6 Mental Health Activities You Can Incorporate in Your Classroom
Written by Rachel Pagaling, Werklund School of Education Doctoral Candidate and Research Assistant
Positive mental health plays a significant role in children’s overall health and well-being.
One of the keys to fostering a safe and supportive learning environment for students is understanding the importance of promoting positive mental health activities and practices in K-12 classrooms. The Alberta Education website writes that promoting positive mental health in the classroom is “vital to ensuring children and youth are resilient, better able to learn, achieve success, and build healthy relationships.”
Other benefits of focusing on mental health in school are creating a welcoming, respectful, and safe learning environment, enhancing academic achievement and school attendance, and reducing high-risk behaviors in students (Bjørnsen et al., 2019; Kutcher et al., 2016; LaBelle, 2019).
What can I do to promote mental health in my classroom?
Here are six teacher mental health activities that you can incorporate in your day-to-day practices in your classroom to promote mental health:
- Incorporate daily or weekly mental health check-ins with your students. The Ever Active and PHE Canada Teach Resiliency sites have many resources and posters that you can incorporate in your classrooms.
- Introduce and practice mental self-care strategies with your students. Research suggests that engaging in mental self-care activities can aid students to become more mindful and aware of their physical and emotional needs in addition to preventing future sickness (Bee et al., 2018; Van der Oord et al., 2012). Practicing self-care activities can also prepare your students to effectively handle stress in the future (Burke, 2016).
- Conversation starters about mental health in the classroom can also get students thinking critically and creatively about their well-being and mental health.
- Introduce and teach your students to stress and stress management. For example, you can teach your students about the different signs of stress in their body (e.g., tight muscles, heart beating faster, or increased sweating). Students can be encouraged to journal about their stressors openly and be taught coping skills for them. Click here for a free classroom poster on stress management skills.
- Provide spaces in the classroom to relieve anxiety and stress. These spaces can include a calming corner with comfy chairs or a sensory bin with different fidget toys. Providing spaces in the classroom for students to relax and decompress when they are feeling overwhelmed can aid in supporting their mental health in the classroom.
- Incorporate short mindfulness meditations throughout the day to help center and ground your students. You can find many meditations you can incorporate into your classroom on YouTube. Check out these kid-friendly guided meditations to start:
Here’s another resource that includes mindfulness meditations to check out: Deep Breathing and Meditation in the Classroom
There is no single right way to incorporate positive mental health practices in your classroom – see what works for you, is evidence-based, and is appropriate for your students. The earlier that students can become aware and mindful of their own mental health, the easier it will be for them to integrate these activities into their day-to-day lives.
Bee, P. E., Pedley, R., Rithalia, A., Richardson, G. A., Pryjmachuk, S., Kirk, S., & Bower, P. (2018). Self-care support for children and adolescents with long-term conditions: the REfOCUS evidence synthesis. NIHR HS&DR Journal. https://doi.org/10.3310/hsdr06030
Bjørnsen, H. N., Espnes, G. A., Eilertsen, M. E. B., Ringdal, R., & Moksnes, U. K. (2019). The relationship between positive mental health literacy and mental well-being among adolescents: implications for school health services. The Journal of School Nursing, 35(2), 107-116. https://doi.org/10.1177/105984051773212
Burke, M. G., Dye, L., & Hughey, A. W. (2016). Teaching mindfulness for the self-care and well-being of student affairs professionals. College Student Affairs Journal, 34(3), 93-107. doi:10.1353/csj.2016.0021.
Kutcher, S., Wei, Y., Costa, S., Gusmão, R., Skokauskas, N., & Sourander, A. (2016). Enhancing mental health literacy in young people. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 25(6), 567-569. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-016-0867-9
LaBelle, B. (2019). Positive outcomes of a social-emotional learning program to promote student resiliency and address mental health. Contemporary School Psychology, 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40688-019-00263-y
Van der Oord, S., Bögels, S. M., & Peijnenburg, D. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and mindful parenting for their parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(1), 139-147. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-011-9457-0