As a community and country, all of our teachers need access to mental health training and practical resources that provide skills and tools to help them manage their ever-changing classroom environment and the accompanying emotional and behavioral needs of their students. Schools that serve as a primary community hub for meeting children’s needs, such as inner-city schools or schools in low-income areas, need support and accessible resources now more than ever.
Teachers have always worn many hats. The pandemic further magnified the many roles they have to maintain. Teachers are dealing with SO much, often too much. We want to reach as many people as possible, providing valuable, practical resources not only to support their students but also to support the teachers.
- Hot or cold: hold a cold water bottle, take a cold drink, splash water on face, rub polished stone, frozen boo-boo pack.
- Use a roller ball scented with essential oils. Lavender is very soothing. Use essential oils in a spray bottle or diffuser in the classroom, especially lavender. We love the products at Sweet Streams Lavender (can order in bulk).
- Change of scenery – go for a walk, visit another classroom as helper, run errands, get a drink.
- Listen to music with bilateral or binaural beats without words. Search for spa music or binaural/bilateral beats on any music service, YouTube, or Insight Timer app.
- Any opportunity to be outside can be healing, soothing, and grounding for all students AND adults.
- Access to coloring sheets or pencils, crayons, paint sticks (e.g., Kwik Stix) that promote rhythmic movement.
- Classroom wide mindfulness or dance breaks (YouTube has a ton of free ideas).
- Grounding with Senses (5 things you see, 4 things you can physically feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste).
- Lotion, especially scented, can be soothing for students to use.
- Weighted blankets or carrying something heavy can calm a restless body.
- Fidgets can provide calm, sensory input, rhythm, or movement.
Examples include: Ball of whacks, Nee-doh, Crazy Aaron’s thinking putty, magnetic finger rings, Ramen Noodlies stretchy fidgets, Zoopa ball (it spins and isn’t loud), Squeezy Peezy Stress Relief Ball, silicone “Chewable” necklaces (e.g., feather or shark tooth), expandable ball
**All of these can be found at The Learning Tree and most on Amazon**
For anxious kids:
- Create a calming corner with soothing books, coloring pages, a weighted blanket, lava lamp, liquid timer bubbler, or expandable ball to use as they breathe, and earplugs or noise-canceling headphones for those who are easily overstimulated.
- Post a visual schedule and alert students if you know you will be gone, a sub will be filling in, or if the schedule will change.
- Many anxious kids prefer to sit at the back of the room so they don’t have to worry about what is behind them.
- For heightened anxiety or panic, the Panic SOS audio in the Calm app is super helpful.
- Give student a “fast pass” to be able to leave the room to an agreed-upon place without calling attention to self. They can place it on the desk when they feel the need for a break and leave.
- Kids who are shy or struggle to express their needs to their teacher and other important adults often benefit from using a nonverbal cue or sticky note to alert the teacher they need something.
- Some kids who struggle to express themselves appreciate a daily note or prompt from the teacher (sticky note or small journal) that they can reply to if want to. This activity makes adults and expressing concerns feel more approachable.
- Keep an anonymous box for kids to write down worries or struggles.
Classroom Interventions to Promote Focus
- Include brain breaks (dance parties, mindfulness videos, walks outside, I-spy, coloring sheets, yoga moves) as part of routine schedule. Consider a walk outside with a scavenger hunt, I-spy, or a mindful walk (e.g., paying attention to what one feels, sees, smells, hears, and even tastes).
- Incorporate rhythm, movement, or gestures into any lessons or brain breaks when possible.
- Use standing desks, yoga ball, wobble stool, or allowing kids to stand to work.
- Play spa music with bilateral or binaural beats while doing independent work. There are no words, and it promotes focus and not a distraction. Search spa, bilateral, or binaural beats music on YouTube or any music service. Insight Timer and Calm also offer many options.
- Create a comfortable classroom with soft colors in shades of purple, green, and blue, which have been shown to lower blood pressure.
- Include plants in the classroom, with students taking turns being responsible for their care. Even better if you are able to plant any type of garden as classroom project or even a wall of plants.
- Offer weighted lap blankets for kids who need to feel more grounded or safe.
- Yes, No, Maybe buttons: Makes answering questions more engaging. Can play the Yes, No, Maybe game based on information they are learning
- Simon Says and Mother May I promotes listening and following directions in a fun way.
- Use a visual timer to support focus in a fun way (e.g., Secura 60-Minute Visual Timer, Sensory Liquid Motion Timer Bubbler, Sand timer). Note that timers sometimes can cause anxiety as well.
Games and Toys for the Classroom:
- Taco, Goat, Cheese, Pizza game – fun and focus
- Cotton balls dunked in water and thrown at a whiteboard that you divide into four squares: can use feelings, faces, and other categories for a fun way to answer questions.
- Just Between Us conversation cards by Meredith and Sofia Jacobs
- Totem for small groups: focuses on building strengths
- Yoga Pretzels cards
- Mindfulness Matters game: a tool to use in session and for families to practice using to focus on mindfulness
- Mindful Land Therapy Cards Game for Kids – Meditation and Mindfulness Kit for Stress Reduction
- Little Renegades Mindful Kids Cards – Daytime Affirmation and Mindfulness for Kids.
