Practice identifying, expressing, and responding to emotions through play.
After a year unlike any other, it’s okay (and expected!) for kids and grown-ups to have big feelings, even many different big feelings at once. Understanding feelings and the feelings of others can help us be kinder to the people around us and build resilience for changes, challenges, and when things feel just plain hard.
What you need:
- Washi tape or string (if using string, you’ll also need regular tape)
How It Works:
- Tape a long string or washi tape to a wall or along a doorway to make the vine.
- Cut out each of the leaves from this printable and color them with your child.
- Use tape to stick your leaves onto the feelings vine.
- As you go, talk about the emotion each leaf represents. Ask your child to demonstrate the feeling, and invite them to talk about the things or events that make them feel that way.
Tip: Try using prompts like, “Can you remember a time you were angry? What made you feel that way? What happened?” You can then brainstorm strategies for coping with that emotion next time. Walking through these scenarios starts to build the tools children need to deal with challenging emotions and reminds them that they have the support to get there.
More Ways to Use the Feelings Vine:
Make It a Ritual
Have your child start (or end) every day by picking a leaf from the Feelings Vine to describe their mood. For older kids, have them select a leaf after getting home from school to give them an opportunity to reflect on their day. For more on family rituals, check out our post.
Pick a leaf from the tree and show it to your child while calling out the emotion and giving them an instruction (for example, “Jump in an angry way!”). It’s a fun opportunity to get moving, too!
Say It This Way
Have your child choose a phrase that doesn’t innately have emotion behind it (something like, “Here’s my stuffed animal.”) Then, pick a leaf off the vine and have them say the phrase using the feeling you selected. While this activity is sure to spark many giggles, it will also give your child first-hand experience with how their tone can change the meaning of what they say, an essential social skill.
Take the leaves off the vine and put them face-down in a pile. Select from the top of the stack and act it out, allowing your child to guess which feeling you picked. Then, switch roles!
Start A Gratitude List
Use the vine to create a gratitude list by encouraging your child to identify things that bring them joy. Then, write their ideas down together. Hang the gratitude list up, and invite them to update it (with your help) often.
Build Friendship Skills
Select a leaf from the vine and ask your child how they might react if a friend felt that way. (e.g., “What would you do if your friend was feeling sad? How would you make them feel better?”) Use a stuffed animal to turn the activity into a role-play exercise!
Use Your Vine as a Tool
Put the vine somewhere prominent in the house. Whenever your child feels a strong emotion, ask them to point to what they’re feeling on the tree. This quick reset can help them check-in, calm down, and communicate how they’re feeling. It’s also great for you to use, too! You can pull a leaf from the tree and say, “Mom/Dad is feeling a little ——- right now.” While we never want to worry our kids, modeling how to manage emotions like sadness, anger, and disappointment teaches them a valuable skill. Cut yourself a break, let yourself feel your feelings, and let your child know it’s okay, too.
If you’re looking for more hands-on tools to explore emotions through play, we recommend our Explore Feelings Kit.