kids can quickly lose focus when listening to lengthy lectures. That’s where breaking up your lesson comes in.

Incorporating various activities and exercises throughout your lesson adds excitement and helps maintain your students’ attention. For instance, you could start with an introduction, then move on to an activity, followed by a brief lecture, a group exercise, and even jumping jacks. Varying your teaching style and activities allows you to have fun teaching kindergarten and has a significant impact on your student’s ability to pay attention and retain information.

By learning in new and different ways, students can find it easier to stay interested in the material. So, try breaking up your lessons into shorter segments with frequent activities, and you’ll see the difference it can make in keeping your young students engaged.

Incorporate Movement

Primary school children typically have a difficult time sitting still for extended periods of time. It is important to give both you and your children a well-deserved break.

Encouraging movement during lessons can help make them more enjoyable and engaging. Brain breaks are how to make learning fun and provide students with a quick two-minute break when they start to lose focus. Additionally, incorporating movement into lesson plans can be effective in encouraging students to move around.

Some examples on how to make kindergarten learning fun through movement activities are:

  • Silent discussion boards: students can walk around the room, answer questions on posters, and move to the next question.
  • Walking and talking: students pair up and discuss the topic while moving around the classroom.
  • Stations: Dividing the room into different groups based on tasks related to the topic. Every few minutes, students rotate to the next station and begin a new task.

Offering ample opportunities for movement ensures that students remain engaged and that you have fun teaching kindergarten in your classroom.

Hands-on Learning

For years, hands-on activities have been a surefire way how to make learning fun. These activities can be applied to almost any subject, from preschool alphabet lessons to math, English, and geography.

Hands-on learning, also known as active learning, allows students to take control of their learning process. Unlike traditional lecture-style lessons, hands-on activities encourage students to generate their own ideas, which leads to a deeper level of understanding. Additionally, they can receive direct feedback from teachers on their projects, which motivates them to work harder in class.

Tasks that are action-oriented, such as arts and crafts projects, hold more significance to students and are more likely to be remembered. These activities leave a lasting impression and can be a valuable tool in helping students learn and retain information, and be a guaranteed way in how to make kindergarten learning fun.

Group Activities

Allowing students to work together can lead to faster and more long-lasting retention of information. Cooperation also enhances critical thinking and communication skills while breaking up the monotony of the same routine, making learning and lessons more enjoyable. Did we mention this is also how to have fun teaching kindergarten?

To ensure group time is productive, here are a few helpful tips:

  • Limit duration: Keep group time to five minutes or less to keep students focused on accomplishing their task. Once time is up, bring students together to discuss takeaways and answer questions.
  • Assign roles: Assigning roles to each student in the group can help them focus more easily during group work.
  • Provide sentence starters: Starting a group conversation can be daunting, so providing sentence starters related to the topic can give students a starting point and encourage discussion.

By implementing these tips, group time can become an effective and engaging way to enhance learning outcomes and student collaboration in the classroom. Your young pupils will love learning with their classmates and that’s a really important lesson in how to make kindergarten learning fun.

How to Make Learning Fun? Create an Engaging and Structured Environment

Kindergarten and primary school are crucial times in a child’s life, as it sets the foundation for their future academic success. While it can be challenging to keep young minds engaged and motivated, there are many strategies and activities that can make learning fun and enjoyable for everyone.

By incorporating games, puzzles, hands-on projects, and interactive lessons, parents and educators can provide children with the tools they need to develop a lifelong love of learning. So let’s have fun teaching kindergarten and create a positive and engaging learning environment for our little ones!

Keep following our blog for more tips on how to make kindergarten learning fun and check out our courses that can hone your teaching skills!

Refreshing Kindergarten Lesson Plans and Strategies for Success

Kindergarten can be unpredictable. Like the weather, you can never be too sure how it’s going to go, despite the forecasts.

You might be dealing with the different needs of different children simultaneously. Or maybe you’re getting peppered with inquiries from parents who are demanding your attention. Perhaps there’s a school-wide crisis – say, a power outage – that disrupts your class time.

All the while you’re struggling with establishing and managing the right curriculum and figuring out how to make lessons more engaging.

Like bringing an umbrella and raincoat when there are prospects of thunderstorms, the more prepared you are to face the random challenges that four-and-five-year-olds can bring to your classroom while still providing meaningful instruction, the better you will fare. You most likely have been advised about this before from instructors and administrators, but the lesson plan format is your friend.

But are you getting a little burned out by rehashing the same lesson plans over and over and trying to figure out how to make lessons more engaging, leaving yourself and your little ones feeling uninspired? Has this led to a lack of preparation because the creative well has run dry? Don’t worry, you can get a leg up on your preparedness by refreshing your kindergarten lesson plans and learning how to create an effective lesson plan with crafting strategies for classroom success.

Let’s face it: creating kindergarten lesson plans can be tedious and time consuming. But creating the right strategies for success can give your kindergarten lesson plans the refresh you need for serving the children in your classroom better while also maximizing your time spent on preparation – and still maintaining work-life balance. Let’s check out how to create an effective lesson plan that will leave your classroom feeling inspired.

Here are some engagement strategies for kindergarten and for making your kindergarten lesson plans more engaging, challenging and fun for your eager learners:

  • Incorporate hands-on learning and activities.
  • Give the class choices and options.
  • Break lessons up into digestible portions, and don’t get bogged down in lengthy lectures.
  • Incorporate movement.
  • Make a game of it, when feasible and appropriate.
  • Build in group time.
  • Utilize technology.
  • Plan lesson-related field trips.
  • Take the lesson outside.

Keep reading as we discuss engagement strategies for kindergarten and five fun ideas to rejuvenate your lesson plans, which in turn will spark you to think about different approaches to each lesson plan format with the ultimate goal of providing your students with rewarding classroom experiences.


With the 2024 Summer Olympics on the horizon, our first suggested lesson plan format will bring home the gold while you give a timely lesson on current events and seize the opportunity to teach your class about other cultures. Host your own Olympics in the classroom (and on the playground). Depending on your class size, you may be able to split the children up into teams representing various countries that they can learn about. Your school probably doesn’t have a long jump pit, but you can have your class compete in the sidewalk jump instead, marking their distance with chalk and awarding bronze, silver and gold medals. If it’s in your budget, an Olympics-themed activities kit is available for $14.99 here.  To capture the pageantry of the Olympics, make sure you include opening and closing ceremonies in your kindergarten lesson plans.


