In this blog post, we’re covering all things emotion crafts…or crafts designed to foster emotional development and emotional intelligence, through play and crafting! These emotions crafts are great tools for supporting emotional intelligence in all ages. When you think about it, crafting is a coping mechanism for many, both young and old! Let’s explore specific feelings craft activities that support kids!
emotional regulation Crafts
An emotion craft is one that teaches emotions, or feelings through the craft activity. An emotion craft might include facial expressions, or the ability to express one’s own feelings through the art and craft process. There are many ways kids crafts facilitate underlying skills and development, and emotions and feelings crafting does just that!
How many times have you thought, “I need a time out”, during the past week? As adults, once we recognize the need for a break, we are often able to find a successful strategy to take one.
Children are not as fortunate. They are not able to articulate needing a break, or navigate appropriate activities to help them feel better. Young learners use play as their method to self regulate. In this post we will explore play through Emotional Regulation Crafts to help with this process.
Emotional regulation is a key to success. Getting into the “just right zone” helps with executive function and productivity. The “just right zone” is similar to the Goldilocks effect; not too big, not too small. In the Zones of Regulation® method, the “GREEN ZONE” is often considered the “just right zone”. Emotional regulation in the “just right zone” feels like neither too much or too little input. However, it is tricky to find that sweet spot and stay there.
Practice through communication and play can help your learner find that “just right” feeling. Here is a great overview post on Self Regulation Activities. Building or making things with the hands, can help spark understanding of self regulation, as well as provide much needed input.
Emotional Regulation Crafts are just one strategy to building this understanding, and get your learners into their optimal learning zone.
emotion crafts for teaching
There are different levels of crafts and ideas out there for different types and abilities of students. Some involve journaling, drawing, and writing ideas and feelings. Younger students are not ready to complete this type of self reflection task. They need something more simple and concrete like these emotion craft ideas:
- Pumpkin Emotions– This activity uses a pumpkin to explore emotions, but you can use any shape or theme. Just add fun face to create facial expressions.
- Empathy Beads– Make a set of bracelets and discuss empathy and feelings.
- Coffee Filter Faces– Use paint and googly eyes to create monster faces with all sorts of emotions and facial expressions.
- Fill in the Faces Worksheet– This printable allows kids to fill in the faces and then write about the emotion they drew.
- Slime Emotion Faces- This is an activity we shared many years ago our Instagram page. Make a small ball of slime and pat it down to a flat “face”. Then add googly eyes and use a pipe cleaner to make smiles, frowns, or surprised facial expressions.
- Rock Emotion Faces– Also from our Instagram page, making pet rocks with facial expressions is a fun emotions craft. Just paint the rocks, add googly eyes, and then use a marker or paint to add facial expressions.
- Play with Clay – use clay or play dough as a medium for expressing emotions. Not only is this a great idea for learning, the deep pressure and tactile input involved in sculpting and molding the clay is great for self regulation. Learners can make faces into the dough by poking into it, or adding other colors for facial features. You can add googly eyes, sequins, or other items if needed. Adding different colors for the faces (red for angry, blue for sad) may be another method for teaching feelings, although this may be too abstract for some learners. Other benefits to using clay include the fine motor exercise with clay play.
- Face Masks – print emojis or pictures of different facial expressions onto cardstock. Students can decorate, color, and cut out the faces. They can be glued onto a large craft stick or pain stirrer. Play a pretend role play game with these, or have students learn to hold them up when they want to express a feeling. Use a paper plate to create an emotions face mask. Cut the plate in half and attach string. Then, decorate the mask according to an emotion name.
- Paper Windmill Emotion Craft – learners can create a paper windmill using cardstock or construction paper, a brad to fasten, and a stick. Students can write emotions or draw faces on it to decorate if they like. As students blow onto the windmill, they can learn about soft and hard breathing. Getting direct feedback about their breathing is a helpful learning tool as well as a great way to calm down.
