Go beyond the basic with opportunities for SEL and deeper understanding

Right around winter break, everyone’s thoughts start to turn to the upcoming time off and family celebrations. In school, little kids are tracing their hands to make turkeys, while older students might be taking final exams. No matter what’s on the schedule, it’s a great opportunity to make a little space for some social and emotional learning that leans into the spirit of the season rather than skating across the surface.

Highlighting the history behind various winter holidays encourages inclusion and lets kids learn about different traditions from each other. Also, focusing on friendship, family, and kindness fosters the feelings of connection that we hope all kids experience, especially during this time of year. And planning some projects before — or during — the break can keep kids in touch with some SEL-inspired creativity.

Check out the individual activities below, or print out these cards and drop them into a jar. Try one, two, or 10 to keep kids thinking and creating while school’s out!

Activities to Learn About Holiday Histories
Since kids everywhere celebrate different winter holidays, it’s a great international journal idea to encourage them to embrace that diversity and learn about each other’s traditions. Use the resources below to learn more about familiar holidays or discuss ones you might know less about.

Make your own dreidel and find out if kids already know the rules. Then play together! (Grades K-2)
For slightly older kids, you can use this resource to read the rules, learn the symbolism, and make a dreidel if you don’t have one already. (Grades 1-3)
After finding out about students’ prior knowledge, use this short video from PBS LearningMedia so kids can learn more about the origin and traditions of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah. (Grades 2-6)
Older kids can read this article from National Geographic about the solstice and how various cultures marked this time of year. (Grades 3-5)
Learn more about Kwanzaa’s seven-day celebration of African American culture and heritage with this video from PBS LearningMedia. Check out the supporting materials for more resources. (Grades 3-6)