Arts and Crafts Tip: Stick, Color, and Paint Your Way to Emotional Awareness

This week on the Melissa & Doug blog, we’re exploring emotions and all the wonderful ways you can help your children build emotional intelligence.

Yesterday, we highlighted 5 easy, everyday tips, like using the low-stress environment of playtime to talk about what different emotions look and feel like.  Using the arts and crafts your child is comfortable with is a great way to conduct these conversations: in a comfortable, non-confrontational way, you can ask your child to discuss what certain emotions “look like” without putting her on the spot. Here’s a simple “emotion-themed” art project to help spark these conversations:

Step 1: Gather Up Your Child’s Favorite Arts and Crafts

Make this activity exciting for your child by using the tools she enjoys most, like paint or stickers. If your child is a new writer, you may want to focus more on drawing versus writing down her feelings (although alphabet stickers may be a nice way to sneak in a little letter-learning, too!)

Step 2: Introduce the Activity

Present the activity in a way that will appear exciting! Ask your child to create posters for a bedroom or playroom, with each poster representing a different emotion. We recommend telling the child up front that the posters will be created with you. This may eliminate any pressure the child could potentially feel about creating something “on display” or while being watched.

Step 3: Pick Your “Feelings”

Ask your child if she knows what a “feeling” is. Then, ask her to share some examples.  (Tip: go with the flow. If your child doesn’t follow the process you had originally intended for an activity, or immediately come up with a specific emotion, go along with how the project naturally progresses. Start with something they do understand  like the concept of “fun” for example. You may discover some things you hadn’t anticipated!)

 Step 4: Have an Ongoing Conversation versus Waiting to “Show-and-Tell”

Rather than asking your child to “present” their poster to you when finished, work side by side, talking through what each image represents. Ask her to elaborate on certain pictures, and how certain situations make her feel specific emotions. We also recommend you provide your own pictures about things that make you feel a certain emotion to lead by example.

Finally, allow your child to start with more “traditional” or generic drawings, and then guide her to more personal ones. For example, she may draw a picture of a monster, which most children are “scared” of. You can then ask what other things in her life may inflict fear, such as being in the dark, a shot from the Doctor, and so on. The key is to start “general” and move toward the personal, guiding her along the way with your own insights and experiences.

Have you ever done a similar project with your child to explore emotions? We would love your input and feedback in the comments below, or you can e-mail us at socialmedia@melissaanddoug.com.