Wednesday, November 14, 2012


The word "mandala" is Sanskrit for "whole world" or "healing circle".  They were originally used in Eastern religions as symbols in protection and healing rituals, as well as for aids in meditation.  In the current Western world, mandalas are popular among psychologists, as coloring or painting them can be comforting and rhythmic and aid with relaxation and stress relief. 

You can google "mandala coloring pages" and find many different designs to print out and give to your client to color or paint.  This can be used as a mindfulness, stress-relief, or other therapeutic activity.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Stop, Calm Down, Go!

This Anger Control Stoplight serves as a visual aid to remind children to think before acting when they are angry.  I print it out on cardstock and then cut it out and allow my clients to color it, using the appropriate colors (red, yellow, and green), as we discuss what each color means.  I also write down clues for what each light means and have the client glue the clue next to the correct light.  We then put it somewhere where the client will see it often, especially when angry.  I have had clients paste theirs onto their coping skills boxes or journals.  Hanging on the fridge or on a bedroom wall are also recommended.  

As an activity, you could also play "Red Light, Green Light" (the old game we all know and love from our childhood!), which helps children practice listening/following directions and impulse control.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Feelings Charades

My coworker and I created this game together.  It's a group activity that requires at least 4 participants.  This activity is helpful in helping children learn to identify and express different emotions.  

How to make:   
Print out a picture of a football field on green paper, cut it out, and paste it onto cardstock.  You may choose to laminate it.  Print out several little footballs, cut them into squares - - or you can use stickers and stick them onto little squares of paper- and write a different emotion on the back of each one (happy, sad, frustrated, bored, tired, excited, scared, etc.).  The difficulty of the emotions you use will depend upon the age of your client, of course. 

How to play:
  • Divide into two even teams and assign one end zone on the football field to each team.
  • Spread the footballs out all over the field.
  • One member of the team chooses a football, flips it over, and acts out the emotion on the back.  The members of his/her team have to guess the emotion within 30 seconds.  If they guess correctly, they get a "touchdown" and place the football in their goal.  If they guess incorrectly, they place the football back down on the field.
  • The next team chooses a football and does the same thing.  This continues back and forth until every football has been chosen.
  • The team with the most footballs in their goal at the end wins.

Ideas for modifications:
  • The football field can be substituted with a soccer field or basketball court, depending upon the interest of your clients.

For Girls:  A "My Little Pony" theme.  You can print and cut out a rainbow and two clouds and paste the rainbow on cardstock with one cloud on each end of the rainbow.  Print pictures of ponies and cut into squares (or use pony stickers on small squares of cardstock)and spread out over the rainbow.  Each team is assigned a cloud, and when an emotion is correctly guessed, the pony with that emotion goes onto the team's cloud.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Simple Everyday Activities

There are many simple everyday activities that can be used as interventions that we may not even think about!  Almost any activity can be tied to some kind of therapeutic goal or skill, depending on how you structure the activity.  Here are a few that I have used with my clients at work, along with the skills and/or goals that can be tied into them:
  • Painting: anger/stress management, emotional regulation, mindfulness. 
  • Planting a garden: anger/stress management, mindfulness, social skills/teamwork.
  • Baking: anger/stress management, mindfulness, social skills/team work.
  • Making cards/thank-you notes: emotional regulation/expression, nurturing relationships.
  • Playing board games/card games: teamwork, social skills, good sportsmanship, mindfulness. 
    Artwork by Dominic Avila

Self-Esteem Collages

I use this activity with pre-teen and teenaged clients often as a self-esteem building activity and also to help me understand how the client sees him/herself .  Common themes that I use are "All About Me" (in which the child cuts out words and pictures that describe him/her characteristics, interests, personality, etc) and "Design Your Life" (in which the child cuts out pictures and words that describe how he/she sees his/her future.  Topics they might cover are dream job, home, car, family, pets, and so forth). 

Provide the child with a magazines, markers, glue, scissors, etc. and allow the child to design their collage.  As you can imagine, they can get very creative with this.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Awesome Ideas for Teaching Anger Management Techniques to Children
My coworker introduced me to a site with some great activities for teaching anger management techniques for children.  A couple of the ideas are below:

Bubble Blowing for Breathing  
Many adults have realized the benefits of deep breathing to calm angry or anxious feelings. Kids can be taught this technique by learning to blow bubbles slowly, according to Young children can be taught that quick breathing does not result in the big bubbles that slow, deep breaths provide, according to the website. Other techinques to show children how to slow breathing is teaching how to count backwards from 10.

Angry Balls 
Creating "angry balls" is another recommended activity that parents and young children can do together. An angry ball is made by filling a balloon with dry rice or sand and securing the tie. When anger strikes, young kids can soothe their powerful feelings by mashing the ball, throwing it on the floor or squeezing it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Where do You Feel Your Emotions?

