Let’s talk about feelings. Imagine being 3 feet tall. Everyone around you is bigger and has more power than you and gets to make the rules and decide whether or not you get ice cream. You are expected to regulate your behavior, make good choices, and know just what to do with all of those big feelings you have.
To be fair, regulating emotions is challenging no matter how old you are, but for children who are relatively new to the world it’s actually really tough. Children are learning how to connect what they are thinking with what they are feeling, they are figuring out how to tell us how they are feeling even when they don’t always have the correct words, and they are trying to manage all of the new sensory information they are encountering each day.
There is plenty of evidence that says combining physical activity with emotional processing tasks can help children better regulate their responses. Here are the instructions to a game that encourages whole body movement during emotional processing. If you have ever played Candy Land this game will look familiar to you.
- Different colored shapes for the giant game board (you could use pieces of construction paper or search web stores for poly spot markers).
- A spinner or color cards to draw, you can search for an online spinner or print and cut out the attached cards.
Start by laying shapes out in a path on the floor or, outside in the yard. Everyone takes turns spinning the spinner or drawing a color card. When you get a color you move your body to the first square of that color. Each color is associated with a feeling word, the yellow is for happy, blue for sad, orange for scared, green for excited, red for mad.
Once you land on that color encourage your child talk about the associated feeling. You could try asking:
- what does _______ mean?
- have you ever felt ______?
- when do people feel ______?
- when was the last time you felt ______?
- how can you tell when someone is ______?
- tell me a story about someone who feels _____?
- what happens when I feel ______?
The idea here is to encourage your child to move her body and talk about feelings at the same time. Consider moving from spot to spot like giant elephants or tall flamingos or by hopping or by walking backwards. There’s no wrong way to do this. Be lighthearted and encouraging with lots of laughter. Your child will learn that talking about feelings is not dangerous and will be practicing emotional regulation paired with healthy physical movement.