Using Easter Eggs to Learn About Feelings

I am so excited about the Easter holiday next weekend, getting to color eggs and set up a hunt for my toddler for the first time! One great thing about being a parent is getting to do all the fun stuff we did as kids, but I think this is even better! Of course, I am always thinking of the holiday and how to incorporate the themes into fun feeling-related activities for the kids. Although my little guy is still too young this year, I hope you find these to be something you can do in your home!

Coloring Your Feelings

What you need:

Hard boiled eggs

Easter egg dye

  1. Choose 3-5 feelings. I suggest using Happy, Sad, and Mad as your first three. Other feelings to choose from are Excited, Silly, Scared, Shy, Distracted, Frustrated, and Anxious.
  2. Have your child choose a dye color to match each feeling.
  3. Dip the egg in the dye and have them talk about that feeling while it is getting colored.
  4. Ask questions like:

Tell me about a time when you felt _______.

What or who sometimes makes you feel ______.

When you feel ______, what does it feel like in your body? Examples are face gets hot, heart races, etc.

When you feel _____, how can you calm yourself down?

This is a fun way to bring up feelings with your kids. Depending on their age, it may help them learn the names of feelings, recognize that all feelings are normal, and even learn some ways to cope with the negative feelings.

Discovering Inside Feelings

What you need:

Plastic Easter eggs, paper, marker, scissors.

 

Identifying Feelings Version (for the younger kids)

  1. Cut out small squares of paper small enough to fold and fit into a plastic egg.
  2. On each square, draw a face with a feeling- Happy, Sad, and Mad, etc.
  3. Fold the paper and place one in each plastic egg.
  4. Mix these eggs in with other plastic eggs filled with the fun stuff.
  5. Include these eggs with the child’s regular hunt or hide these separately, your preference.
  6. When the child goes through their eggs, explain to them that some of the eggs have feelings inside, just like they do. We are going to discover some of those feelings and talk about them when they are opened.
  7. If you are doing this with your toddler, say and sign the feeling for them. Be sure to use the expression as you say the feeling (i.e. frown for sad). To learn about feeling signs for babies, visit my post on Using Signs to Teach Your Toddler About Feelings.

Scenario Version (Older preschool)

  1. Cut out small squares of paper small enough to fold and fit into a plastic egg.
  2. On each square, write a scenario that reflects at least on feeling, including Happy, Sad, Mad, Frustrated, Silly, Excited, Hyper, and Shy.
  3. An example of a scenario may be “Madison is running on the playground when she fell down. Another kid laughed at her. How do you think she feels?” *Keep in mind that scenarios that ask them to identify the feelings of other people help them to learn empathy. Scenarios that ask them how they feel help them learn how to identify their own feelings. Both are important.
  4. Fold the paper and place one in each plastic egg.
  5. Mix these eggs in with other plastic eggs filled with the fun stuff.
  6. Hide the eggs outside or in your house.
  7. When the child goes through their eggs, read the scenario and see if they can tell you how that person may feel. You may want to have a picture of feelings nearby to give them a choice. Here is a good Feelings Chart I pulled from printablebehaviorcharts.com.
HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!
You may also like Angry Paper Toss!

Using Signs to Teach Your Toddler About Feelings

As a counselor, I spend a lot of time teaching kids how to identify and communicate their feelings. So when my son Max (14 months) was having a meltdown this weekend, I realized that now is the time to start giving him words (akasigns) to express those emotions. Now is the time to start teaching him there is a word for these feelings he is having and that it’s normal to feel angry, frustrated, etc. So, I opened up my baby sign book and dug out the feelings cards. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not under any fantasies that Max will no longer tantrum or tantrum  any less fiercely, but this is an important first step in teaching my son about his feelings.

I use a book titled Baby Sign Language by Karine Shemel Rosenberg. It comes with colorful flashcards and information on the benefits of signing and how and when to start signing with your baby. Here are the feelings flashcards in this book. You can also see where to purchase this book and see my comments and others at my  Goodreads review.

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Applying similar techniques I use when teaching more verbal children about feelings, I can start teaching my young toddler. Here are a few simple things I’ll be focused on:

- Choose which signs you want to focus on, learn them yourself, and get other caregivers (nanny, grandparent, etc) involved. The more exposure to the signs the better.

-At the moment he shows the feeling (angry, sad, happy) say and sign the feeling using an empathetic tone.

- At the moment we see others expressing that feeling, especially another child, say and sign the feeling.
- When he is angry, help him learn to calm himself down by modeling a calm state and offering something that may help calm him such as a quiet room, favorite toy, or affection.
- When he calms, tell him “good job calming yourself down.” This sends the message he has control of his emotions.

