Teaching with D&D: D&D Strengthens Kid’s Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

Player Art: Tubs, 13 year old Firbolg Druid & Muffin, 13 year old Forest Gnome Cleric

Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) can be an important tool used to enhance your kid’s social and emotional learning (SEL). As a collaborative group storytelling game, it presents many opportunities for personal growth. D&D allows players to develop skills to manage emotions, achieve personal and collective goals through empowerment, resolve conflicts, become more self-aware and empathetic, experience trusting relationships and make responsible and caring decisions.

D&D is not a competitive game, and there is no winning or losing. The game relies on players with diverse skills to unify as a group and problem solve in order to overcome obstacles and achieve group goals. Even if the players don’t succeed in fulfilling all of the goals of the story, bonds are formed.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is a non-profit that focuses on evidence-based SEL as an integral part of education from preschool through high school. They outline five core competencies surrounding SEL, which can all be experienced and nurtured through a table-top role playing game like D&D.

The above is a huge core competency list. How can we hope to address each of these large complex topics? The answer is through gameplay! We can either allow the gameplay to progress unchecked, or we can adjust the game to purposefully set up situations that put our characters into specific scenarios. This is what therapists and teachers do so that they can focus on a particular core social competency or academic skill. Whatever scenario you present, each character you create for the game reacts differently, and the player controls everything for their own character. In this way D&D allows plenty of room to explore on a social and emotional level. During the game players get to experiment with many identities and get to safely push boundaries that are controlled in real life by adults.

Looking at D&D gaming through a SEL lens, kids become more empathic and willing to help each other, better negotiators, communicators and problem-solvers. They work better with their classmates and are socially more at-ease and out of their shells. Most importantly, a kid’s imagination and confidence will grow and positively affect their lives away from the gaming table.

This blog post is part of a series of “Teaching with D&D” free lesson plans and ideas for running D&D games for kids. It follows:

· Dungeons and Dragons in School?!?

· Fantastic/al D&D Lesson Plans — #1 Writing

· Magical Math D&D Lesson Plan #2

· D&D for neurodivergent players?

Other cool posts I think you will like:

· How to Raise a Video Gamer

· The Best Ultimate Guide to Running Dungeons and Dragons Games for Kids

· Uhh Ohhhh……My Kid is a Murder Hobo!?!

Paul Lazrow is the founder and one of the Storytellers at Adventuring Portal, an online service that focuses on running live-guided fun, safe D&D games for kids. Find out more at AdventuringPortal.com.



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Paul Lazrow

Gamer, Father, Partner, Storyteller, Adventuring Portal.com founder, Music Lover, Too much TV Watcher, Canoeist, Chowhound ... not necessarily in that order!