Posted in Emotion Identification, Emotion Regulation

Inside Out Feelings and Calming Strategies Worksheets

love using Inside Out when working with kids on emotion identification and emotion regulation.  It’s a fun movie and kids generally have a positive response when they see any of the characters from Inside Out, which mean the activity usually goes rather well.

I have created this worksheet to help kids identify how they’re feeling, how their body might be feeling, and some calming strategies they can use to help calm down.  This is similar to the Inside Out Feelings Book that I posted, but this worksheet is all on one piece of paper… and the reason for that is that I thought it would be nice to print this worksheet out and put it somewhere in the home (on the fridge, maybe?) as a visual prompt from kiddos.

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Download it here: Inside Out Feelings and Calming Strategies Worksheet

What I would do is sit down and help your kiddo fill in the blanks on the worksheet – for each of the four emotions (joy, anger, fear, sadness) there are 3 lines to write in body signals (how their body feels when they feel that emotion) and 3 lines to write an appropriate calming strategy.  Some of the body signals and calming strategies might overlap, but it would probably be beneficial to make sure there’s some variety!

Once it’s all filled out, put it somewhere your kiddo can see it.  Then, when you notice your child getting upset, prompt them to go find their Inside Out Feelings Worksheet, identify how they feel (help them, if needed due to age or development), then identify a calming strategy to use to calm down.

Posted in Emotion Identification, Emotion Regulation

Inside Out Feelings Book

Inside Out seems to make talking about feelings much more enjoyable for children… and maybe adults too.  This Inside Out Feelings book is a great way to get children to identify triggers to happy, sad, mad, worried, and disgusted feelings, and to identify ways they can cope with those five feelings.  There are places for kids to write a trigger and calming strategy for each feeling, then draw their response below.  You can download to print here: Inside Out Feelings Book.

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Posted in Emotion Identification, Emotion Regulation

Feelings Identification and Calming Strategies with an Angry Octopus Supplemental Activity

Remember the post about the Angry Octopus book (by Lori Lite) that teaches progressive muscular relaxation in a way kids can understand?  If not, check it out: Muscular Relaxation with Angry Octopus.

When I find something, like a book or video, that children enjoy, I try to milk it for all it’s worth!  That’s where this Angry Octopus Supplemental Activity comes in… and it’s SO easy.  Just print out or draw (I print out because I’m terrible at drawing) TWO outlines of an octopus.


During therapy (or at home if you’re a parent and want to do this at home), have the child identify 8 things that make them angry and have them write, or write for them, on the octopus tentacles (one thing for each tentacle).  Then have them pick a color that makes them feel angry and have them color in the octopus.  This is their Angry Octopus.

Next, have them identify 8 calming strategies, or things that make them feel calm.  Write these on the tentacles of the second octopus (again, one thing per tentacle).  Then have the kiddo pick a color that makes them feel calm or happy and have them color in that octopus.  This is their Calm/Happy Octopus.

This exercise helps kiddos be more aware of triggers for angry feelings and strategies they can use to calm down when angry.  Bonus!!  They can hang up the Calm/Happy Octopus somewhere (the door of their room, the refrigerator, etc.) as a reminder to use their calming strategies when they are overwhelmed with emotions.



Posted in Emotion Identification

How to Practice I-Feel Statements with a Ball

Everyone, of all ages, could benefit from using I-feel statements to express their feelings.  Often, when people express how they feel, it can come off as attacking, as it can be easy to start with “you,” as in “you shouldn’t raise your voice at me!”  While that statement can be true, oftentimes communication will go more smoothly if you, instead, start with, “I feel sad/angry/frustrated/mad/upset when you raise your voice.”  I-feel statements are less likely to make others feel defensive.

I-feel statements are hard for adults, and kiddos can struggle twice as much!  It takes practice.  And more practice.  And more practice.  Then even more practice!  One way I practice I-feel statements with kiddos is by passing a ball back and forth.  During this activity, children also practice listening and reflecting statements back to others.  Double (or triple) win!

