Self-Awareness Activities for Kids: In today’s post we will propose 28 fun self-awareness activities for kids and teens that explore different dimensions and types of self-focus. You will also be able to download a free self-awareness worksheet for kids.
Self-awareness is the ability to understand our emotions, thoughts, goals, values, prejudices, strengths, limitations, and any other mental states, and how all those affect us and others.
We briefly explored self-awareness, as part of the emotional intelligence framework that also included self-management, self-motivation, social awareness, and social skills.
CASEL’s model of social-emotional learning (SEL framework) also includes self-awareness as one of their five core social and emotional competencies
Table of Contents
- Self-Awareness Dimensions / Types
- Benefits of Self-Awareness
- 28 Self-Awareness Activities for Kids
Self-Awareness Dimensions / Types
There are different dimensions and types of self-awareness.
When we reflect on ourselves, we may think about our past, present or future selves. We may focus on our dreams, goals, fears, frustrations, emotions, strengths, or achievements. We may infer how our behaviors affect others or how people around us see us.
We will briefly explore some of those dimensions to provide a basic understanding of the self-awareness dimensions covered by the activities proposed.
- Situational self-awareness is an automatic process(Phemister & Crewe, 2004). Any social situation that may draw attention to a unique characteristic can result in self-focus (e.g. you arrive to a gathering and you are the only person wearing casual clothes)
- Dispositional self-awareness or self-consciousness is stable like an individual trait to reflect on inner processes (thoughts, beliefs, experiences)
The Self Consciousness Scale (Fenigstein, A., 1975) further differentiates between:
- Private self-awareness that focuses on the aspects that are not visible to those around us (e.g. thoughts, feelings, goals, attitudes, or perceptions).
There are several concepts that fall within this type of dispositional self-awareness:
- Self-reflection: attention and evaluation of internal states and behaviors,
- Insight: understanding of those states and behaviors (SRIS: Grant, Franklin, & Langford, 2002)
- Rumination: focus on negative emotions and self-perceptions
- Mindfulness: non-judgmental focus on the present moment.
- Public self-awareness that focuses on visible characteristics such as physical appearance or behaviors
Benefits of Self-Awareness
Developing self-awareness skills may bring several benefits:
- Improved self-regulation / emotional regulation
The ability to understand our feelings, mood, thoughts and behaviors, assists self-regulation
- Better self-knowledge
- Better understanding of other people’s goals, emotions, thoughts and mental states in general
Our self-awareness facilitates the ability to attribute those same mental states to others
- Personal development
An accurate evaluation of our self, may motivate us to realign to achieve our goals and be consistent with our values.
Not all self-awareness results in positive emotions:
- Rumination focuses on negative thoughts and self-perception and can be linked to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, shame or guilt (Joireman, J. 2004)
- When our self-awareness highlights discrepancies with our ideal self, it may lead to personal growth (positive change/improvement) but it may also lead into “escaping” our self through avoidance behaviors (e.g. excessive TV watching, drinking, overeating).
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Fun Self-Awareness Activities for Kids
In this section, we will explore more than twenty self-awareness activities for kids that will cover the awareness dimensions that we have mentioned above.
Situational Self-Awareness Activities for Kids
Situations that may draws attention to your students will probably result in self-focus. These are some fun activities that you may try:
1. Recite a Monologue or Poem
In my opinion, the best way to help young people develop self-awareness skills is to have them try a new skill in front of others – like memorizing and performing a monologue or poem in front of others.
Depending on their personality type, they may be excited or nervous, so before they perform, they practice deep breaths.
2. Make a speech
This situational awareness activity is similar to the previous one, but it has the added challenge of preparing a speech on a certain topic.
3. Make a Presentation
Divide your class into groups and ask them to work on a topic. Then ask them to present to the rest of the class. All students must present a part of the work.
You can discuss how self-aware everybody felt. How they perceived their voice, body language, how confident they felt, did they have thoughts about what others would think.
The following emotional awareness activities can help kids learn to identify their own emotions and feelings:
4. Emotions Charades
Playing feelings charades gives kids an opportunity to display different facial expressions and body language to express different big emotions. It’s a great way to explore how people show their own feelings in different ways and to develop your child’s emotional intelligence.
We use our emotions flashcards in our charades games.
5. Emotions Drawing
Ask your kids to draw faces with different emotions. For younger students, it can be as simple as emoji-like faces in different colors.
As they grow older they will be able to start adding more details and identifying the signs that indicate different emotions.