This is one of our favorite strategies for how to make lessons more engaging. Learning to count is Kindergarten 101. But what if you flipped the script just a little bit with our next lesson plan format? Provide your class with an interactive lesson on counting backwards from 10 to zero which will also get them moving because part of the activity involves them hopping as they attempt their countdowns. One of the important educational components of this lesson is teaching the contrasts between big and small number values: have the class note how numbers get greater/bigger when counting forward and decrease/get smaller when counting backwards. As with many kindergarten lesson plans, this one should include an assessment and evaluation, so have your class complete worksheets on counting backwards. Check out for more details and specifics on constructing this lesson plan.


It’s never too early to learn about distinguishing between wants and needs. And the next of our suggested kindergarten lesson plans will help your young scholars figure out why people need food, water, clothing and shelter to survive. To kick the lesson off, ask your students to ask themselves, ”do I need it?” For instance, “do I need candy, or do I need a roof over my head?” Which is needed to survive? Have your class construct a wants vs. needs poster, using pictures and icons cut from magazines or printed from the web. Arrange in a simple two-column format: Wants; Needs, and instruct the students to place the cut-outs in the appropriate columns. Reinforcing what a want is – something that makes life more enjoyable, fun or easier but not necessary for survival – will make this lesson resonate. There are also various videos on YouTube that will help children understand and discern between wants and needs, such as this one.


Building up a sense of belonging in your young students can be achieved as a byproduct of your kindergarten lesson plans, and our next classroom activity suggestion will boost their confidence and also teach them to construct a four-word sentence. This lesson plan format is an ice-breaker activity so it is probably best suited for the beginning of the year. Grab a playground ball and gather your class in a circle. Show them the ball, and then introduce yourself by name and tell them your favorite thing to do. Then pass the ball to a student and have them do the same thing until everyone has had a turn. Have them repeat the phrase, “My Name Is,” give them an index card, and send them back to their desks to start constructing their personalized sentence. Provide spelling support and encouragement as they complete the sentence, “My Name Is ____.” For students that struggle with this activity, provide them with prewritten, cut-out words that they can use on their index card. Gather again in a circle and ask the class to share the interesting things that they found out about their classmates.


The last of our suggested kindergarten lesson plans aims to connect the things they see in books with objects they experience in their ordinary, day-to-day lives. This is an easy but fun, important and effective lesson to help your students learn and identify the shapes found in your classroom. Believe it or not, we’re not born with an innate knowledge of shapes – we have to learn them and what they are called. Outline with the class some of the most common basic shapes – squares, circles, triangles, rectangles, etc. – and have them explore the classroom to see which ones they can find and identify. Finish off this activity by assigning the class to complete a fun shapes worksheet, such as this free-to-download or print example here.

Looking for more engagement strategies for kindergarten and ways to refresh your kindergarten lesson plans? Invest in strategies for success with expert training from CCEI’s  Active Learning Experiences in Early Childhood course.This two-hour course presents practical methods for integrating movement and group games across all curriculum areas, including art, mathematics, music, science and more.

Click here for more on this course and to access CCEI’s entire catalog of online professional development.

Types of Bullying: How to Recognize and Stop Bullying in the Classroom

When you think of a bully, the stereotypical visual of the “big kid” in class pushing down a smaller, weaker child on the playground likely comes to mind. But did you know there are actually distinct types of bullying that go well beyond physical altercations?

Below, we’ll cover these different types of bullying – including physical, verbal, relational, and cyberbullying – and how teachers can recognize, stop and even prevent bullying in the classroom to keep kiddos safe.

The State of Bullying

Bullying is one of the most concerning social interactions facing children and schools today. While the media often picks up viral stories of bullying in high school, researchers have shown that bullying behaviors are learned much earlier in life. In fact, preschool is often the first time children are exposed to a social group, and it’s common for children to begin experimenting with different types of social interactions. Part of a teacher’s responsibility is to create a positive social environment that keeps all little learners safe at school not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally.

The national statistics about bullying are staggering: according to, about 20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying nationwide, with 15% of those reporting they were bullied online or via text. Only 46% of students ages 12-18 who were bullied during the school year notified an adult at school about the bullying. Reinforcing positive, anti-bullying behavior in the early childhood age group can help prevent bullying as little ones age up into elementary, middle, and high school.

How to Recognize Bullying Behavior

At its core, bullying is a combination of unwanted aggressive behavior, real or perceived power imbalance, and the potential for repetition of that negative behavior.

Depending on the type of bullying, it can be difficult to recognize when bullying in the classroom is taking place. Bullying behaviors can range from obvious and highly visible (punching or hitting) to subtle and virtually invisible to everyone except its victim and participants.

The four most common types of bullying are physical, verbal, relational, and cyberbullying.

  • Physical Bullying: This is the most obvious form of intimidation and the easiest for educators and parents to spot. It can include kicking, hitting, punching, and threats of physical violence. Younger children may be more apt to bite or pull hair.
  • Verbal Bullying: Name calling, making fun of someone and persistent teasing are all examples of verbal bullying behavior. This can be harder to identify because kids will purposely wait until out of earshot or line of sight of adults, especially teachers. Targets of verbal bullying are often those perceived as vulnerable or somehow “different” than others based on how they look, act, or behave.
  • Relational Bullying: This type of bullying, also known as social bullying, typically happens indirectly or behind the back of the intended target. An individual who relies on this type of bullying often wants to gain status by diminishing the social standing of another. Exclusionary behavior may include purposefully leaving someone out from a social activity (think: a sleepover or birthday party), spreading hurtful or embarrassing rumors, or even encouraging others to adopt similar social behaviors toward the target.
  • Cyberbullying: Although this type of bullying doesn’t typically affect younger kiddos, cyberbullying has become widespread today as a result of teens having unlimited access to digital devices, and is still important to understand. With the ability for perpetrators to hide behind screens, it’s also the hardest category to keep tabs on, and bullying might come from someone you wouldn’t expect. Victims often feel alone and ostracized from their peers, with nowhere to hide from invasive attacks.

Look out for mood and behavioral changes in young students, and consider regular check-ins with anyone who seems withdrawn or distant. Always flag any concerns in real-time to school administration and parents.

How To Address Bullying in the Classroom?

Teachers can be overworked and under-resourced, and it may feel like the last thing an educator has time for is to play the role of mediator when there is bullying in the classroom (or outside of it). But there is a lot at stake in these situations, as both kids who are bullied and those who bully others may have serious, lasting problems throughout their lives.

