Recommended age: 6-14
Includes: 3 PDF pages
Download here or at the end of the post
Use: As an educational tool and activity to teach the different types of anger
Will enhance social and emotional skills:
Self Awareness - Identify own feelings and emotions
Social Awareness - Empathy for others
Relationship skills - Listening and perspective-taking
A wonderful form of media I use with children to strengthen their social and emotional skills are short animation films on Youtube. Since most children enjoy watching animations, the films are perfect to leverage into educational content!
The best short animation films to use are those that contain social and emotional themes or relevant social interactions. Which can be turned into educational tools by creating interactive activities to examine these themes. The activities can include: discussions, drawings, or simple games done in 1:1 or group settings.
I started using short animation films two years ago in my psychotherapy sessions with the children and families I work with. And I found the films and activities have been a huge hit on strengthening relationships and enhancing children's social and emotional skills.
This activity idea was inspired by speech and language pathologist Ann Vagin, PhD. She is one of the first professionals I encountered who encouraged using Youtube animations, she even wrote a book on it, YouCue Feelings: Using Online Videos for Social Learning!
In this article, I will highlight three excellent films at teaching perspective taking skills to children. And share the activities I created for them, all downloadable in PDF format (link above and below the post). And for context, I will also discuss how I choose the animation films.
Choosing the films
As you already know, Youtube is a wonderful source of video content. The only problem is finding the right films. So I carefully combed through Youtube's vast library and narrowed down a wonderful collection. This is the criteria I found to be most effective on creating social skills activities:
Films that feature relevant social and emotional content
Social interactions between characters (conflicts, working together, collaboration, etc.)
Show use of social and emotional skills (problem solving, perspective taking, empathy, self awareness, etc.)
Display personal values (honesty, integrity, perseverance, etc.)
Social themes (challenges, grief and loss, )
Most of the films I choose average 4 minutes in length. Although 4 minutes may appear short, it is enough to tell a story, and long enough where children will remember the details.
Source and Quality
Children today are great at evaluating animation quality. So the quality of the animation and storytelling can make a difference in engaging them. The animations need to have quality sound, look, feel and with fluid motions. The story should also be authentic and original.
It doesn't have to be Pixar quality, but similar is important. The animations I find that often meet this criteria are created by student and professional animators. And thanks to their willingness to share their creations, we can make meaningful use of them!
In addition, it is best to choose HD (high definition) video quality over non-HD resolutions of 360p or 480p. I've had numerous children comment and contrast low and high quality animations and the difference is evident.
"Joy and Heron" by Passion Pictures
Duration - 4:04 minutes
Summary - In this short film, a fisherman and his dog, Joy, and are an early morning fishing trip when they encounter a curious Heron. Heron attempts to help herself to the fisherman's delicious bait but Joy successfully defends it. But once Joy understands why Heron wanted the bait, Joy has a change of heart.
This film is excellent in showing characters with different goals and perspectives. And how it is okay to change how they think and feel about each other.
The activity I created is to guide children to understand each character's perspective and encourage them to reflect on their own beliefs.
1. Describe the point of view of each character.
2. What happened to change how Joy felt about Heron?
3. What did Heron do to thank Joy?
4. What makes you change your mind on how you think and feel about others?
5. Think of a time when you changed your mind about someone, what happened?
Many more questions and activity ideas can be generated by this wonderful animation. I encourage you to create them too!
"Game Changer" by Aviv Mano
Duration - 2:41 minutes
Summary - This film is about a girl on a mission to win the top prize at an arcade. She runs into several challenges brought on by an unexpected culprit, but is unrelenting. After several more classic arcade games, the one who feels the most victorious is the one with a change of heart.
This is one of the most beautiful stories I've seen in less than 3 minutes. No dialogue is needed as actions speak the loudest here! This is also an excellent film to show characters with different goals and perspective. And how we can be surprised by what changes our minds.
Since the film is excellent at conveying differences in each characters' goals and feelings, the activity focuses on identifying and understanding these differences.
1. Using the spaces below, what was each character's goal? What feelings did each character experience? Circle and fill in the feeling word.
2. Which feelings did you choose? What made them feel this way?
3. What changed the wrestler's mind?
4. What do you feel when you change your mind about someone?
"Snack Attack" by Eduardo Verastegui
Duration - 4:42 minutes
Summary - In this short film, a grandmother obtains the last remaining bag of cookies from a train station vending machine. While she waits for the train, she sits on a bench shared with a young man. As she attempts to satisfy her hunger, she finds the young man generously helping himself to her cookies. The grandmother confronts the young man but he continues to help himself, even to the last crumb. The train arrives before the grandmother can have a word with the young man. And it is after she boards the train that we learn there is always two sides to every story.
This short film is full of surprises and perspective taking. Besides what each character perceives in the film, there is a lot to learn about our own perspective as we watch the film. The use of perspective is so significant, that watching it the second time may provide a different experience!
I focused this activity on reflecting on our own perspective as we watch this film. Since the film is shown from the grandmother's perspective, we make our own assumptions which usually aligns with the protagonist. But when knowing the outcome and watching the film a second time, our perspective has changed. So this activity examines what has changed and why, and thus perfect to teach children about their own perspective and feelings.
As you watch the film for the film time...
1. What are your thoughts and feelings about the grandmother?
2. What are your thoughts and feelings about the young man?
3. What do you think were the inner thoughts of the grandmother?
4. What do you think were the inner thoughts of the young man?
5. Watch the film again. Are your thoughts and feelings about the characters different this time? What is different?
These are the activities I created for the three films. The potential on deepening the educational and meaningful value of these films are limitless. I encourage you to create your own questions and activity ideas with the focus on strengthening your children's social and emotional skills!
If you enjoyed this article and would like to see more animation film activities, please leave a comment!
In case you're wondering if we have more printables, check out our last printable: Anger Ladder Chart and Activity
Play Attune is about providing parents and professionals practical play activities and resources focused on enhancing children's social and emotional wellness. Behind every content we share is the belief that children learn valuable life skills through meaningful relationships and experiences.