- Tissue Worry Box – Use an upcycled container like a tissue box, or food container to create a worry box. Decorate the box like a monster with a wide open mouth. Students can create their own personalized worry monster by decorating the monster. Then, they can write or draw their worries on paper (or dictate), then put them in the box to give them less power. If this idea takes off, you can purchase (or make) a (Amazon affiliate link. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.) Worry Monster to keep on the bed or under the pillow.
- Plastic egg faces – use plastic Easter eggs and markers to design faces. Have the eyes on one side of the egg and different mouths on the other. Students can have fun mixing and matching different faces
make your own sensory tools
- Make your own fidgets – how cool are these?! Crafting a keepsake, or one to share with others is a great idea
- Identify feelings – Have students cut out faces from magazines and identify what zone they are in, their arousal level, or how they are feeling. They can make a big chart to sort all of the people
- Do it yourself calm down bottle – Fill a water bottle with oil and water, then add glitter, or other fun stuff. Making this is an enjoyable activity, then using is as a calm down tool is a great idea.
emotional regulation crafts for adding input
Sometimes arts and crafts do not have to have an “end product”. Often just the process of creating or playing is a great strategy for self regulation.
- Sand table or tray – free play in sand is great. Add tools, water, and other toys to build it to the next level. I love these (affiliate link) Zen sand trays for simple relaxing play.
- Kinetic sand – another relaxing sensory art game without limits. Check out this 3 ingredient kinetic sand recipe.
- Painting – finger paints, painting on large paper, painting with Q-tips, painting on ice, the options are endless. Here are 105 Creative Painting Ideas!
- Art play – here is a resource from the OT Toolbox for Art Play ideas
- Scribbling – have you ever wanted to grab all of the markers at once and just scribble all over the paper? Do it! There is something liberating in just scribbling for no good reason.
- Creative collage – all you need is some craft supplies and glue. Pull out the sequins, pompoms, stickers, colored rice, beads, googly eyes, or whatever else you have handy and some liquid glue. Let your students get creative, or just sticky!
- Partner Art Trade – Making things to share with others is a great “feel good” activity. Friendship bracelets – the art of knotting string is a great stress reliever (unless you are frustrated by the process). Other ideas might be macrame, knitting, crochet, drawing, sewing, or other projects that make us feel proud of accomplishment, while regulating emotions.
emotion crafts for older learners
Older kids can benefit from emotion crafts too. Some ideas include more complex crafting or art processes like bead work, ceramics, or weaving.
Several of the feelings craft ideas include :
- making a cootie catcher
- drawing the Zones of Regulation
- making a feelings spinner
- Emotions play dough mats
- feelings flip chart
- make your own worry doll
- Use this monster emotions I Spy activity
- During the holidays, try this Santa emotions worksheet
- circle of control – write the things you can control in your circle, and all of the things you can not, on the outside
- create a poster of a personal mantra that lifts you up or makes you feel good
- a hand made emotions boardgame might be a fun activity for a group
- Paper craft chain – write/draw/dictate positive traits and happy thoughts to make into a paper chain
- wearable fidgets are a great self regulation tool, and fun to make and share
other activities for emotional regulation
If your students are not into arts and crafts, or find them more frustrating than helpful, there are other ways to use play to learn about or improve emotional regulation. Emotional Regulation Games are great activities.
what is your go to activity for emotional regulation?
While I hate to admit it, I have an unhealthy relationship with Etsy and Amazon. Browsing, shopping, and receiving cool stuff is a thrill. I try and mix this up with some light reading, coloring, crafting, laying by the pool, and an occasional nap. While my kids were young I neglected my needs and did not use my emotional regulation tools often enough. This led to some serious Caregiver Burnout. Make sure that while you are focusing your attention on helping those around you, that you take a minute for yourself as well.
Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.
Exploring Books Through Play: Friendship, Acceptance, and Empathy Activities for Kids is a digital ebook with crafts, activities, and hands-on exploration of social emotional skills, all based on popular children’s books.