6. Emotions Pictionary
Play Emotions Pictionary. A player draws big feelings, and everyone else needs to guess the emotion
7. Keep a Feelings Journal
Journaling is a great tool to process feelings and develop our emotional intelligence. Taking the time to reflect on their daily lives in a safe space can help kids’ interpersonal skills.
8. Spot the Emotion
Grab a magazine or a photo book and check how many different emotions you can spot. How did your child or student identify each particular emotion?
Public Self-Awareness Activity
Ask your students to imagine that they are the main character of a novel. In the opening passage, they have to describe themselves so that a reader who comes now into the room could easily recognize them among the other students (facial features, hairstyle, height, tone of voice, etc.)
Other Dispositional Self-Awareness Activities
10. Personal Strengths Awareness Activity
Create a strengths list or inventory, and ask the child to highlight any strengths they have and display. Sometimes your own list will be able to capture in kid-friendly language great ideas and positive qualities that you wish a child to reflect on and were not captured in these lists above (behavioral strengths, cultural strengths.)
Inspiration: Examples of personal strengths in children
11. “3eMe Join the Dots”
I read about this strengths identification tool when I was reading research on strengths-based teaching in New Zealand.
This activity serves several purposes:
- it helps the child become aware of their own strengths and recognize them as something more than just “things I’m good at” (I’ll talk about this more in the next point)
- it provides teachers and parents with a tool to identify a child’s strengths
The 3 e’s stand for excel, excite and enjoy. The kid can list things that they feel they excel at, other things they feel excited to do, and also things that they enjoy doing. When they go through the three lists, they can connect those things that repeat in those three lists. Those could be their strengths.
12. Letter to My Future Self
Tell your future self about your accomplishments, abilities, goals, challenges, or anything important to you.
13. My Life Story
This is a great writing prompt to raise awareness of our past self.
Ask your students how some of their past choices may have influenced their present self (sports activity they joined, classes they took, etc.)
14. Ghost from Past, Present, and Future
In the beloved story A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, is visited by three ghosts – the ghost of the past, present, and future. On each visit, Scrooge gets to see himself through other people’s eyes.
For this activity, have your students write out how they think others would see if the ghosts were to visit them.
For a fun example, the ghost of the past may see a child that is constantly complaining about not being able to eat ice cream. The ghost of the present sees a kid earning an allowance to buy all the ice cream he wants. Finally, the ghost of the future sees a child with a freezer in his room with all of the ice cream that he wants.
15. Write Your Personal Goals
If you are in a classroom, have them break into small groups and brainstorm goals for the near future (3-6 months from now) and for the far future (when they are adults). Working together will help them establish relationship skills and see how the first step to success is deciding to do it (hence the goal).
Some goals you could encourage are:
- attend every practice for the season
- take a shower every night without complaining
- master the cartwheel
Related Reading: Fun Goal-Setting Activities for Kids
16. “What Makes Me Unique” Poster
Thinking about what makes us unique induces self-attention.
Some young kids may feel they are just like everyone else. Self-aware people, however, know what makes them unique and that helps them develop a positive mindset and instill positive self-talk. Help your students celebrate by creating a “what makes me unique poster” board.
Some things that can be added to the board are:
- specific personality traits like being well organized or always encouraging
- positive relationships like how much they love their grandma or their best friend
Afterward, hang them up in your home or classroom as an easy way to help children remember their skills.
17. What Makes Me Unique
This is a very similar activity, but in this case, you will ask your students to write about what characteristics are unique and different from family, friends, and other people. Since they don’t need to share it with the classroom they may feel more comfortable and open.
18. What would you do?
An effective way to help your children develop social awareness is by having them discuss different situations that they may encounter throughout the school year and how they should react.
Some of the situations could be:
- one student is threatening to punch another if they don’t give him his new headphones and you overhear them.
- a friend finds a wallet on the ground and wants to keep the money before turning it in.
- you discover that your friend doesn’t have food at home because their family can not afford it.
Holding a class discussion to have your students brainstorm new ways to handle these items can help your kids develop the social-emotional skills to deal with problems when they do arise.
One simple tip: Silence is your friend with this activity. Allow the negative emotions to impact your students as they wrestle with the responsible decision to solve the problem.
19. Time vs. Importance
With only having 24 hours in a day, sometimes it’s good to step back and look at how you are spending your time vs. what is important.
Have your students write down a list of the top 5 things that are important to them. This could be family, school, or maybe a sport.