- Imagine Meditation Kit for Kids – Award-Winning Mindfulness kit of XL Cards with Calming Guided Meditations for Empowerment, Focus and Relaxation.
Videos, Songs, Apps, Books with Activities
- Mandala Maker app: promotes calm and bilateral movements.
- Hold On For One More Day by Wilson Phillips —normalize life is hard.
- “Just Breathe” by Julie Bayer Salzman & Josh Salzman (Wavecrest Films) – great intro to breathing for younger elementary children by children.
- Understanding Stress and The Mind-Body Connection: Understanding stress with a glass of water.
- Dan Siegel’s hand model of the brain: Helps understand our brains and easy way to teach children how to understand their brains. Additional version of Dan Siegel’s hand model of the brain and the science of flipping your lid.
- The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton: Shows how random acts of kindness make you feel good. Create a random act of kindness jar for your classroom.
- Peaceful Piggies or Moody Cow, both my Kerry Lee McLean: Have each child make a mind jar full of feelings and thoughts using a mason jar. There are a ton of recipes for these on the Internet
Suicide Prevention and Awareness
- Better Stop Suicide app: records life-saving message and many other wonderful quick and easy to access features.
- A Friend Asks app from the Jason Foundation: How to help yourself or get help for a friend
- Suicide Prevention Discussion Points for The Invisible Riptide
- Find additional Suicide Prevention Resources at www.theinvisibleriptide.com
Understanding and Supporting Teacher and Student Mental Health
- Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training from Dr. Elizabeth Stanley
*free for Public School Teachers and featured in The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul!
- Dare to Lead Podcast: Brené Brown with Dr. Laurie Santos on Creating Meaningful Connection
- WorkLife Podcast: Adam Grant with Annie Murphy Paul on The Next Big Idea
- Unlocking Us: Brené Brown with Karen Walrond on Accessing Joy and Finding Connection in the Midst of Struggles
- Raising Good Humans with Dr. Aliza Pressman
- S2 Ep 38: Beyond Just Behavior: Using Brain and Body Connection with Dr. Mona Delahooke
- S2 Ep 36: Anxiety may be as contagious as Omicron: Helping our Kids When We Have Our Own Anxiety to Reckon With with Dr. Harold Koplewicz
- S2 Ep 33: “I Can, Therefore I Must” —The Risks of High Achieving Stressors and the Powerful Protection of Close Relationships with Professor Sunday Luther.
- S2 Ep 12: How to Have a Healthy Transition From Summer Back to School With Child Psychiatrist Dr. Helen Egger.
- S2 Episode 7: Challenging Friendship Scenarios with Bestselling Author Rachel Simmons
- S1 Ep 100: Dr. Elisha Goldstein Talking Mindfulness and Concrete Ways to Manage Anxiety for both caregivers and children.
- S1 Ep 84: How To Talk To Middle Schoolers About Thorny Topics with Michele Icard.
- S1Ep 80: Puberty: How to Talk About it and What to Say with Vanessa Kroll Bennett.
- S1 Ep 77: Dr. Dan Siegel Talks About The Stories We Tell to Help Kids Make Sense of Their Inner Experiences.
- S1 Ep 76: Executive Function Skills Are The Air Traffic Control System of the Brain with Professor Phil Zelazo.
- S1 Ep 68: Unpacking gender, and sexuality with Dr. Nia Heard Garris and Dr. Nevis Heard.
- S1 Ep.67: The Power of Co-Regulation with Dr. Claudia Gold
- S1 Ep 66: Dr. Shauna Shapiro on using mindfulness to help grow our emotional resources and our children’s self regulation.
- S1 Ep 59: Trauma therapist Janina Fisher, PhD on how we can steady our nervous system during stressful times.
- S1 Ep 46: Dr. Allison Briscoe Smith: How we talk about race, raising anti-racist kids and the science of hope.
- S1 Ep 29: What to think about before we post and talk about our kids online with law Professor Leah Plunkett.
- S1 Ep 9: Girl Friendships: bullies, best friends and true friends with Rachel Simmons.
- KCUR: Kansas City counselors create books to help kids navigate anxiety and depression and build resilience. Jan 26, 2022.
