The holiday season is upon us! How does it always feel like it sneaks up on me? It’s been a difficult year for our communities for many reasons, so I wanted to add a little kindness to my social skills activities to end the year. I made these little Christmas stocking freebies to encourage my students to think about one another and offer up the positive things they see in their peers. I added starter prompts on the compliment strips, but you could do this with blank pieces of construction paper too. I like the black and white versions of the stockings so my kids can color and decorate the stockings to represent themselves (and bonus, coloring is a calming activity that helps many of my students stay in their Green Zone). For your students who don’t celebrate Christmas, they can decorate their stocking to represent themselves or the holiday they do celebrate. This would be a great activity in the speech room, social skills groups AND the classroom!
Giving and receiving compliments is a hard skill for some of my students with social language impairments. We build on the skill by talking about perspective taking, feelings, thoughts vs. words, non-verbals and emotional regulation. Pairing this activity with the book “How Full Is Your Bucket?” is a great way to extend the idea of kindness and how our words and actions impact others. This stocking activity is an opportunity for your students who often stand out because of their unexpected behaviors, to be recognized and seen for their strengths instead!
You can do the activity together with your students to give examples, both expected and unexpected, and talk about them before they get started on their stockings. You can have fun with this, and remember our kids with social language impairments are NOT incidental learners! This teaching time helps our students understand the point of the activity (and what NOT to do). BTW, I do look at what they write before they share them with their peers, because sometimes their idea of a “compliment” might not be perceived as one (example: Your hair is HUGE!). It’s a teachable moment, so stop and talk about how someone might feel or think if they received that comment.
Once the stockings are done, you can create a holiday bulletin board (A Friendship Fireplace? A Kindness Corner?) and hang the stockings on the board. If your kids are comfortable (and you do want to try and keep your therapy room a social “safe” zone emotionally), they can share their compliments directly with one another. It would be a fun activity to pair with a hot cocoa kindness party too (really, ANY day is a great excuse for a hot cocoa party). If my students are not as comfortable sharing directly, I have them write the name of the person they are complimenting on the back of the sentence strips and they leave them with me to stuff the stockings. I get to be the Speechy Santa!
Before the winter break, take the stockings down and send them home with the kids. You might be surprised at how often they read what their peers wrote about them. We all need to feel the positives now and again, especially our kids who struggle socially. Here’s to kindness and a gift that keeps on giving!
How do you encourage your students to demonstrate kindness to one another?