Expressing emotions can be very difficult for children, especially those who are very young.  It is often easier for children to explain the sensations in their bodies (i.e., “My tummy hurts”) than to identify emotions (i.e., “I am nervous").

I found a drawing on the internet of a human body.  I use the image to help children identify the cues their bodies give them when experiencing certain emotions.  I give them a picture of the human body with the words, "When you are _____, where do you feel it?"  (I fill in different emotions such as happy, sad, upset, scared, and so forth).  The child can then mark or color the parts of his of her body where he or she feels the emotions.

You can discuss with the child what it means to be happy, sad,
upset, and scared, and help them explore how these emotions make their bodies feel.  By knowing what they are feeling in their bodies when feeling certain emotions, you will be better equipped to understand the child’s behavior and to help the child choose appropriate coping skills to deal with those emotions.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Feelings Dice

I use this activity to work with a young client of mine on identifying and coping with different feelings.  You have the child roll the dice and identify the feeling it lands on and a time when he or she felt that way.  If you want to get more in-depth, you can also ask your client to tell how he or she dealt with that emotion and what he or she could have done better.  

Retrieved from:

To make the dice:

Print the pattern onto cardstock.

Add faces expressing different emotions onto each side of the cube.

 Cut out, fold, and tape together with double-sided tape.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Possibilities Book

I got this idea from my coworker.  The goal of the project is to help a child with a traumatic past or who is struggling in the present to focus on and set goals for the future.

You will need to provide the child with some kind of scrapbook or journal.  Using magazines, pictures from the internet, photos, etc, the child can start building an album of their future: what kind of job (s)he wants, the car (s)he wants to drive, his/her dream house, how many kids (s)he wants, his/her dream career, and so forth. 

This is a project that can be drawn out over a long period of time and can be used as a tool to open up discussion.

Here are some affordable items you can use to get started:

Coping Skills Box

A Coping Skills Box is a box in which the client can keep items that can help him or her cope with anger, disappointment, sadness, and so on.

You can use a shoe box or purchase a plain box and allow your client to decorate and personalize his/her box, using items such as construction paper, scissors, glue, stickers, photos, magazines to cut pictures out of, glitter, etc.

While the client decorates the box, you may want to discuss what a coping skill is, if the client does not already know.  You will need to get to know your client and what works for him or her as a coping skill before you can  begin filling the box.What you put in the box depends upon the age of the client.  Suggestions for items to put in the coping skills box:
  •  Coping Skills Flashcards
  • Crayons/markers
  • Pens/pencils
  • Journal or spiral notebook
  • Cards/stationary to write letters on and envelopes
  • Coloring book/sketch pad
  • Positive and uplifting books
  • Photos/pictures that are calming to the client
  • Deck of playing cards
  • Squishy ball or other object to squeeze
  • MP3 player/CDs
  • List of phone numbers for family members/friends who can offer support
  • Puzzle book (crossword, word search, Sodoku, etc.)  
  • Bubbles

Here are some items you and your client may need to decorate the box:


Here are some affordable items you may want to include in your your box, depending upon the age and gender of your client:




Monday, August 27, 2012

Teaching Children Deep Breathing

The following exercise can be printed out and used to help children learn how to use deep breathing as a coping skill.

Deep Breathing Exercise

Deep breathing can help you to feel better when you are angry or nervous.  You can control your body and your feelings by taking deep breaths when you start to feel upset.  You can do this anywhere, and nobody will even notice! 

Just like you have to practice to get good at anything else, you also have to practice deep breathing to get good at it.  Practice deep breathing by following these steps:

1.  Make sure you are sitting up straight with your feet down to
    make deep breathing easier.
2.  Breathe in through your nose very slowly and very deeply.
3.  Breathe out through your mouth, very slowly.
4.  Do this a total of five times.

How did the deep breathing make you feel?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Feelings Word Search and Crossword Puzzles

These word puzzles can be used as an activity for a child to do to increase vocabulary about feelings.  Even if just used to keep a child busy, these word puzzles will increase their awareness about feelings.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Worksheets for Showing and Coping with Emotions

These worksheets can be completed with children to help them identify how they show their feelings and explore how they can cope.

Coping Skills Flashcards

With the population I work with, identifying and remembering to utilize coping skills can be a problem.  I have created "Coping Skill Flashcards" for my clients.  I created my flashcards in Microsoft Word, and I put different words and pictures on each card to represent coping skills.  I hole-punch the cards in the upper-left corner and then put them on a loose-leaf ring. 

I chose pictures that were black and white drawings so that my clients can color them. While they color them, we discuss what coping skills are (ie, "A coping skill is something you can do to help yourself deal with anger, sadness, or other feelings or problems you may have").  We then explore what coping skills they currently utilize that are negative (ie, hitting and yelling), and then we discuss the coping skills that are on the cards.  You may also want to include a few blank cards so that they can add their own coping skills.

This project is not limited only to emotionally-disturbed children.  This can even be used with your own children at home to teach them positive coping skills.