Essential School Counseling Tools: Inexpensive (and Free!) Tips & Tricks

Free Feelings Scales


Building up your bank of resources takes time and a budget. Whether you are in your first year or your twentieth, I’ve rounded up some of the best resources to have in your school counseling tool kit. Most of these school counseling tools are free or dollar store cheap.  Plus they will save you time and improve your organization!

Pipe Cleaners

One of the best fidgets for school or used as a coping tool, kids can twist and shape them, rub their fingers on them, and stick them in their pocket to take with them. They are also easy and inexpensive for making friendship or calming bracelets.

You can also use pipe cleaners to make these free feelings scales. Make several of these feelings thermometers to take with you into whole group lessons, use with your school counseling small groups, or when starting an individual counseling session. Keep them in your calm down box in the school counseling office or classroom. It’s a quick and easy way to gauge the emotion of your students without having to ask any questions. 

A Deck of Cards

Having a set of cards on hand to teach students a new game or play one of their favorite games helps to lighten the mood and increase conversation. Turn an ordinary game into a counseling game. 

For example: when playing the game of War, if you play a single digit, you have to name an emotion. If you lay a face card, you have to name a coping strategy.

Kids also love a good magic trick. When working with students on self-confidence, help them become really skilled with a card trick to show others. This will give them something to be proud of and increase interactions with peers and their families and build their self-esteem. Plus, they will want to come back for more!

Sticky Notes 

Keep a stack in your pocket or clipped to your name badge for writing down positive affirmations. You can stick them on lockers or pass out to kids you see following building expectations or working really hard on a skill. Also, a teacher or other adult may stop you in the hallway or when you go into their classroom to ask for a quick favor. It’s nice to have a place to write it down so you don’t forget.

Self-Referral to the School Counselor

Most kids love one on one attention and the school counselor is the perfect person from whom to get that at school. Students will find you in the hallway, in the lunchroom, at bus duty or when you are teaching whole group lessons to ask for time with you. 

Utilizing this free elementary self-referral form will help you gauge which students you need to see immediately and which students just need a quick chat. The self-referral allows a space for them to name the problem and the size of the problem. This way you can prioritize today’s problems vs end of the week problems while still feeding the function

Functional (and Free!) Decor

One of the best gifts you can give your teachers is functional decor (that you can use, too!) Check out these free posters for Check-Ins and Coping Tools, the Fight, Flight, Freeze Response, Feelings Posters, Self-Esteem and So. Much. More! 

Hanging SEL posters in classrooms provides common language throughout the building and gives teachers a resource to use when there are tears (or screams) and the school counselor is not available to help.

For decorating the school counseling office, this free I SPY printable makes a great distraction when students are self-regulating or waiting to see you. If its framed on the wall, students can use a dry erase marker to circle their findings. You could also print several and put them on a clipboard ready to go. Perfect to grab when a student pops in and you need something quick to support them while you finish your small group or shoveling your food in your mouth.

Clothes Pins

An underrated tool that has so many uses in the school counseling office. They make great fidgets for students with tactile or sensory needs. Use them to clip lunch bunch passes to a students shirt so they don’t have to hold onto it when going through the lunch line. Need to leave a note for a teacher? Clip it to their mailbox or a paper on their classroom door.  Have resources to share with your staff and families? Hot glue thumb tacks to the back of the clothes pins and put them on the bulletin board to easily grab and switch out. 

With so much information to retain and keep track of, it’s easy to forget to do something. Try clipping a clothes pin to your OWN shirt as a reminder. If you wanted to get fancy, you could hot glue small laminated circles to it so you can write on them with dry erase markers. You could also write a time on the circle and give them to students as a reminder for when to come see you. 

Printable Counseling Games

Save TONS of money with these low-prep 32 Counseling Games covering relevant social emotional learning topics. Plus, with over 950 color & number coded SEL questions and prompts, you can use any store bought game you already have and easily transform it into a SEL game!

Ok now…..One resource for THIRTY TWO topics!?! This is a resource you can not live without. Use the digital version and this SEL game is a no prep resource!

Or print out the question cards, hole punch, and attach a binder clip or two.  Topics included are  Anger, Divorce, Goal Setting, Anxiety, Social Skills, and more! You’ll be grabbing this resource all the time for small groups, lunch bunches, individual counseling, distance learning, intake interviews, ice-breaker activities, rapport building, and even classroom guidance lessons, too! 

Paper and a Box of Mismatched Coloring Utensils

At the end of the school year, classroom teachers always have leftover crayons, markers, and colored pencils that no longer make a set. Collect them all and keep them in a storage box with half sheets scrap paper for students to draw or color during your small group or individual sessions. You don’t have to have fancy fidgets to keep their hands busy and minds focused. 

You can also use these materials to do a quick formative assessment when students are leaving your small group and you want to gather data. Or when you have a student that prefers not to talk, but is willing to write or draw the problem.  Paper and markers are great tools for when a student is waiting to see you. Having utensils and paper ready and handy saves time and energy.

What about you? What are some of YOUR favorite inexpensive school counseling tools?  Leave a comment below!

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