Primary school activities
Suitable for Year 1+
Ask everyone to think about one thing that makes them smile.
Ask who would like to share what makes them smile. They can also say why it makes them smile if they want to.
Ask why do we like to smile or make other people smile?
Option 1 (Shabbat appropriate)
Put out pictures of lots of different things that might make the children happy. For example, friends, animals, smiles, the sun, toys, yummy foods.
Make sure you have multiples of each picture in case more than one young person wants to use it.
Give each child an envelope/box or bag and ask them to put a few pictures into their new smile box. If you don’t have an envelope/box or bag, you can ask them to choose their pictures and think about where they might put them so they can see them often or to keep them safe.
Remind them that they can always think about the things that make them smile or look in their smile box. This can be useful if you are having a day that is making your face frown or looking a bit sad. We all have those sorts of days sometimes and it is important to let our teachers, friends and parents or carers know.
Option 2 (Use art materials)
Provide art materials and paper that are age-appropriate for your group to use.
Encourage everyone to draw a few things that make them happy.
You can print off some of the ideas in option 1 to help prompt or remind them what they thought about at the start of the activity when we asked them what made them smile.
For older kids
If your group are older primary school children, you can ask them to create a smile poster to help make other people smile that can be helpful to them, especially if they are having a difficult day.
Mental health acrostic poems
Suitable for all years
Ask the group: “What is mental health?”
Collect their ideas on board/paper and make sure to explain that mental health is how we think, feel and behave in the world. Remind the group that we all have mental health, and it is just as important as physical health.
Give an example of how our mental health can impact our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Such as, if we do badly on a test, we may think negative thoughts like “I am a failure” and that is likely to affect our feelings as we may feel sad or upset. This in turn will also impact our behaviour and we may lose motivation to do our work, try something new or socialise.
However, the opposite is also true. If we do well in a test, we will feel happier and have positive thoughts such as “I can do this!”. This will affect our attitude and behaviour as we might be more willing to engage with work or try and achieve something new.
In pairs or small groups, write down the words ‘MENTAL HEALTH’ vertically. Using each of these letters to start a sentence, write a line that is mental health related to create a poem. Remember, poems don’t have to rhyme unless you want them to.
For younger children, you can do words rather than poem sentences.
Offer the pairs / groups the option to read out their poems to the wider group.
My mental health is important to me
Everyone has it naturally
Needing to look after my mental health
Talking about it with somebody else
Awareness raising is the key
Letting someone know what it’s like to be me
Helping a friend or a listening ear
Everyone needs someone to hear
About how they think and feel Let’s be honest mental health is real
Try out different things for self-care
Have a chat with your GP, if life is hard to bear
Write a letter
Suitable for all years
Ask the group why it is important to look after our mental health. Ensure they understand that mental health is how we think, feel and behave in the world.
If no one is answering, suggest they discuss the question in pairs first and then feedback to the group.
Share that looking after our mental health is important, just like we look after our physical health. It allows us to do everything that is required of us, making sure we have the energy and motivation to do school work, socialise with our friends, help others, engage in extracurricular activities or hobbies, exercise, try new things, take time for ourselves etc. Looking after ourselves is also important to help us manage better when times are hard or we are struggling with something.
Explain that the word we use for looking after our mental health is self-care. We should all be practising self-care weekly but it is not a replacement for seeking help from a trusted adult or a GP if we need it. Some of us may need both.
Ask the group to write a short letter to a friend who lives far away and is having a hard time at school. What would you include in the letter? What would you do to reassure your friend or offer advice?
If there is time, you can invite some of the group to read out some or all of their letter if they want to. Make this an option only.
Ask the group if there is a difference to how we speak to our friend in the letter when they need support and how we may speak to ourselves.
If no one suggests it, ask the group if we tend to be kinder and more understanding to our friends, then we would be to ourselves.
A great way to practise self-care is to remind ourselves to speak to ourselves like we would a friend.
For example, when we make a mistake or don’t do as well as we hoped in an exam or piece of work, would we tell our friend they were stupid or should have tried harder? Or would we be kind to them and reassure them that no one noticed the mistake, that it wasn’t a big deal and that there are things we can do so it doesn’t happen again?
Suitable for all years
Ask the group for some ideas for self-care.
You could either gather these from the group who, in turns, can give an idea starting with each letter of the alphabet, e.g. a for art or b for break (taking a break) or work in partners, thinking of two things they already do and one thing they would like to try. Invite everyone to share at least one idea for self-care. See how many different ones you can collect.
Acknowledge if someone suggests talking to someone they trust or with a friend. Make sure this is included on your list.
Explain that talking is one of the most important forms of self-care and this may mean talking to an adult we trust, be it a parent or carer, teacher, youth worker or a healthcare professional like a doctor. We may need to talk to an adult when the situation is more than we can manage or requires extra support. At other times, speaking to a trusted friend may be helpful.
Suitable for all years
Self-care bingo is a great activity for primary school / year 7 pupils to get them thinking and talking about what they’ve done recently to look after themselves. It could be spending time outdoors, listening to music or trying something new.
Aims and objectives
To encourage young people to compare and discuss with one another what they do for their own wellbeing.
Explain to your pupils that you are going to play bingo with a twist!
Give everyone a self-care bingo card and a pen.
Each pupil should walk around the room and ask one another “What do you do for self-care?”
If someone’s answer is on the sheet, write their name in the appropriate box. If not, write their idea at the bottom of the bingo card.
You can only ask each person once.
Keep playing until either a line or the whole page is completed.
Approximately 30 minutes
Bingo cards and pens
Have your kids make their own self-care bingo cards with art materials. Encourage them to fill in the squares with their own self-care ideas, then play self-care bingo.
What is mental health?
Suitable for Years 5 and 6
- Tell the group you would like them to complete the sentence ‘mental health is…’
- Use the range of adjectives listed below. You can stick these around the room or put them on pieces of paper on the floor. If you are using an online platform, put the words on a PowerPoint slide and share your screen.
- Ask everyone to pick an adjective that completes the sentence.
- Invite them to say why they chose it if they would like to.
- When everyone who wants to speak has had their chance, explain that mental health is how we think, feel and behave in the world.
Adjective suggestions for completing the sentence:
1. Use one or both examples below to illustrate how our thoughts and feelings can change how we behave.
- Ask them “If you were all really noisy today and I wanted you to be quiet, how might I feel?”
- When they say something like cross/angry/sad, ask them: “Am I more likely to be nice to you and choose something fun to do, or might I be a bit more strict with you?”
- If you are watching TV and someone comes in and changes the channel, how might you feel about that?
- When they say something like annoyed/angry/upset, ask them: “Are you more likely to politely ask for them to change it back, or might we raise our voices and shout or try and change it back ourselves?”
2. Explain that this shows how our mental health is important because it can change how we think and feel and that will change how we behave towards those around us.
3. Use this as an opportunity to let them know that if they are not feeling good about something, instead of acting in a certain way we need to tell an adult we trust how we are feeling. No one can read our minds, so we need to tell people how we feel so they can help us.