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Fun Activities to Teach Mental Wellbeing for Primary Schools

With February being Children’s Mental Health month, we wanted to share some of our favourite resources for PSHE and relationships education. It is vital that we help students learn how to recognise emotions, and show them that it’s ok to talk about your feelings, and that’s exactly what these PSHE teaching resources do. Plus, with the Braintastic! Science seal of approval you can be confident they will be fun, easy to use, and grounded in real science. So keep reading for some of the best free resources for relationships and health education. Primary schools are our focus here, but keep a look out for next week’s post where we cover secondary age groups, or why not sign up to our mailing list so you never miss a blog?


Talking Mental Health Toolkit - Anna Freud Centre


For a gentle introduction into talking about mental wellbeing in schools try this video. By comparing mental health to physical health, it highlights the idea that mental health is something we all have, and can take care of. It uses stories to help students understand how to recognize feelings, and introduces the difference between small feelings, which we can cope with ourselves, and big feelings, which may be too much for us to deal with alone.


There is a plan and PowerPoint to help you run a PSHE assembly based on the animation, and a lesson plan with some great interactive activities which will let you and your students delve deeper. We really like the ‘listening lines’ activity, which engages students with how to be a good listener- something we discussed in our blog on how to talk to kids about mental health.

Why Do We Lose Control of Our Emotions? - Kids Want To Know


If you are looking for something with a bit of simple neuroscience, to help kids understand how to recognise feelings, and what is going on in their brains when they have big emotions, this great video introduces the ‘upstairs brain’ and the ‘downstairs brain’. This simple analogy focuses on the role of our prefrontal cortex in controlling emotions initiated by deeper structures in the brain [1]. While it misses out the limbic system - another vital region for emotional regulation, the ‘flip your lid’ brain model is a nice way to help kids think about how they can calm themselves down if they are in danger of losing control: Why Do We Lose Control of Our Emotions?


This video would work well as an introduction to a lesson familiarizing students with a ‘calm down box’. These are sets of activities, ideally contained in a specific corner of the classroom, that can help children calm themselves when they are struggling with emotions [2]. Although there is little research on the topic, many therapists find that advising people to focus on their senses when they are stressed can be helpful. So this is a great place to start when putting together a kit- think about touch with tactile toys, playdough or slime, and smell with scented gel pens or stickers.


Regulating your breathing can also really help you to calm down when you are feeling overwhelmed [3] , and regular breathing practices can have positive impacts on long term mental health [4] . You could introduce your students to the 5 finger breathing technique, a mindfulness breathing exercise or provide bubbles in the calm down box - to blow a good bubble you need to take deep, slow breaths.


Another great thing to include is a sensory bottle - why not have the kids make their own, following this guide: Sensory bottle DIY instructions. As a bonus, it’s also a fun science experiment, showing that oil and water don’t mix! Shaking it up can get out some of the frustration kids might be feeling, and watching the droplets settle again is calming and meditative. ChildSavers have some more great ideas for items to include in a calm down box for classrooms of different ages.



Understanding stress- Young Minds & Beano


This fun lesson plan uses an animated video of Beano characters Dennis the Menace and Minnie the Minx to introduce students to ideas around stress and resilience, or ‘bouncebackability’ as they call it. The activities suggested help students think about stressful events in their lives, and strategies they could use to help themselves, and each other, cope.


Versions are available for KS1 and KS2, and for the English, Welsh or Scottish curriculum, and it comes complete with a PowerPoint and worksheets, guiding students through age-appropriate activities. For example, KS2 students are asked to draw their own comic strip, about a time they felt a strong emotion and how they dealt with it, while KS1 draw a picture showing ways they can feel better when they are stressed.


We hope you find these resources useful, and that they help make it easier for you to talk about mental wellbeing in schools. If you do, why not share the list with a teacher friend at another school? The more we can encourage everyone to talk about their feelings, the more comfortable young people will be asking for help when they need it. And if you are a senior school teacher don’t despair, our next blog post will cover resources for PSHE in secondary schools - so don’t forget to sign up to our mailing list so you don’t miss it.

References:

[1] Amygdala–frontal connectivity during emotion regulation (nih.gov)

[2] The Impact of a Classroom Calm Down Corner in a Primary Classroom (nwciowa.edu)

[3] Mindful attention to breath regulates emotions via increased amygdala–prefrontal cortex connectivity - ScienceDirect

[4] The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults (nih.gov)

Effectiveness of diaphragmatic breathing for reducing physio... : JBI Evidence Synthesis (lww.com)

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