  • Intervene ASAP: If bullying behavior is reported by the victim or a fellow teacher, gather all of the information you can quickly, and collect a log of concerning behaviors if helpful. If bullying is witnessed firsthand, intervene on the spot and in the moment to make it clear that it is unacceptable behavior in or out of the classroom.
  • Get others involved for support: Reach out to parents as well as school administration and counselors to discuss the situation and how to best move forward together.
  • Create and promote a culture of respect: Most schools have anti-bullying programming in place, but encouraging a positive environment involves the entire school community—not only students and families but also administrators, teachers, and staff such as bus drivers, nurses, cafeteria and front office staff.
Preventing Bullying Behaviors

Before any type of bullying takes hold in a classroom, teachers can proactively educate students about why a culture of respect is so important, and empower those who may be bystanders to bullying to speak up in the future. Emphasize how each one of them can make a huge difference when they intervene on behalf of someone being bullied.

Consider posting fun classroom signs encouraging little learners to “Be Kind,” “Be a Buddy, Not a Bully,” “You Can Sit with Me” or similar daily reminders. Never underestimate the power of a teacher’s impact: according to, studies also have shown that adults can help prevent bullying by talking to children about it, encouraging them to do what they love, modeling kindness and respect with others, and seeking help when needed.

Want to learn more about bullying in the classroom? CCEI offers GUI 100: Bullying in the Preschool Environment, a one-hour, beginner-level course that addresses how teachers can create a positive social environment that teaches children appropriate social interactions in order to prevent bullying behaviors from an early age.

CCEI also offers additional related courses about conflict resolution in the classroom, foundations of positive guidance, and understanding aggressive and defiant behaviors in students.

Click here to learn more about these offerings, as well as CCEI’s entire catalog of courses designed to help you be the best educator possible!

Best Educational Cartoons for Kids

It’s okay to admit that you need a few moments to breathe and relax as a parent. If you reach for the remote in those moments, don’t feel guilty! Watching television with your little ones can actually be a beneficial activity for everyone involved if you’re actively watching together.

There are plenty of learning cartoons for toddlers and educational cartoons for kids available to stream – but of all your options, what are the best educational cartoons that teach your children something useful?

We’ve rounded up some of the best shows to stream with your kids that are both entertaining and educational.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: PBS Kids

Of all the learning cartoons for toddlers that are on the market, this show has to be one of our favorites.

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” is an animated series for preschoolers and young grade school children that is reminiscent of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.” The main character, Daniel Tiger, talks directly to viewers – making you and your kids feel like his neighbors.

This is one of the best educational cartoons on the market because it teaches children valuable social skills through a variety of methods, encouraging children to use their imaginations and creativity.

Parents can rest easy knowing that this show will help their children grow and learn.

Blues Clues & You: Nick Jr., Noggin, Hulu

Hosted by Jose Dela Cruz (the new Steve for all our Millennial parents), “Blues Clues & You,” is a modern reboot of the 90s classic.

The newly updated version stays true to its original premise – following Josh as he solves mysteries through clues left by Blue. Josh speaks directly to his young viewers, asking for help and checking in with how they are feeling.

“Blues Clues & You” is one of those educational cartoons for kids that you can rely on to keep your children entertained and engaged. The new host, Jose, can make even the grumpiest toddlers smile.

Octonauts: Netflix

“Octonauts” is a fan favorite learning cartoon for toddlers for many reasons. The show follows a group of animals that explore the world’s oceans, trying to save other animals from danger.

From an educational perspective, the show’s premise centers around the characters learning many new facts about the creatures they’re trying to save – passing on this knowledge to the viewer. The characters offer plenty of excitement, adventure and action for all who watch, making this one of our favorite educational cartoons for kids.

Bluey: Disney Now, Disney+

Entertaining for both children and parents alike, “Bluey” is one of the best educational cartoons to come out of Australia and has become extremely popular in the U.S. The series follows Bluey and Bingo as they come up with fun and imaginative games to play.

One of the best things about “Bluey” is that it focuses on how important pretend play is in childhood development. Bluey and Bingo’s mom and dad are endlessly supportive, patient, and involved in their kids’ imaginative games – setting a good example on-screen.

This show is sure to warm your heart and teach your kids life lessons, all while making everyone laugh. And, did we mention, it’s Emmy award-winning?

Peg + Cat: PBS Kids

“Peg + Cat” is a learning cartoon for toddlers and preschool-aged children that incorporates foundational math skills in a creative and exciting way. The main character is a young girl who dives headfirst into solving problems with her exceptional math skills and ukulele playing.

Viewers will learn how to solve problems through grouping, sorting, and counting; laying the perfect foundation for Kindergarten and beyond.

Doc McStuffins: Disney Now, Disney+

“Doc McStuffins” has been on the air for more than 10 years, and for good reason. This educational cartoon for kids is beneficial for viewers in a multitude of ways.

Children watching Doc, a 6-year-old girl “healing” her toys by replacing batteries or restitching a seam, use her imagination and practice empathy – two skills that are essential in early childhood development.

Overall, the show teaches young kids to embrace differences, face fears and follow their dreams. Maybe most importantly, the show is a gentle reminder of the importance of personal health and hygiene.

Bubble Guppies

One of the most cheerful and lighthearted learning cartoons for toddlers, “Bubble Guppies” has timely messages about friendship, responsibility, and problem solving.

The main character group of “guppies” are curious about their underwater environment and are excited to learn about and explore it. With plenty of catchy music for viewers to sing along to and relatable stories with encouraging messages, this series is a perfect addition to your educational cartoons for kids lineup.

Beat Bugs: Netflix

This show is certain to make parents happy. The entire series is inspired by music from the Beatles!

“Beat Bugs” is another Emmy award-winning animated series that follows five childlike bugs as they learn lessons about the world from their backyard. Each episode incorporates classic Beatles songs into their adventures.

The bugs have fun exploring, imagining, inventing, singing, and creating. It’s a must-watch for kiddos 3 and up.

Dino Ranch: Disney Now, Disney+

“Dino Ranch” follows the Cassidy family, particularly the three adopted children – Jon, Min, and Miguel – on their adventures.

In their fictional world, dinosaurs and humans live alongside each other. The three siblings embark on different adventures that focus on saving endangered dinosaurs and dealing with their over-the-top neighbors who serve as antagonists to the family.

This show is particularly entertaining for toddlers who love dinosaurs. Each episode reinforces the importance of hard work and helping others. Additionally, it sheds a positive light on the support found in blended families.

Your Kids Will Love These Shows

Of course, it’s still important to be mindful of screen time, but you can live guilt-free knowing that these programs provide kids with entertainment and education.

If you take one thing away from this blog, it should be that the interactive part of these shows is what makes them beneficial. The back-and-forth conversations, whether with the characters or you, are vital in ensuring that the child watching retains the most valuable information.

To learn more about the latest research and recommendations regarding children’s use of technology and digital media, and the ways in which digital devices are reshaping childhood and early childhood education enroll in CCEI’s intermediate-level, 3-hour course CHD103:  The Child’s Digital Universe: Technology and Digital Media in Early Childhood.