Next, have them write down their past 24 hours and what they spent each hour doing. Individually, have them compare what they value and see how much time is actually dedicated to what they value.
20. Write Self-Compliments
Teaching children to control that inner voice to be positive and kind to themselves will help them develop a strong self-awareness that supports them in their lives.
On notecards, have your students write down positive, encouraging things about themselves. This is a personal thing, so I do not encourage this to be a group activity. Next, have them hang those cards in places that they can see on a daily basis like the fridge or their bathroom mirror.
21. Self-Awareness Map (Worksheet/ Free Download)
In this self-awareness worksheet, your child will reflect on the following topics:
- Likes and dislikes
- People they love
- Areas of improvement
22. Watch a Movie with a Self-Awareness Theme
After you watch, make sure to have a conversation to discuss the self-awareness of the characters and how they needed to overcome a negative point of view.
Some movies to try are:
- Inside Out
- Akeelah and the Bee
23. Self-Awareness Small Clips
If you aren’t ready to commit to an entire film, here are some small clips that your students may enjoy more that are impactful and perfect for older elementary and middle school students
What Is Self-Awareness (YouTube – RocketKids): Short video does a great job explaining the five benefits of becoming more self-aware.
Who Am I? – A Philosophical Inquiry – Amy Adkins (YouTube – TED-Ed): Interesting introduction to the idea of the self as both constantly changing and having a persistent identity.
24. Join a sport
Sports can be a wonderful tool for young kids to develop a strong awareness of themselves. By contributing to a team and having a coach to train you, children are put in a situation to thrive.
Mindfulness Activities and Self-Awareness
Mindfulness practice can be a useful tool to help kids of all ages regulate their emotions, and control their impulses and worries.
Bishop et al. (2004) propose a two-part definition of mindfulness:
- The self-regulation of attention maintained on immediate experience.
- An orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance.
Simple mindfulness games and activities can help you introduce and develop these skills in your children while they play and have fun.
25. 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise
The 54321 technique is a very simple and extremely effective grounding exercise. It will help your kid or student focus on the present moment and relax.
Ask your child:
- Name 5 things you can SEE in the room
- Name 4 things you can FEEL
- Name 3 things you can HEAR
- Name 2 things you can SMELL right now
- Name 1 thing you can TASTE.
26. Body Scan for Kids
This is a very popular mindfulness practice that helps develop focus, calm, and awareness.
You usually start this exercise with a breathing exercise.
Then you guide your child through a body scan from their feet to their head, focusing on one body part at a time till you slowly move to the next one.
27. Playing CBT – Awareness of Thoughts, Emotions & Behaviors (ages 7-14)
If you are looking for board games that can help you work on self-awareness Playing CBT is a great game for individual or group therapy.
It is on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and covers a wide variety of mental health issues.
It has specific boards to work on self-regulation to help kids identify their feelings and appropriate coping skills (mindfulness techniques, coping with thoughts, breathing techniques, problem-solving skills)
Self-Awareness Books for Kids
28. Reading Books
Books are great tools to help your children understand self-awareness.
These are some engaging children’s books that your kids or students may enjoy:
- Avocado Asks by Momoko Abe (Reading age 3-5)
“Is an avocado a fruit or a vegetable?” This question throws this cute avocado into an identity crisis and on the hunt for answers
Avocado doesn’t know the answer either, and the question won’t seem to go away! Soon, avocado is in the midst of a full-on identity crisis.
- Be Who You Are! by Todd Parr (Reading age 4-8)
Be proud of who you are. This gorgeous book reminds kids that their unique traits are what make them so special
- The Magic Is Inside You: Powerful & Positive Thinking For Confident Kids by Cathy Domoney (Author), Karen Davis (Illustrator) (Reading age 8 – 12 years old)
Main character Madeleine is a young girl who is struggling to control negative self-talk, but she soon learns that she has the magic inside of her to change her thoughts – it’s just up to her to decide. This book has a wonderful way of weaving in the message of how powerful the mind can be, and that inner confidence can be learned at any age.
I already recommended this book in my self-esteem books article. I think many of the books I recommend there would make great self-awareness readings for kids.
Other Social-Emotional Learning Resources
- Fun Growth Mindset Activities for kids
- Emotional Intelligence Activities for Kids
- How to Identify Kids’ Strengths
- Self-Esteem Activities for Kids
- Anxiety Activities for Kids
- Anger Management Activities for Kids
- Social Skills Activities for Kids