A Jar of Emotions: Talking About Feelings

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A few days ago, the Mellow Man asked me how our dog Angus seemed at the vet.  I believe I said, “He seemed dejected.  I think he felt abandoned, and he had this lonely, depressed look about him.”  The Mellow Man asked me how many other ways I told tell him that the dog appeared sad.  You see, I’m big on feeling words.  In part, it may be due to an occupational hazard of being a psychologist, but I think I was probably hardwired to talk about my emotions.  My mother has always told me that you always know how I’m feeling– I never hold back.   Emotion words are powerful, and I think they are really important for kids to learn how to use.  In honor of the fabulous, new Disney movie, Inside Out, I’ve created a Emotion Awareness dinner table activity that is perfect way to start talking about emotions with kids in your family.  It’s a “Jar of Emotions.”

My Mom Made That: A Jar of Emotions, Conversations Starters for Emotional Awareness in Kids #InsideOutEmotions

To start with I used the 5 personified emotions play figures from the movie Inside Out, “Joy,” “Anger,” “Sadness,” “Fear,” and “Disgust.”

My Mom Made That: A Jar of Emotions, Conversations Starters for Emotional Awareness in Kids #InsideOutEmotions

I picked these up at my local Walmart (they are made by Tomy Toy).   The figures are the perfect size to sit on our coffee table or the Lazy Susan on our kitchen table where the whole family and sit to enjoy some family time.

My Mom Made That: A Jar of Emotions, Conversations Starters for Emotional Awareness in Kids #InsideOutEmotions

Perhaps you have heard of the Book of Questions, which are designed to be conversation starters?  Well, I created the Washi Tape Jar of Emotions to be our conversation starter.  This project is extremely easy to make, but does take a bit of time to come up with family specific and age appropriate scenarios.  In our house, we have a tween and a toddler, and talking about feelings is important for all ages of kids, so I needed to make sure that the topics were relevant for both my Big One and my Little Monkey.

My Mom Made That: A Jar of Emotions, Conversations Starters for Emotional Awareness in Kids #InsideOutEmotions

I picked up some craft sticks while I was at Walmart.  I used multi-colored felt tip pens to write scenarios on the sticks.  For the Big One, I included things like, “You overhear a friend saying something bad about you,” and “Your friend is moving and will have to change schools.”  For the Little Monkey, the scenarios were things like, “A friend is playing with a toy that you want to play with,” and “You have to go to bed, but you brother gets to stay up.”  A tried to include many different emotions as I could, particularly the 5 main emotions of Joy, Fear, Sadness, Disgust and Anger.

My Mom Made That: A Jar of Emotions, Conversations Starters for Emotional Awareness in Kids #InsideOutEmotions

Then, I took an empty baby food jar (Don’t have a baby, use a small tomato paste can!), and 5 different colors of washi tape (one for each emotion).  Starting at the bottom of the jar, I wrapped the different colors of tape around the jar.  I used scissors to trim the tape neatly.  For the top piece of tape, I needed cut slits in the tape to be able to fold it around the bend in the glass so that it lay flat on the jar.  Once the jar was completed, I put the craft sticks with the scenarios on them in the jar.

My Mom Made That: A Jar of Emotions, Conversations Starters for Emotional Awareness in Kids #InsideOutEmotions

During dinner, or when we are having family time, we are able to each pull out a stick with an emotionally charged scenario, and discuss how we might be feeling.  I think this is a great way for my kiddos to talk about situations that are relevant to them, and are at their level.  For my Big One, it will help him talk about some of the emotionally challenging situations that tweens face in Middle School.  It can lead to greater conversations about what is going on in his life, and how he is feeling about these events.  For my Little Monkey, it helps him learn to correctly label emotions and come up with ways of managing difficult emotions.  It can be very empowering for little ones to learn how to deal with anger, fear and sadness.

How do you talk with your children about emotions?  



  1. This looks like such a cute movie!

  2. Such great information and fun activity too! I’ve read a lot of articles on this movie and how it really affects our brains. So interesting, especially from a psychologist’s perspective. Love the jar too. Fun activity for kids.

  3. This sounds like a great activity for families.

  4. Such a great idea that is certain to help with having meaningful conversation! My kiddos cannot wait to see this movie!

  5. This is a great learning experience for kids! So cute that you incorporated the movie into the activity too 🙂

  6. We saw this movie over the weekend and loved it! It was so cute. This is a great activity to do with kids!

  7. Liberty says:

    These are so awesome, Em. It was SO important talking to our kids about “what if” type scenarios so they’d have a battle plan *before* stuff like this came up. In this way, exploring emotions in advance is sort of nice because you not only get to name the feelings, but you can talk about appropriate ways to express and handle those feelings. I wish MY parents had done that with me!

    Plus. Washi tape. *drools* 😉

  8. These are great ideas! We tend to have open question dinner table discussions often with our kids about scenarios in which they have to make a choice. I think it really helps their emotional well being.

  9. I can’t wait to take my kids to see this movie. What a great way to get your kids talking about emotions. I have some kids who are willing to talk and others who hold it all in. What a great way to start the conversation.

  10. What a fun way to get your kids talking about their emotions and keeping them prepared for situations that could come up!! Using the movie helps to make it fun 🙂

  11. What a fun idea!! Thanks for sharing.

  12. What a clever idea! When my son, Sam, was bullied at school last year we spent a lot of time talking about how that made him feel and how he should respond. It really helped. Encouraging emotions and healthy discussions and reactions is so important!

    • I completely agree. It’s good for children to learn how to recognize and manage “hard” emotions like envy and anger and sadness. I know that my older one sometimes worries that it’s not okay to be mad. It is okay to be made, but it really depends on how you handle your anger!

  13. This really is a great idea for young kids. I even think kinder teachers should do crafts like this with the class!

  14. This is so cute! We talk about emotions a lot with our youngest child because he was severely speech delayed until recently, and he was ruled by anger. He is now in the habit of being angry, so we try to talk him through his emotions so that he can learn to calm himself down. My daughter is turning 6 soon and she has some volatile anger issues lately that, I believe, are tied to school being out for the summer, and a change of routine. She doesn’t like that change at all. I’ve been having her isolate herself and do something calming so she can relax a little bit and breathe. Having kids is SO much more difficult than the standard feeding and wiping little rear ends. All these things you just don’t think about until you HAVE kids are just crazy! #client

    • Thanks for sharing this! I know the association between language/speech and anger. I actually did my dissertation on that very topic. I can’t imagine how hard it is to have so much to say, and not have people understand you OR to try to tell others why you are upset, and not be able to find the words!

  15. I took my boys to see this movie and I laughed and cried! It’s so sweet and a great way to start the conversation. Cute ideas!

  16. What a great idea and anything that gets kids to be interactive talking about things is a bonus for me!

  17. My daughter is looking forward to watching this movie. The emotion jar is a great conversation starter.

  18. Britney says:

    This is such a great idea! I will need to do this when my little one gets a little older!

  19. This is so great. It can be so difficult for kids to express themselves and I know this could help!

  20. so cute, my kids really enjoyed this movie!

  21. What a nice idea! I so want to see thati movie too! Haven’t made it yet

  22. I love this idea! It’s so important to get the kids to talk about their feelings! It’s done to rarely.

  23. I really want to see this movie and what a great idea.

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