Top 5 Calming Exercises for Kids

Whether a child is dealing with trauma, needs to reduce stress and anxiety, or you’re introducing mindfulness in your classroom, calming exercises for kids can help refocus your class and maintain a peaceful environment.

We often think that children are not burdened by everyday stressors, but this isn’t true. Just like adults, children can spiral into negative thoughts and become overwhelmed by internal and external stimulation.

Teaching kids to calm themselves through these calming techniques for toddlers’ exercises encourages self-regulation and social emotional learning (SEL) in early childhood development.

How to Get Started with Calming Exercises for Kids

  1. Find a quiet place that is free of distractions.
  2. Make sure your instructions for the child(ren) are clear and engaging.
  3. You don’t have to do every activity on this list. Pay attention to the exercises that the children seem most engaged with.

Exercise 1: Belly Breathing

Belly breathing is a breathing technique that reduces our heart rate and triggers a relaxation response. This breathing exercise can be added to your list of calming techniques for toddlers, as it plants the seed of self-regulation at a young age.

  • Have the child lay on the floor and put one hand on their stomach.
  • With the child’s mouth closed, have them breathe in through their nose for four seconds or until they feel their whole chest fill with air, all the way down to their belly.
  • Have the child hold their breath for four seconds.
  • Instruct the child to exhale slowly, like they are blowing through a straw.
  • Repeat until the child feels relaxed. Ask how they’re feeling.

Exercise 2: Flower and Candle

This is a simple children’s relaxation technique that focuses on deep breathing.

  • Have the child imagine that they have a flower in one hand and a candle in the other.
    • Smell the flower: Breathe slowly in through the nose.
    • Blow out the candle: Breathe slowly out through the mouth.
  • Repeat three to five times, or as long as the child needs to relax.

Exercise 3: The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Technique

This method also known as the 5 Senses Grounding Technique is a popular calming exercise for kids and adults. Creatively, you can use this as a calming technique for toddlers to also teach them numbers!

Using the 54321 method, you are focusing on one sense at a time and observing a certain number of things using that specific sense. To use this children’s relaxation technique, ask the child to do the following:

  • Name 5 things they can see. Noticing and naming things they can see can help them focus on where they are in the moment.
  • Name 4 things they can touch, and have them touch the objects. Have them describe the texture. Soft? Smooth? Rough?
  • Name 3 things they can hear. Ask them to focus on the quieter sounds that they may not notice right away.
  • Focus on 2 things they can smell. This may be the most challenging element of this technique, but this sense is a great way to elicit positive emotions.
  • Focus on 1 thing they can taste. Consider having a selection of healthy snacks or gum in your classroom for quick access.

Exercise 4: The Big Squeeze

This exercise is a deep relaxation technique used to release stress and extra energy. Progressive muscle relaxation allows children to tense and then relax their muscles. Here’s how to do it:

  • Starting from the toes: Tell the child to pretend they are on the beach and want to bury their toes in the sand. Curl toes for 5-10 seconds and then release.
  • Move on to the legs: Tell the child to tense all the muscles in their legs for 5-10 seconds and then release.
  • Continue moving up the body, all the way through the face, until the child is relaxed. Repeat the process if necessary.

Exercise 5: Nature Walk

Another calming exercise for kids and adults is going for a walk outside. To make the exercise more engaging, we suggest the following:

  • Ask the child to name things that they hear.
  • Ask the child to name things that are growing around them.
  • Ask the child to rub a pine needle in their fingers and describe the smell.

This is a perfectly repeatable exercise that can be changed every day or every season. Their observations will continue to shift and they’ll be able to decompress while being outside.

Applying Calming Exercises for Kids to the Classroom

As you gain a better understanding of which calming techniques for toddlers and children work in the classroom, you’ll be able to identify when and how to apply the various methods.

Prepared with a solid understanding of ourselves and the needs of your little ones, puts you in the position to manage your classroom effectively and keep children’s relaxation and comfort a top priority.

CCEI’s professional development courses like From Chaotic to Calm: Managing Stress in the Classroom, The Value of Mindfulness in Early Childhood Settings, Trouble-Free Transitions that Teach, and Building Resilience in Young Children can help you further understand the needs of children in your classroom.


Understanding the Benefits of Using Sensory Language

Young children are constantly exploring the world around them. At this age, they’re taking in their environment at breakneck speeds. That’s why incorporating sensory activities into your daily routine and lesson plans is so important.

Sensory activities encourage children to think deliberately about and discuss how they use their five senses – what they see, hear, smell, touch or taste. Sensory play is critical for children because it encourages experimentation, exploration and discovery. It can also help with memory and can even calm anxious or frustrated kids.

At ChildCare Education Institute, we’ve been helping educators like you get the tools and training you need to help your students grow and develop for the past 20+ years — and that includes tools around sensory play and learning. With that in mind, we’re sharing everything you need to know about sensory language and answering some of the most-asked sensory questions, including, “what is sensory language?”.

What is sensory language?

If you’re wondering, “what is sensory language?”, it’s simply descriptive words or phrases children use to connect any of their five senses.

For example, something might feel soft or warm to the touch. Or a toy’s appearance might be described as light, dark or shiny. A sound can be loud or quiet, and it might buzz or bubble.

By incorporating this language into your students’ vocabulary, it will greatly enhance their communication skills. They’ll be able to better understand and describe the world around them, more clearly communicate with adults and their peers (increasing their conflict resolution skills), boost their creativity and so much more.

The best part? Helping your students learn and incorporate these words is easy — and can be incredibly fun for your students.

Sensory language examples and activities

There are a number of ways to teach sensory language in the classroom, and below are some of our favorite sensory language examples and activities.

Sand sensory play: Using sand for sensory play is perfect, especially for sensory language. The finely divided mineral particles give kids a wealth of options because of its appearance, smell, texture, weight and how it moves. We could also list its taste, but let’s leave that out from this particular activity.

Playing with sand can help toddlers develop their language skills. For example, during play, have them describe how the sand looks and feels. Instead of asking yes or no questions like, “is the sand small?”, it’s best to use open-ended questions. Not only will it help them develop their sensory language, it will also help grow their conversation skills.

Another one of our favorite sensory language examples and activities is incorporating accessories into your sand play. Give your students animals, cars or trucks or other small toys and have them create a scene. This is a great opportunity for story telling and will further boost their sensory language skills.

Whether it’s in a playground sandbox or jar in the classroom, using sand is one of the many sensory language examples you can incorporate into your classroom.

Finger painting: American artist and educator Ruth Faison Shaw is credited with introducing finger painting into classroom curriculums in the 1930s after observing children like to “smear.” Since then, it’s become a staple of childhood, as well as one of the best sensory language examples and activities for toddlers.

