4 Summer Counseling and SEL Ideas That Will Make a SPLASH!

As summer approaches, it’s the perfect time to integrate social-emotional learning skills into teaching. Focusing on topics like feelings, friendship, empathy, and safety can help students develop important SEL skills that will benefit them at school and in all of life! Use children’s books and low-prep resources to make learning fun AND meaningful. You’ll be sure to make a splash with these summer counseling and SEL ideas!

  1. Feelings
  2. Friendship
  3. Empathy
  4. Safety

Summer Counseling and SEL Ideas

You can confidently equip your students to navigate their feelings, develop and maintain positive relationships, practice empathy, and stay safe this year!

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First up– feelings! Teaching students to understand and express their feelings is fundamental for emotional well-being. When children understand their emotions, they can communicate effectively, manage stress, and build better and lasting relationships.


Use Color the Feelings: Summer Edition to teach even your youngest learners about their emotions. Students will learn about anger, sadness, worry, fear, and happiness through fun coloring pages. 

summer counseling and SEL ideas feelings activity

In this resource, they will learn how to cope with each of these feelings too!

Children’s Book

Use I’m Happy-Sad Today by Lory Britain to excite your students about learning about all sorts of different emotions.


I’m Happy-Sad Today follows a little girl who is learning how to understand her mixed-up feelings. She experiences emotions such as happy and sad, excited and nervous, and more. The author uses silly words such as “smappy” and “braverous” to describe the mixed-up feelings while giving examples of situations when the little girl felt these ways. The little girl is confused at first but learns that she does not have to choose just one emotion to feel at a time; she realizes that it is fine to experience all of her feelings at the same time.


Friendship is another HUGE part of elementary years (and life!). 

Help your students learn what it takes to build and maintain friendships. As they do so, they will also learn how to cooperate, communicate, and solve problems! 


With Build a Summer Friend, students consider what qualities they value in a friend as they create their own “friend”. 

friendship activity summer counseling and SEL ideas

Choose from 3 different versions of this activity:

  • Cut and Paste version: 4 different clipart kid options (blank version to fill in yourself or completed one).
  • Print-and-go version: 4 different kid options with blank sandcastle parts to write friendship traits on.
  • Write-in version: Write in the qualities you want in a friend (includes a completed version to use as a reference and blank version for students to write in the qualities).

After the activity is done, you’ll be ready to guide your students in reflection as they consider 4 questions about important friendship qualities.

Children’s Book

Follow up this friendship activity by reading Up the Creek by Nicholas Oldland.

children's book about friendship

In this story, the bear, beaver, and moose are best friends, but they often disagree. One day they decide to go on a canoeing trip. Throughout the entire trip, the friends argue and fight over who gets to do what and how to cross a large beaver dam. Their disagreements lead them facing raging rapids, and they have to decide on a rescue plan together to finish the trip safely.


Empathy is another vital SEL skill to impart to children. They need to be able to understand and share others’ feelings. With empathy, students can develop kindness, compassion, and strong relationships that will carry them through the school year and far into their lives! 


Easily and confidently teach students to be empathetic with the Walk in My Summer Shoes resource. As they read different scenarios and questions, students attempt to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

empathy activity for elementary kids

This fun summer activity only takes about 30 minutes to complete with a small or large group. It includes a digital version for use with Google Slides and makes a great bulletin board too! 

Children’s Book

To further your teaching on empathy, read Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale.

book about empathy elementary counseling

Clark is the biggest and strongest kid in his school. Clark loves school and is very enthusiastic and expressive with his joy, but it’s often at inappropriate times. He shouts during class reading time, plays too rough during recess, and helps himself to others' food during lunchtime. His teacher talks to him about learning to stay cool and that there is a time and place for everything. Clark tries to do this but he struggles with remembering to stay cool. He comes up with a way to remember– with a rhyme! He comes up with different rhymes so he can remember to use self-control. A new kid comes to class who is just like Clark, and Clark teaches him how to stay cool.


Finally, with summer around the corner, your students need to know what it means to stay safe!

Understanding safety helps children protect themselves and others. It’s essential for their physical well-being and fosters a sense of emotional security.


Use Feed the Friends: Safe Summer Choices to help students learn about safety in a fun, relatable way.

safety activity for kids summer counseling and SEL ideas

In this activity, students sort different choices into the trash can (unsafe choices) or the sunshine (safe choices). The choice cards cover favorite summer topics including swimming, camping, biking, and traveling safety. 

Students are also able to reflect on the choices they made and sign a safety pledge!

Children’s Book

Jane Yolen’s book How Do Dinosaurs Stay Safe? provides a humorous way for children to learn the importance of staying safe and following safety rules.

engaging book about safety for kids

In this funny book, large dinosaur children work through different scenarios in their human-world while learning how to make safe choices. They learn that they must cross the road with their Mama, what to do when they meet a stranger, how to call 9-1-1, and more. It’s a great book to teach general safety to young children in a fun way!

Integrating SEL topics into your summer-themed counseling lessons doesn’t have to be complicated! Using books and low-prep resources will ensure your teaching is meaningful and engaging. As an elementary teacher, your role to nurture your students towards academic and social-emotional success is invaluable!  

You might also be interested in reading:

TOP 5 Fall Counseling and SEL Ideas for Elementary Students

Teaching Friendship Skills in the Classroom  

Teaching Communication Skills in the Classroom 

You might also be interested in these products:

Behavior Intervention Toolbox BUNDLE Classroom Interventions

Build a Friend Activity

Color the Feelings: Back to School Edition

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