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