It is never too early (or too late) to start using these techniques with your child. Their little brains are constantly taking in information and forming connections about their environment and learning behaviors from those around them. Applying these techniques can also take time to get used to, but will be second nature before you know it.

Max is learning his signs quite well these days, communicating his wants and needs to those around him. I am so happy to see when he is able use these signs rather than become upset. If you have been a parent of young children, you understand how frustrating it can be (for baby and you) when they have to fuss because they don’t know any other way to communicate their needs. There is a lot of literature that stands behind the wonderful emotional and psychological benefits of babies learning sign language. I’ll add some resources below to learn more about infant signing.

I have already started teaching these feeling signs and when Max gets the hang of them, I will post a follow up and let you know how it has worked out. If you have already been down this road, I would love to hear about your experience too!

http://www.babysignlanguage.com/ is a fantastic  website to check out. They offer a lot of information on signing, free flash cards, and even have video to show you how to do some of the more complicated signs.

http://signingbaby.com/main/index.php is also a good resource. There are videos of babies signing as well as an index of words.

For a good book, check out Baby Sign Language by clicking on my Goodreads review on the right hand side of this blog. Just above the Goodreads link, click on my Vodpod link to find videos I like. There is a really good video showing a baby signing for her mom. So cute!

Reasons to Get Moving!

I slept really well this weekend and even had more energy today and realized it was because I got to workout this weekend! Many people are familiar with the benefits of exercise on their physical health, but research shows just as many benefits to a person’s mental health as well. These benefits are both immediate (after the first session of physical activity) as well as long term. Exercise is a natural way to feel happier, less stressed, and improve your relationships. Not only is exercise good for your health, but it’s good for your kids too. So take a brief moment to read on, then grab a water, and get your body moving!

Depression: When a person exercises, their body releases endorphins, which are the chemicals in the body that lead to positive feelings. These positive feelings are said to be similar to those felt by morphine, the body’s natural pain killer, and are often referred to as the “runners high.”

Stress: When we are stressed, our body is in a “fight or flight” state and releases cortisol (sometimes called our stress-response hormone). If the body remains in this state over a long period of time, significant physical and psychological health problems arise. Exercise allows the body to return to a relaxed state and lowers those cortisol levels, therefore reducing stress.

Anxiety: Exercise has been shown to decrease anxiety in the same manner as it reduces stress. Regular aerobic exercise, such as biking, running, or swimming, has been found to be the most beneficial for reducing anxiety.

Sleep: Exercise increases the amount of time a person sleeps, and also leads to a more restful, higher quality, of sleep.

Relationships: Since people who exercise enjoy greater psychological health and are less stressed and irritable, their relationships benefit tremendously. This includes relationships with their significant other, children, and even co-workers!

Brain functioning:  Exercise triggers the release of serotonin in the brain, which improves a person’s mental clarity. And since they are more rested and not stuck in a “fight or flight” state, they are more alert and show a greater ability to focus on tasks.

Self-Esteem: Exercise just makes a person feel better about themselves. Their body will look and feel better and a person’s self-perception improves.

Finding time to exercise is one of the most difficult things for me and most people to do, especially as we gain more responsibilities in life. But as you can see, it is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and for our families. Remember what I always say, you are a role model for your children! You want them to take care of themselves as an adult? Then you have to model good self care :) Happy Exercising!

Sand Tray

A sand tray does not have to be purchased from an expensive therapy store. My husband made this sand box for me and the best part is that it’s made with love! After sanding it down really good so as not to cause splinters, I painted the outside a hunter green and inside a blue color. I bought play sand at a local Home Depot. Kids will often use this for pretend play while I am sometimes more directive in the activities with teens.

Body of Emotions

I learned this activity from my colleague, Jennifer Methvin, LPC a couple years ago and have loved it ever since. Thanks Jenney!

In this activity, kids are asked to talk about various emotions. I will often have 4-5 emotions in mind and will allow the child to add emotions to our list if they want. For each emotion, I ask the child two main questions: 1. What does your body feel like when you are happy, sad, etc.? and 2. Tell me about a time when you recently felt this emotion and what was happening. The child can then choose the color they want for that emotion (I take notes for a key later on). The child will then use that color to paint or color where on their body they often feel this emotion.

As you see in the pictures, kids will have many variations. An interesting notation to make is that the first pictuer was done by a child who was struggling with high emotions and extreme expression of those emotions (aggression) and the picture below it with the dots was done by a child who was internalizing their emotions. Notice how the child internalizing the emotions only used small dots to represent their emotions as they are not used to expressing their emotions outwardly.