When you let children use their ten tiny digits to create “artistic” masterpieces, it gives them the perfect opportunity to explore, learn and develop through sensory play. This messy activity is great for helping toddlers develop their sensory language skills.

Have them describe the paint colors and textures as they slip, slide, squish and sweep their paint-covered hands across their paper. Again, ask them open-ended questions about how the paint feels and what it looks like. For example, don’t ask, “does this color (blue) look like the sky?”, but instead, “What does this color look like?”

Then, take it a step further by asking questions such as the inspiration for their painting and finally, where you should keep their work of art. After all, they’ll undoubtedly be proud of their Rembrandt.

As an added bonus, finger painting can be inexpensive if you’re on a shoestring budget or need to quickly make your own. You can find numerous recipes online, but one of our favorites uses only two ingredients: shaving cream and food coloring. Just squirt some shaving cream into a bowl or directly onto the paper, add food coloring and voila, you have a quick, easy and non-staining paint.

Is it messy? Yes. But is it also one of the most effective ways to teach sensory language? Absolutely!

Sensory bins: A sensory bin is a container filled with small items and materials to help ignite your students’ senses. They provide hands-on opportunities for your kiddos and give you the chance to stimulate your students and encourage their language development.

To get started, all you need is a large container and filler materials. Typically, sensory bins fall into two categories: dry and wet.

In dry sensory bins, you can use dry rice, beans or pasta; shredded paper, cotton balls, packing peanuts, beads, unpopped popcorn, small toys and more. Wet sensory bins may include playdough, shaving cream, soap and water.

The best part of sensory bins is the options are limitless! Simply create your bin and let your students explore.

The only rule is you need to play alongside your kiddos and ask open ended questions along the way so they can practice their language skills. For instance, ask them to pull out a certain type of object, then ask them to describe how it looks and feels. This is an easy and engaging way to help them learn the answer to, “what is sensory language?”

Food play: We know, you’re not supposed to let kids play with their food. However, in this instance, we’re giving you a pass.

Kids love putting things in their mouths anyway, which is why edible sensory play is perfect!

Below are six of our favorite ideas that incorporate all five senses:

  • Rainbow bread crumbs. This easy, colorful and edible idea from Happily Ever Mom only requires bread, food coloring, milk and a food processor.
  • Colorful Cheerios. No Time for Flashcards shares three activities that will leave you cheering for more.
  • Marshmallow play. Fantastic Fun and Learning provides five activities for exploring the senses using this classic confectionery.
  • Brown sugar sand castle. An edible and inexpensive idea from Hands On as We Grow.
  • Painting with Pudding. The TipToe Fairy gives us a delicious DIY recipe for edible finger painting.
  • Edible sensory shaker. No Time for Flashcards demonstrates how to make a rattle that will engage your students’ taste, touch, and hearing.

As a bonus, implementing food play could help picky eaters. When you incorporate food play into your lesson plan it helps to desensitize foods for kids, reducing fear and anxiety around trying new foods. Children become more comfortable because this type of play can increase a food’s novelty and there’s no expectation to eat the food.

The main thing to remember with all the above is to discuss the sights, sounds, tastes and textures during each activity.

Sensory language boards: Create posters that list common words for each of the five senses and place them around your classroom to help equip your students with what they need to develop their sensory language skills.

To begin, list a handful of the most common words for each sense. Then, as your class masters those, begin introducing and adding additional words to each poster.

You may also want to incorporate visuals relating to each sense to help connect the ideas, such as putting an illustration of a mouth on the “taste” board or an ear on the “sound” board.

Additionally, encourage your students and their parents to practice sensory language at home and bring in words they hear outside the classroom.


Touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing are the key ways children take in information, respond to their surroundings, seek comfort, nourish themselves and bond with all those around them.

Sensory play is a great way to engage children and help them develop important developmental skills, including motor development, problem-solving and especially speech and language skills

If you’re still unclear on what is sensory language or how to incorporate sensory language examples and activities into your classroom, CCEI is here to help! We offer a number of courses on this, as well as other closely related topics.

CCEI’s Making Sense of Sensory Processing, a one-hour, beginner-level course, introduces sensory processing and covers the process by which the brain interprets sensory information. It also examines sensory processing disorders. This crowd-favorite course also includes helpful teaching practices and strategies for meeting the needs of all learners.

We also offer Sensory Learning For All Ages, a one-hour beginner-level course that examines sensory experiences in the classroom and the benefits of sensory activities for young children. This interactive course explores ways of incorporating sensory learning into lesson plans, enhancing sensory learning centers, guiding developmentally appropriate sensory learning experiences and implementing developmentally appropriate ideas for sensory learning experiences.

To learn more about the sensory language courses above, as well as our entire catalog of 150+ topics, click here.

Six Amazing Social Studies Activities for Preschoolers

Preschool may represent many toddlers’ first experiences outside the family setting along with exposure to more structured environments. How do they fit into these new social settings full of different people and unfamiliar routines? How can they gain problem-solving, decision-making and collaboration skills? What about nurturing the child’s natural curiosity of the world around them? What lessons can be learned about becoming responsible and productive members of society in preschool?

That’s where social studies instruction comes into play in the classroom. In its most basic form, social studies is the examination of people and the way they relate to others. Teaching social studies lessons to preschoolers prepares them to become more engaged citizens in a rapidly changing, culturally diversifying and collaborative world.

According to the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), “social studies is a vital part of the early childhood curriculum, since children’s formative experiences shape their attitudes as citizens of their classroom, their schools, and of the larger community.”

Maybe you’re new to the profession and teaching this multifaceted discipline for the first time. Or perhaps you’re looking for some ways to refresh your social studies activities for toddlers.

It’s an important responsibility for the preschool teacher, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, preschool social studies activities can be fun and informative at the same time through storytelling, games, inquiry-based exercises and engaging projects.

Here are six amazing and fun social studies activities for preschoolers that will help your budding scholars understand their surroundings and begin to put the pieces together of the interconnected social fabric that’s being woven around them.


Sorting Coins – Who doesn’t love money? The first suggestion on our list of social studies activities for preschoolers isn’t necessarily about inspiring kids to be the next venture capitalist. It involves money, but the lesson here is more about observation and comparison as children learn to start reasoning, using abstract thought and logic through coin sorting. First things first, you’ll need some materials to make this one of the most impactful preschool social studies activities. You’ll need a variety of U.S. coins, including pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Other items to make the coin sorting activity a success: a jar or large glass container, bowls and laminated cards that list each denomination of coin.

