• Vicki Manning

Helping your child deal with emotions

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children and emotions - child rubbing eye sadly

We've been dealing with some big emotions recently - when we were under lockdown and with each other 24/7, I saw boundaries being tested almost daily.


Children are not yet able to fully vocalise and make sense of emotions


Our little ones need a way to work through things - this might be through physical activities, imaginative play or getting creative. Different approaches work for different children in different situations, there is not one size fits all.


When children play and create, they get to practice their verbal and non-verbal communication, develop their body language and build self-confidence. It's also a great way to release and regulate their emotions.


I am no expert in emotional learning, but as a mum of three I have picked up a few things along the way. Here are some of the activities that have helped us deal with big emotions, as well as some of our favourite toys and books.


children and emotions - story stones, posca pens

Emotion stones


This is a fun little craft, which you could either do yourself to wind down in the evening, or work on creating it with your children. These stones are a great prompt for talking feelings through.


You will need:


* Smooth flat pebbles (ours are from the local garden centre)

* Paint pens - the ones we use are by Posca

* PVA glue


Write the names of as many different emotions you can think of on the stones and have fun decorating them. If making them with your children you can talk about the shapes and colours different emotions remind us of.


Once dry, seal them with some PVA glue.


We keep our finished stones in a pot on the side and get them out from time to time to playfully start conversations about what we have been feeling. They also have a lovely cool smooth feel to them, which adds a wonderfully calming sensory element.


red, yellow, blue and orange spin art

Spin art


Process art, where the focus is on the fun of the creation, rather than the end result, is incredibly therapeutic. Spin art is not just process art, it's also wonderfully physical, so kids can take their frustrations out on it!


You will need:


* Salad spinner

* Squares of paper

* Paint


Cut some pieces of paper so that they fit inside the bottom of your salad spinner.


Pop one piece in and invite your child to pour some paint in each colour on the top. If you are worried about the mess you could put a small amount of paint in bowls and give them a teaspoon.


Close the lid of the spinner and let your child go to town on it!


paint on paper in salad spinner
child using salad spinner for process art


Open it up to see the magical results. As the results are a surprise every time this one is quite addictive!


You can talk about the different colours and how they make your child feel - is red an angry colour? Is blue soothing?


If you want to make use of all your colourful creations after, why not use card instead of paper, cut them up, and add to your loose parts collection?



Playdough faces


Playdough is our go-to for playful and creative learning. It's totally open-ended and when you make your own it costs next to nothing.


We used some of our playdough to create simple expressions, such as angry, happy and sad, then practiced making the faces ourselves. It's a great way of helping your child understand how our moods are reflected in our facial expressions.


child's hands modelling blue playdough

We used our free printable playdough mat which we laminated prior to using. If you don't have a laminator at home, you could either cover it with some sticky back plastic / contact paper, or just make a face out of plain playdough and place the features on top.


design a face children's worksheet
Worksheet from https://littlewoodentoybox.com.au

Feature stones


We love story stones, can you tell 😜 This version uses cut out pictures of features (eyes, nose, mouth etc) from magazines.


You will need:


- Glass pebbles or flat stones

- Old magazines

- Scissors

- PVA glue


Collect features from your magazine - look for features that are a similar size and will fit one your stones.


Cut them out and glue onto your stones with PVA. Once dry, give them another coat of PVA to seal.


emotion stones, little people big emotions

We used them to create some very funny faces and it was a great way to talk about how we can tell what emotions people are feeling. I also gave Mr 4 a mirror so that he could look at his own expressions. I loved watching him act out his versions of angry, silly and cheeky.


Singing


Music is such an emotive medium and if you can find time to sing with your child they will get so much from it! As well as being a great creative outlet, singing will help them become better communicators, it will build up vocabulary and it will give them lots of confidence.


Why not try singing about emotions with this clever emotions version of a children's classic by Testy Yet Trying or this original song from the Song Library.


Books


There are loads of excellent books out there which help children deal with emotions. Reading in itself is a great mood booster and can really help children to relax. We try to read together at least once a day.


We love "How are you feeling today?" by Molly Potter. It's a lovely reference book that suggests coping tactics for the various emotions; it's also a really visual way to introduce younger children to the types of emotions and how they can all be dealt with differently.



"No worries! An activity book for children who sometimes feel anxious or stressed" by Dr Sharie Coombes is a great book aimed at children aged 7+ that helps them colour and doodle their way to happiness, calm and confidence. Doodling and colouring is a fantastic way for children to express their feelings non-verbally, it helps regulate emotions and can reduce stress and anxiety.



Journaling is the process of writing down your thoughts, experiences and observations - essentially a mindful version of a diary - and it's another great way for children to come to terms with feelings. The Happy Self Journal is a ready-to-complete journal aimed at primary school aged children. My 10 year old particularly like the emojis and daily question prompts in this, plus it's super easy to complete, so he picks it up every day.

If you want to try journaling with a younger (pre-school) child, just start with a blank mini book and invite them to draw pictures about their day.


Toys


There are some wonderful toys and resources out there which will help your child playfully learn about emotions. We love this set from Kidly (gifted), it comes with lots of magnetic features so you can create pretty much every emotion under the sun.



And these soft emoji cubes from Learning Resources are a brilliant way to engage your kids in some mindful conversations:



Puppet play can support children emotionally by providing them with a “friend” they can talk to or confide in. It's a great way to vocalise feelings without the tricky social skills that go with talking to a person. Puppets will not pass judgement and they will give their undivided attention! We love our sockette puppet by The Puppet Company as it's colourful and easy to animate.



PIN IT FOR LATER!


Do you have any tips for helping kids deal with emotions?




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