Got Feelings?

Today I'm excited because I'm guest posting over at the Character Educator and Pam Dyson, a Play Therapist from the Show-Me State, has stopped by for a guest post at the Corner. Pam has shown me a thing or two since we've connected in cyberspace. Welcome, Pam!

Tools to Help Children with Emotional Identification
by Pam Dyson

Most children are visual learners and they often struggle with being able to identify emotions.  When we provide children with objects that represent their emotions it makes them concrete and helps them make sense of their feelings.

Part of what I love about being a play therapist is the ability to be creative in finding new tools to help children explore and express feelings. I’m also a budget friendly therapist so the items I buy need to be affordable. For that reason I love dollar stores and bargain bins at discount stores.

During a recent trip to Target I found these colorful maracas in the dollar spot aisle. With the help of a permanent marker I added some simple facial expressions to each maraca. Children can pick up a maraca, identify the feeling, and shake it to demonstrate the intensity of that feeling. I also provide them with brief scenarios to which they can respond with how they might feel in that situation and then shake the respective maraca. The more intense the feeling the more the maraca is shaken.

photo of feeling maracas

If you don’t have maracas you could use bells. I found four bells in graduated sizes and attached a small ribbon loop to each one. When a child is sharing a feeling they’re having they can shake the bell that reflects how big or small that feeling is for them.

photo of feeling bells

A number scale can be used in a similar way. I’ve been using one with my clients for five years. It’s simplistic enough for a young child to understand yet adults find it to be a helpful tool when trying to explain the depth of their feelings. If a child is telling me their friend wouldn’t play with them and they felt sad I would ask them to show me how sad they felt with zero being not sad at all and ten being super sad. If the number was eight we could discuss things the child could do to move the scale to a number where they wouldn’t be so sad anymore. The number scale not only gauges emotional intensity, it also provides opportunities for brainstorming coping skills.

photo of feelings number scale

When children are given opportunities to explore and express their feelings they become more self-aware and self-assured. They learn how to manage their emotions, develop frustration tolerance and have healthy interactions with their world. What tools do you use to help them better understand their feelings?

Author Bio: Pam Dyson, MA, LPC, RPT, is a child development expert, parenting coach, licensed professional counselor, nationally certified counselor and registered play therapist. In addition to her private practice in Ballwin, MO, she serves as a mental health consultant, provides licensure supervision and appears regularly on KMOV’s Great Day St. Louis.

As the founder and director of the St. Louis Center for Play Therapy Training, Pam is a sought after trainer, facilitating play therapy workshops across the U.S. As an adjunct professor she teaches a graduate course in play therapy at Lindenwood University. She is a graduate of the 2012 Leadership Academy Class of the Association for Play Therapy (APT) and most recently served as a member of the APT Technology Task Force, exploring applications of emerging technologies in play therapy instruction, practice and supervision.

Visit Pam online at You Tube, on her blog, at her Pinterest page, or on Facebook

Oh, and don't forget to leave a comment on yesterday's post (by 10/28 at 10 am) for your chance to win a copy of 
Kathleen T. Pelley's The Giant King!  


  1. Thanks, Pam, for these great ideas - I'm off to Target to look for those adorable maracas! I've used a number line for a long time now, but never thought to actually have a visual so I'll be making one of those, too! And the bells? Brilliant. I'm overflowing with gratitude!


  2. I always enjoy reading your blog and it's an honor to be a contributor today. Hope my ideas inspire others. I'll look forward to hearing how your students like using bells to express their feelings.

  3. These are very clever ideas! I especially like the bells. I use bells here at home sometimes to let my Mom Person know that I need something. You are one clever lady!

  4. Great ideas! Thank you for sharing.


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