Ask your class to sort the coins by:


The pictures depicted on either side


Coin sorting teaches your students to observe the differences and similarities between the coins, how to categorize them and encourages early numeracy and literacy skills.

Tip: Increase engagement by having students bring in coins from home that can be put into the pot (promise they can take theirs home after these social studies activities for preschoolers are over).

Recycle, Reuse  – Learning ways to protect Mother Earth and the environment is one of the easiest but beneficial social studies activities for toddlers. An integral part of social studies involves learning about conserving our most important resources and taking care of the planet.

First off, teach your students about the recycling bins in your classroom and throughout your school, and get them in the habit of recycling materials instead of throwing them in the trash. Cap off your instruction with a fun project: Teach them about the universal recycling symbol and have them draw and paint it. This allows them to recognize the symbol through art, and they will begin to recognize it on bins and products.

Teaching young children to recycle – especially in our ever-increasing disposable society – starts them on the right path to creating a responsible civic mindset, and that’s the ultimate goal for all of our suggested preschool social studies activities.

Coloring Old Glory – Infusing art into your instruction is a proven method for getting maximum engagement when introducing social studies activities for toddlers. All you’ll need is black-and-white printouts of the United States flag and crayons, colored pencils or magic markers to get them started on making their own Stars and Stripes masterpiece. Display your cloth flag front and center so that everyone can see it, and have your students color in the red, white and blue on their print-outs. You can also share the evolution of the flag, from its 13-stars Betsy Ross-designed configuration to the current edition with 50 stars.

This exercise presents an opportunity to instill some patriotic pride, and teach the history of the U.S. flag in addition to the symbolism it contains.

Culture Up Close – Introducing your class to culture by visiting a museum or art gallery is next up in our suggested preschool social studies activities.

Ideal spaces for young learners, museums encourage them to investigate their interests through hands-on exhibits, authentic objects and activities. Art galleries boost creativity and challenge youngsters to think differently, even if they aren’t aware of it. Both types of attractions help children widen their horizons, learn how to be inquisitive and develop their storytelling skills.

Some towns and cities even have children’s museums geared toward young learners. If in-person visits to a gallery or museum aren’t possible, try reaching out to a local museum or art gallery to see if they will send a representative to your class to give a presentation on art, historical artifacts and exhibit items.

Map Quest – A child learning about exactly where they are and where they’re from can be one of the most profound – and fun – social studies activities for toddlers. Maps, landscapes and globes will be your visual aides, along with Google Maps and other navigation-based apps. Start small and ask your students if they know what town or city they live in. Once that has been established, show them on a map where you are, and then on a globe. Then pull up your school’s location on Google Maps and wow them. Give them facts about the size of your town, who the mayor is (show a picture), and display examples of the surrounding geographical features, such as mountains, hills, rivers, lakes and other distinctive landforms.

Instilling a sense of place is at the heart of many of these social studies activities for preschoolers, none more so than this one, which empowers children to begin understanding their environs and the bigger picture.

History and Herstory – Children love stories, and incorporating storytelling that focuses on historical events and leaders is the last of our suggested six amazing social studies activities for preschoolers. Try reading aloud from the Little Heroes series book “Courageous People Who Changed the World  (Volume 1)” which serves as an introduction to historical figures that changed our society for the better, from Rosa Parks and Susan B. Anthony to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. The inclusion of quotes from each of the individuals featured in the book, adorned with colorful illustrations, will capture the attention of your young minds. If you can’t find this book in your school or community library, inexpensive used copies are available at

You’ll swell with pride as your preschool class begins to understand the social structures within your school as well as your community when you complete each of these preschool social studies activities with them.

If you’re seeking a deeper dive into social studies in the classroom and want to support your social studies activities for toddlers by connecting curriculum goals with the development of social-emotional skills, CCEI has the perfect offering. 21st Century Social Studies in the Early Childhood Environment is a three-hour course that provides an overview of state standards for social studies and recommends best practices and wide-ranging classroom activities.

For more on this course, as well as CCEI’s entire catalog of online professional development courses, click here.

Conflict Resolution Activities for Kids

James and John used to be besties. They were so tight, they even got chickenpox together.  But John became irritated by James always insisting on being the boss. John then came to the conclusion they could no longer be friends.  Instead, he officially declared “Let’s Be Enemies,” the title of the classic children’s tale by Janice May Udry.

Kids will be kids – and that means there are bound to be conflicts when interacting with peers during playdates, visits to the playground or during the course of an ordinary school day.

What exactly is conflict? Conflict is defined as:

“A competitive or opposing action of incompatibles; antagonistic state of action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons.”

“A mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes or external or internal demands.”

To adapt another more colorful phrase – conflict happens. As much as we may try to avoid it, conflict is simply a normal part of life.

It’s how these conflicts are handled and mitigated, from both the adult and child perspective, that may lead from tears and frustration to personal growth and development – or unfortunately, the opposite. It’s called conflict resolution, and it is the process used to settle and manage differences, ideally with a positive, win-win outcome.

How does one arrive at these peaceful resolutions?

Fear not, conflict resolution skills for kids can be taught in your classroom, and this blog will help you explore different strategies and fun and easy activities that teachers can add to their lessons.

John and James, although fictional characters, represent a relatable example of conflict resolution for kids. The two boys were able to resume their friendship because John confronted the problem and used his words rather than acting out, and James extended an olive branch – in the form of a pretzel.

Lingering effects of the isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have made it more challenging for children to engage with each other. And that has led to unfamiliar feelings of conflict when they are once again interacting within a classroom setting.

  • Children encounter a variety of conflicts at school, which can include:
  • Jealousy
  • Stealing and property damage
  • Violence
  • Power struggles
  • Relationships ending or changing
  • Discrimination
  • Rivalries between peer groups
  • Status differences

One of the oldest childhood discipline tactics – the timeout – can also be used as a method of conflict resolution for kids. For scenarios where anger-fed disagreements are causing locked-horn stalemates, calling a timeout can be a powerful tool. When you intervene and call a timeout, each child involved in the situation agrees to walk away from the problem and is instructed not to return until they have had a chance to cool down.

This is not an avoidance. Rather, it’s a temporary suspension of the dispute until emotions and behaviors have settled down. And once you’ve taught specifically-tailored conflict resolution skills for kids, your students will be able to recognize when they need to call their own timeouts.

But as an early childhood education pro, rather than simply adjudicating the matter and meting out punishment, you can take the opportunity to build up the conflict resolution skills for kids under your watch, tools that are essential for young students to learn in order to be successful in the classroom – and in life.