BOOKS FOR TEACHERS TO SUPPORT THEMSELVES AND STUDENTS
- What Happened to You by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey
- Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience by Brené Brown
- The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain by Annie Murphy Paul
- The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Dan Siegel
- Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Dan Siegel
- The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer and the Untethered Soul Guided Journal: Practices to Journey Beyond Yourself
- The Science of Stuck by Britt Frank
- Brain-Body Parenting: How to Stop Managing Behavior and Start Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids by Mona Delahooke
BOOKS TO ADD DIVERSITY TO THE CLASSROOM
- Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers by Lina Al-Hathloul and Uma Mishra-Newbery
- Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho
- Eyes that Speak to the Stars by Joanna Ho
- I am Enough by Grace Byers
- Black Gold by Laura Obuobi
- Turning Pages by Sonia Sotomayor
- All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman
- Flying High by Simone Biles
- Change Sings by Amanda Gorman
- Food Around The World: Mindful Living Diversity and Inclusion Series by Olivia Xiaoyu and Alex Wang
BOOKS TO HELP WITH ANXIETY
- Hey Warrior by Karen Young
- Hey Awesome by Karen Young
- The Invisible Riptide by Carron Montgomery:
- The What Ifs by Emily Kilgore
- Trying by Kobe Yamada
- What Do You Do with a Problem by Kobe Yamada
- Catching Thoughts by Bonnie Clark and Summer Macon
- After the Fall by Dan Santant
- Brain Bullies: Standing Up To Anxiety & Worry by Brett Novick
BOOKS TO HELP KIDS UNDERSTAND HOW THEIR BRAIN WORKS
- Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak, PhD
- Dear You, Love from Your Brain by Karen Young
BOOKS THAT PROMOTE MINDFULNESS
- Peaceful Piggies by Kerry Lee MacLean
- Moody Cow by Kerry Lee MacLean
- Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda by Lauren Alderfer
- Master of Mindfulness: How to be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress by Laurie Grossman
- I am Peace:A book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde
BOOKS THAT PROMOTE HOPE AND ACCEPTANCE
- Maybe: A story about the endless potential in all of us by Kobe Yamada
- You Belong Here by M.H. Clark
- The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy
- Finding Muchness by Kobe Yamada
- It’s OK to be Different: A Children’s Picture Book About Diversity and Kindness by Sharon Purtill
- I Can Do Hard Things: Mindful Affirmations for Kids by Gabi Garcia
- Big Panda and Happy Dragon by James Norbury
- The Invisible Riptide by Carron Montgomery
BOOKS ABOUT FRIENDSHIP ISSUES AND BOUNDARIES
- The Not-So-Friendly Friend: How to Set Boundaries for Healthy Friendships by Christina Furnival
- Personal Space Camp by Julia Cook
- My Invisible Bubble: Empowering Children to Set Boundaries by Julia Cook
- Making Friends is An Art! by Julia Cook
- Zero, One, and Two (3 book series) by Kathryn Otoshi
BOOKS TO PROMOTE FEELINGS IDENTIFICATION AND EXPRESSION
- A Little SPOT of Emotion 8 Book Box Set (Anger, Anxiety, Peaceful, Happiness, Sadness, Confidence, Love, & Scribble Emotion) by Diane Alber
- The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
- Today I Feel Silly by Jamie Lee Curtis
- The Invisible Riptide by Carron Montgomery
- Cloud’s Best Worst Day Ever (Kimochi’s Series)
- Thank You Mind: Understanding My Big Feelings on Tricky Days by Jennifer Cohen Harper
ADDITIONAL BOOKS FOR MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
- From Surviving to Vibing by Carron Montgomery and Dr. Caroline Danda
- 51 Reasons to Never Fight Alone: 51 Inspiring Interviews to Help Teens Overcome Their Struggles & Improve Their Mental Health by Shelamo Solson
- SUPERPOWERED: Transforming Anxiety into Courage, Confidence and Resilience by Renee Jane and Dr. Shefali Tasberry
- The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless by Charlotte Markey
- Mindfulness for Teens in 10 Minutes a Day: Exercises to Feel Calm, Stay Focused & Be Your Best Self by Jennie Marie Battistin
- Manifestation Journal for Beginners: An Introduction to Harnessing the Law of Attraction & Journal for Creating the Life You Want by Lauri Albert
- Gratitude Journal for Teens: Prompts to Cultivate a Habit of Awareness and Improve Well-being by Scarlet Paolicchi
- Your Life, Your Way: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Skills to Help Teens Manage Emotions and Build Resilience by Joseph Ciarrochi, Louise Hayes, and Katharine Hall
- Shoot Your Shot: A Sport-Inspired Guide To Living Your Best Life by Vernon Brundage Jr.
- The Teen Girl’s Survival Guide: Ten Tips for Making Friends, Avoiding Drama, and Coping with Social Stress by Lucie Hemmen
- Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life for Teens by Joseph Ciarrochi, Louise Hays, Ann Bailey
- Put Your Feelings Here: A Creative Journal for Teens with Intense Emotions by Lisa M. Schab
- Depression: A Teen’s Guide to Survive and Thrive by Jacqueline Toner and Claire Freeland
We are working on creating a teachers’ Wishlist on our website that provides resources to support the hard work that they are doing and to help promote a mentally safe and therapeutic classroom. As a community, people can donate items and promote self-care for these hard-working professionals.
We hope you feel supported, and your imagination is sparked by these ideas, which are based on our training, experience, and communication with schools. Really, however, we want to hear from you. We know this list is not exhaustive.
Please drop a comment below or email us at email@example.com to let us know what resources and activities work for you in your classroom and for yourselves. Speaking of yourselves, please look for our upcoming blog on Self-Care. If you don’t take care of yourself, then you have nothing left to give, and what you give as teachers is essential to all of us in our communities and families.