5 AMAZING Winter Counseling and SEL Ideas for Elementary Students– Plus Winter Books!


Winter isn’t just a season of cold temps and snowmen– it’s a wonderful time to focus on invaluable social-emotional learning (SEL) concepts with students! Leverage the magic of wintertime and teach essential life skills like friendship, understanding feelings, empathy, diversity, acceptance, and generosity. Check out these 5 all-time favorite winter counseling and SEL ideas for your elementary students this year… and some great winter books too! 

Winter Counseling and SEL Themes

  • Friendship skills
  • Feelings
  • Empathy
  • Diversity and Acceptance
  • Generosity

Teach all of these SEL topics using low-prep activities that are sure to keep the interest of your students through interactive, hands-on learning! 

Friendship Skills

Developing good friendship skills is foundational for a child’s social development. Friendship is so much more than being kind to others– it’s about learning to work with others, communicate effectively, and navigate relationships in a kind and respectful way. 

These skills contribute to positive emotional well-being and lay the groundwork for healthy interactions throughout all of life, both in school and beyond!


Use this Build a Snowman Friend activity to teach friendship skills to your students! 


This activity teaches students positive friendship qualities as they "build" a Snowman friend that they would like to have. The goal is for students to recognize the positive traits in a person that would make them a good friend to have. 

Plus, It takes about 30 minutes to complete with a small or large group– the perfect amount of time for elementary students!


Understanding and communicating different feelings is crucial to emotional intelligence and can be achieved by even the youngest elementary students! Teaching children to identify and express their emotions helps them develop self-awareness and navigate many types of social interactions. 

Be confident that you are empowering your students by teaching them this important SEL skill!


Teach feelings to even the youngest of learners with this Color the Winter Feelings activity. 

This activity explores 5 emotions (angry, sad, worried, scared, happy) and teaches students how to cope with them. With each emotion, students will learn what physical expressions go along with the feeling and how it looks, feels, and sounds. They will have the opportunity to color a feeling page, color synonyms and antonyms, and more.


Empathy is another SEL skill worth investing in! Teaching students to understand and share others’ feelings creates compassion and builds connections for a positive classroom environment. It is essential for positive social interactions.

This skill equips students to navigate diversity and contribute to a more compassionate learning environment at school and society in general.


This winter activity called Walk in My Winter Shoes provides the perfect opportunity to teach students to shift their perspectives and have empathy for others. 


Students read different scenarios (or listen as you read aloud!) and answer the given questions. They will love the three different winter-themed characters!

Choose the handout version for older students or the workbook option for younger ones to adapt this best to your students! You can also choose to show the scenarios in a presentation format if you prefer. 

It also only takes around 30 minutes to complete and is perfect for small or large groups. 

Diversity and Acceptance

As you know, understanding and appreciating diversity is essential to being a good human. Teaching children about different cultures, traditions, and perspectives fosters tolerance, reduces prejudice, and promotes a sense of unity in a diverse society. As you help them become more aware of diversity and the beauty it brings, their acceptance of differences can blossom!


The “Walk in my Holiday Shoes” activity teaches diversity and acceptance with a fun holiday theme.


This activity focuses on perspective-taking and empathy while introducing and involving a variety of winter holidays. It includes Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Diwali to represent all students. 

Students are encouraged to embrace diversity and foster an inclusive environment where everyone's unique qualities are acknowledged and appreciated.


Generosity is a cornerstone of a strong community– starting with your own classroom community! 

Teaching children to give selflessly fosters a sense of social responsibility and empathy towards those in need. It lays the foundation for a compassionate society.


The final activity idea for you this winter is this FREE "Generosity Snow Globe" activity. It perfectly aligns with the spirit of giving that runs through the winter season. 

Students practice being generous by writing generous acts they are going to do on each snowflake and adding it to their snowglobe. They learn the value of kindness and making a positive impact on others.

Differentiate this activity for your students or your teaching needs by choosing the cut-and-paste option or the print-and-go one! Choose the black and white option to promote fine motor skills and creativity as kids color their snowflakes and globe.

Books & Videos

Using books and videos is another great way to teach these essential SEL skills this winter. Check out some of these must-haves for your classroom:

  • The Most Perfect Snowman
  • Spike: The Penguin With Rainbow Hair
  • Hot Cocoa Calm
  • Extra Yarn
  • Tough Cookie
  • The Giving Snowman
  • Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light

*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I get a small commission that costs you nothing and helps me continue to provide this content. 


The Most Perfect Snowman by Chris Britt

Drift’s goal in life is to be accepted by the other snowmen. He desperately wishes he could have a scarf, hat, and a carrot nose like all the others. One day, Drift finally gets the beautiful accessories he wants. However, he ends up learning that it’s not what he has, but what he’s willing to give up that makes him the most perfect snowman of all.


Spike: The Penguin With Rainbow Hair by Sarah Cullen and Carmen Ellis

Spike was a penguin born with rainbow hair. He hated standing out, so he tried different things to help himself blend in. Eventually, his friends help him realize that his rainbow hair is something to be proud of! This is a great read to remind your students that being different is a good thing.


Hot Cocoa Calm by Kira Willey

In this book, kids will follow along as Fox takes some deep breaths to cool down his hot chocolate. They will also practice their own deep breathing while they enjoy the beautiful imagery of the book. Kids will love this interactive mindfulness book this winter!


Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett

Annabelle is the main character in Extra Yarn. She finds a box filled with yarn of all colors and decides to knit sweaters for everyone in her town. She has leftover yarn and keeps knitting; she knits sweaters for cars, trees, and buildings. Annabelle never runs out of yarn. 

An archduke hears about Annabelle’s box of endless yarn and offers to buy it from her for ten million dollars. She does not want to sell it to him, but in the night, the greedy archduke steals the box. When he opens the box, he finds no yarn. Eventually, the box finds its way back to Annabelle, where it is full of yarn once again! 

Tough Cookie by Edward Hemingway

This book is all about acceptance. A sugar cookie proudly boasts that he is both sweet and fast. A fox catches him and takes a bite, but much to the sugar cookie and the fox’s surprise, he tastes terrible. The sugar cookie is heartbroken. Despite his best efforts, he finds that he can make himself neither sweet nor fast. With help from his new friend the fox, the sugar cookie eventually finds his true purpose and can celebrate Christmas with joy in his heart.

The Giving Snowman: A Children’s Bedtime Story about Gratitude by Julia Zheng

On a snowy night, Snowman lends a helping hand to Bird, Rabbit, Farmer, and Traveler when they are in need. The next day when the sun comes out and melts Snowman, Bird, Rabbit, Farmer, and Traveler work together as a team to rebuild Snowman.

The Giving Snowman is a wonderful winter book about kindness and gratitude.

VIDEO: Share Some Kindness, Bring some Light Read Aloud

For a nice switch-up, let kids listen to this wonderful winter story read by First Grade Party.

Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light by Apryl Stott is perfect for even your youngest of elementary kids. In this story, a little girl and her friend Bear learn the true meaning of selfless kindness.

Don’t underestimate the potential for teaching important SEL skills this winter! I hope these 5 winter counseling and SEL ideas have you feeling energized and excited for the upcoming weeks with your favorite elementary students. Because of you, they will be better equipped to be socially and emotionally aware as they participate in the world around them!

You might also be interested in reading:

Children's Books about Emotions

Teaching Friendship Skills in the Classroom

Teaching Teamwork in the Classroom  

Follow along and don’t miss a thing!

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