“Conflict resolution skills play an important role in healthy friendship development,” writes Katie Hurley, LCSW, a child and adolescent psychotherapist and author of “No More Mean Girls” and “The Happy Kid Handbook.” “A child who struggles to cope with frustration, for example, is likely to project that frustration onto a friend. A child who has difficulty finding solutions to friendship problems might feel hopeless when an argument occurs. A child who doesn’t know how to verbalize his feelings will likely freeze up and shut down when conflict occurs.”

The benefits of nurturing conflict resolution skills for kids include the development of communication skills, the opportunity to learn how to set goals and the strengthening of friendships and relationships.

As with any other competency, practice is a proven method for approaching the development of conflict resolution for kids. With practice, they will master the concepts via repetition and naturally get more comfortable with conflict resolution strategies as they gain more experience.

And the good news is conflict resolution activities for kids can be infinitely more fun, rewarding and creative than the effective, but basic, timeout.

Lessons that focus on conflict resolution skills for kids will include teaching empathy, teaching understanding, teaching communication, teaching choice, and teaching responsibility. Your students will learn about active listening, patience, impartiality, problem-solving, and will begin to develop emotional intelligence. They’ll learn about kindness and fairness, how to manage their emotions, communicate about the issue causing conflict, solve problems together, formulate and issue authentic apologies.


Unresolved conflict can fester, and sometimes lead to physical altercations when tempers boil over. Many kids, however, choose to avoid conflict altogether. But it’s important, especially in a classroom setting, to address and solve the problem in a peaceful way.

Like John from “Let’s Be Enemies” who decided to express his displeasure with his close friend James, addressing a conflict can be the first step toward resolution. Talking it out may even resolve the conflict in short order, especially in the case of a simple misunderstanding.

Therefore, opening up a dialog about conflict resolution skills for kids in your classroom is the first step toward arming your students with strategies and solutions for solving disputes.

You can get the conversation started by reading “Let’s Be Enemies” out loud to your class, discussing it, and then hosting a conflict resolution for kids brainstorming session during instruction time.

The goal of this brainstorming is to come up with solutions to specific conflicts that have arisen in your classroom. This exercise will allow your students to share their ideas freely without fear of failure, and it will empower them because they are providing the solutions, making the activity student-centric. Preparation will help them deal with and work their way through problems when any conflict arises. It also introduces them to the art of negotiation.

Utilizing brainstorming as one of your conflict resolution activities for kids will also help you get a gauge on where each student is in the development of their conflict resolution awareness, and what needs to be worked on.

If your school has a counselor on staff, it might also be a good idea to ask them to attend your session, as he/she may have some valuable insights to share with you and your students.


Brainstorming may not be considered a fun endeavor for all of your students, including those who may be self-conscious about speaking up in a group setting, so here are a few more suggestions for livelier and creative conflict resolution activities for kids you can try.

Make a Game of It – Introduce your classroom to the classic hand game, Rock, Paper, Scissors. This can be used to solve minor disputes, like who gets to be first in line for the water fountain or the head of the lunch line.

Creating a card matching game is another simple idea when it comes to interactive conflict resolution activities for kids. In this game, children will match the conflict to the solution (the conflicts and the solutions are written on note cards). This will reinforce critical thinking skills as they begin associating specific ways to resolve specific conflicts.

If you have the budget, invest in a Junior Learning: 6 Conflict & Resolution Games set for your classroom. The six games included are: Persuasion Pot, Keep Calm Meter, Are You a Bully?, A Spinning Solution, Sharks, and Jellyfish and Turtles. This set features a variety of game styles, including matching, sorting, puzzles and snakes and ladders/chutes and ladders.

Again, if you have the funds available, a variation on the classic game Go Fish can help kids manage conflict in a fun and healthy way. Go Fish: Cast Away Conflict plays like the time-tested card game, except with a new wrinkle: players must answer an open-ended question before getting the card they have requested. In addition to fun fish characters, the set’s cards present detailed but brief conflict scenarios that players must resolve effectively and calmly. This game reinforces strategies for compromising, apologizing and listening and it teaches children to adopt behaviors that can enhance their relationships in school and out.

Listen Up – While talking and having conversations are essential to conflict resolution, so is the other part of the equation: listening. Hearing what the person (or persons) on the other side of a conflict has to say is an important aspect of resolving it. Have your classroom participate in a listening activity. Read out loud to your class a scenario that could have various outcomes and spark a variety of emotions.

Scenario: A friend promised to come over to play soccer in your yard after school, but they didn’t show up, or contact you to say they couldn’t make it. You had your mom text their mom to find out what was going on, but there was no response. Then you see them at school the next day…

Ask the class how this situation would make them feel, and have them share their feelings.

Then add more information to the scenario.

Scenario Continued: Your friend apologizes and says they could not come over to play because their parents were caught in traffic.

After hearing the other side, ask the class how they would approach and resolve this conflict. Would it be different now that more information is available?

Ask your class how conflict can help them grow? (The answer: By listening and hearing someone else’s point of view).

Role Play – Have the children come up with different scenarios involving conflict, act them out while taking on various roles, and playing out multiple outcomes and solutions. Give them another perspective by having another teacher join your class and pretend to have conflict with you, act out the scenario and gauge the class’ reaction.

Create a Story – Task your class with creating short stories, either in groups or as individuals. These stories should include conflict and end with a solution. Have the kids read aloud or act out their story so that the class can discuss them. Their stories can be presented as a puppet show or play.

Solution Sticks – Here is one of the more creative conflict resolution activities for kids ideas: Instruct  your students to bring in popsicle sticks, and when you have collected a large batch (30 or so), have them write solutions to an array of possible problems on the sticks. They can decorate the sticks colorfully as well, if they like. Place the popsicle sticks in a mason jar. When a conflict arises in the classroom and they are stumped on ways to resolve it, they can take a stick from the jar and try the solution that is listed on it. As they get better at resolving conflict, they will rely less on the jar of solutions.

Peacemaker Promise – Have your students make a pledge to resolve conflicts peacefully by taking the Peacemaker Promise. Prior to taking the oath, teach your class the differences between a peacemaker and a peacebreaker. Create a lapel pin or button to go with the pledge and host a formal oath and pinning ceremony.


Conflict Resolution Journal – Have your students start a journal dedicated to conflict resolution for kids. Following a conflict or disagreement, instruct your students to record the experience. Doing this will help them organize their thoughts, work through problems and recognize triggers, warning signs and patterns. You can also encourage parents to have their children keep up with this journal at home.

Deep Breathing – In the heat of conflict, engaging in a deep breathing exercise can help your combatants, we mean students, manage their emotions. Deep breathing is an effective conflict resolution for kids tool, easy and discreet so that it can be employed virtually anywhere, including your classroom.

Instruct your students to find a spot to sit comfortably and place one hand on their bellies. Tell them to breathe in through their noses, deeply enough that their stomachs rise. They should hold the air in their lungs, then exhale slowly through their mouths, with lips pursed as if they are blowing through a straw. Instruct them to go slowly with their breathing – inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds and exhale for six seconds. Practice this for three to five minutes.

Diversions – Similar to a timeout, the goal of a diversion is to buy time so that a conflict can be resolved in a healthy and peaceful manner without the ramped up intensity of heated emotions. Kids can return to the source of conflict and anger after setting the situation aside for the present and doing something else.  Of course the following suggestions may or may not fit into your lesson plan or classroom, but they can be suggested to students for trying at home.

Suggested diversions to cope with conflict:

  • Going for a walk
  • Reading a book
  • Playing a sport
  • Listening to music or playing an instrument
  • Drawing, painting or doing a craft
  • Playing a game
  • Playing with a pet
  • Cleaning, organizing or rearranging a room

To provide incentives for good development of their conflict resolution skills, send a letter of commendation home with your students, or create a gold-star chart to track and reward their successes.


In addition to “Let’s Be Enemies,” there are several children’s books related to conflict resolution that may be available in your school’s library.

Here are 10 suggested books that will engage young minds with stories about conflict resolution for kids which are focused, understandable and relatable.

  1. “The Story of Ferdinand,” by Munro Leaf.
  2. “Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad,” (series) by Jacky Davis.
  3. “The Recess Queen,” by Alexis O’ Neill.
  4. “The Mine-O-Saur,” by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.
  5. “The Squirrels Who Squabbled,” by Rachel Bright.
  6. “A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue,” by Julia Cook.
  7. “Enemy Pie,” by Derek Munson.
  8. “Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon,” by Patty Lovell.
  9. “The Tale of Pip and Squeak,” by Kate Duke.
  10. “Spaghetti in a Hotdog Bun,” by Maria Dismondy.

Check some of these titles out and read them to your class, discuss them with your students and reinforce the development of conflict resolution skills for children on a regular basis.

If you want to learn more about conflict resolution skills for kids, CCEI offers Conflict Resolution in the Early Childhood Environment. This three-hour intermediate course explores practices and strategies for resolving and addressing various emotional, behavioral and social conflicts that teachers are likely to encounter in the classroom.

Additionally, CCEI also offers a number of related courses on conflict resolution, such as Foundations of Positive Guidance, which explores the elements of child development that influence positive guidance strategies and basic implementation practices to use in the classroom. The course also covers the importance of working with families to establish consistent positive guidance practices at school and home.

To learn more about these courses as well as our entire catalog of 150+ offerings and certifications, click here.

Prosocial Behavior in Early Childhood

Did you know prosocial skills in preschoolers begin to develop before most children turn two? Studies have even shown that children as young as one demonstrated the ability to try and comfort others in distress.

Prosocial behavior is conduct intended to help others, which includes actions such as comforting, cooperating, sharing, and more.

For toddlers, prosocial behavior in early childhood plays an enormous role in their overall development. By teaching prosocial skills in early childhood, it will impact your students’ academic performance, attitude, emotional state, frame of mind, motivation and so much more.

Prosocial behavior in early childhood begins with small, kind, and thoughtful actions that show regard for others (you’ve witnessed this anytime you’ve seen a child hand a toy to another person). And the great thing is you’re likely already promoting prosocial skills in preschoolers by encouraging these types of behaviors.

There are a number of tactics you can use for teaching prosocial skills in early childhood.

Sharing is caring 

Whether you first learned this from the Care Bears, your parents or a teacher, this is perhaps the most well-known (and important) prosocial behavior in early childhood to teach. And the best part is you can incorporate this into just about every lesson plan.

For instance, choose any of these stories from Teaching Expertise’s list of 22 children’s books about sharing to read during storytime. Then, after reading the story, talk to your class about why sharing is good.

You can also incorporate games and activities that promote sharing to help develop prosocial skills in preschoolers. We love this list of easy activities from Love to Know.

Finally, one of the best ways to reinforce this important prosocial behavior in early childhood is to acknowledge good examples of sharing in your students and give children plenty of praise when you see them sharing.

Teamwork makes the dream work 

Teaching cooperation is another key skill to address when discussing prosocial behavior in early childhood.

When you teach a child to cooperate, you teach him or her to work with someone else in a meaningful way where they learn to balance their own interests with another person’s wants and needs.

That’s why this ranks so high on the list of items for teaching prosocial skills in early childhood.

There are several ways to incorporate cooperation into your classroom.

For starters, have your children take turns. This may come in the form of turn-taking games, building turn-taking into play time, incorporating books about teamwork into story time (here’s a wonderful list from Imagination Soup), and more.

You can also incorporate turn-taking into every aspect of your classroom routine. For example, when lining up to go outside, make sure each student has a turn being at the front of the line.

There are also several ways to help reinforce turn-taking and cooperation when teaching prosocial skills in early childhood. It’s helpful to use language such as “my turn, your turn,” visual cues and music to measure the length of a turn (this can help them predict when their turn begins/ends making it less likely they’ll become frustrated).

Again, as we mentioned above, it’s important to always reinforce good behavior by pointing out and applauding when your students demonstrate good examples of cooperative behavior.

I feel ‘ya

You can’t discuss prosocial skills in preschoolers and not cover empathy.

Toddlers will begin to exhibit genuine empathy around the age of two (and even respond with care by trying to soothe another child’s pain).

There are several ways you can promote this prosocial behavior in your classroom.

For starters, choose books that teach empathy and kindness (check out this Brightly list for inspo). After you read the story, talk to your students about the kindness displayed in the book. You can also discuss how your kids can model the same behavior in the classroom.

Another great way to promote empathy and kindness is by discussing others’ feelings and going a step further by suggesting how a child can demonstrate empathy. For example, if Suzy falls down on the playground, you might say, “Suzy is sad because she fell down and scraped her knee (talking about her feelings). Let’s get her a bandaid for her ouchie (demonstrating empathy).”

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, CCEI offers a number of courses to help you with teaching prosocial skills in early childhood and ways to encourage prosocial behavior in early childhood.

If you’re looking for a place to begin, our one-hour beginner-level course Promoting Empathy and Other Prosocial Behaviors is a great place to start. This course examines recent social research into empathy and other prosocial behaviors, as well as recommended strategies and practices for guiding children through the early phases of empathy’s long developmental process.

You may also want to explore Building Social and Emotional Competence. This two-hour beginner-level course explores how social and emotional skills develop over time and ways that teachers can use their understanding of this development to create an environment that supports children’s individual needs.

For more on these courses that will help you instill prosocial skills in preschoolers, as well as our entire catalog of courses, click here.