I start with a ball and use an I-statement (not I-feel yet – I give them a chance to warm up with I-statements).  I may say “I like the color blue.”  Then I pass the ball to the kiddo.  He or she will reflect back what I said (“you like the color blue”) then use their own I-statement about their favorite color (“I like the color green”).  Then lots of praise for using those skills.  After a few rounds of listing favorite color, animal, movie, etc., we start with simple “I feel ____” statements.  So I will say “I feel worried” and pass the ball.  The kiddo will then say, “you feel worried. I feel happy.”  And again, lots of praise!!

Once they get the hang of that, we’ll move into more complete I-feel statements, so “I feel ______ because ______.”  So I might say, “I feel happy because I had a cookie at lunch,” then pass the ball.  This kiddo would then say, “you feel happy because you had a cookie for lunch.  I feel sad because I didn’t get to wear my Superman shirt.”  Guess what follows?  Yep, lots of praise!  And lots more practice.

Typically, my next step will be some role-plays with situations they will likely encounter at school or home.  Examples would be using I-feel statements when a sibling took a toy, when they got in trouble at school, or when a peer did something mean to them.  This activity can also be done during family therapy sessions by having the kiddo practice with their parents.

Posted in Emotion Identification

Body Signals Drawing

Children feel the same emotions that adults do, but can have a difficult time labeling them or how these emotions affect their bodies.  Knowing how their bodies react to feelings can help children recognize how they’re feeling faster, and increase their ability to use a calming strategies.  Their body’s response can help be a signal that they need to do something to calm down in order to stay in control of their bodies.

One of the strategies I use to help kiddos increase their awareness of body signals is by having them draw an outline of their body on a piece of paper.  I tell them not to color it in or draw a face just yet.  Then we have a therapeutic discussion about certain body signals that they think they experience when they feel angry.  As we discuss, I have them draw the body signal on their paper.

Some common ones include:

  • Clenched fist
  • Red/hot cheecks
  • Sweaty face
  • Frown
  • Sweaty/clammy hands
  • Growling
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Upset stomach/butterflies in stomach
  • Clenched jaw
  • Tightened/flexed muscles
Posted in Emotion Identification

Soothers and Triggers

To help children (and adults!) understand their emotions, it’s important to help them identify what triggers negative feelings.  Everyone has different triggers.  Large crowds bother me, but there are plenty of people who thrive when in a big crowd of people.  Some kiddos are extremely sensitive to noise, while others enjoy loud music.

Once children are able to identify what triggers negative emotions, they can then identify several “soothers” or coping strategies.  These strategies/activities are meant to help them feel calm or even happy.

I have created a document which includes several soothers (calming strategies) and triggers that are common for children and adults.  Again, everyone is different, but these are often identified as triggering negative emotions, including anger and frustration.



You can find the Soothers and Triggers worksheet here.

Posted in Emotion Identification

Inside Out Feelings Chart

I just found the coolest feelings identification chart.  It uses Inside Out characters… I always get excited when I find something therapeutic that also relates to children!  Kids have a hard time identifying their emotions sometimes… and it can be because they don’t know the right words.  Ninety percent of the time I ask a kiddo how they’re feeling, I get “happy” or “sad,” but emotions are more complicated than that!  This is a great tool to promote kiddo’s knowledge about the spectrum of feelings and be able to identify what they’re feeling.


This is NOT mine… it was posted on this site/blog:

I found it on Facebook, where it was shared by The Gottman Institute (a great resource for marriage/relationship counseling material).

Find the printable version of the Inside Out Feelings Chart here.  I will be printing this and using it with my kiddos.


Posted in Emotion Identification

How to Practice Feelings Identification with UNO

The UNO card game is a great way to work with children on how to identify feelings and express them appropriately.  I had a kiddo request to play UNO today, so I turned it into a therapeutic activity.  Depending on the color of card he played, he had to tell me about a time that he felt a certain way.  Yellow was “happy” and red was “angry” or “mad” – these colors just make sense to me, but can be changed.  Yellow seems like a happy color and red seems like an angry color; of course, my perception may also be altered by the colors/characters in the Inside Out movie. 🙂

Every time the kiddo played a yellow card, he had to tell me about a time that he felt happy.  And he had to use an “I feel” statement.  I offer lots of praise when he gave me a situation that matched the feeling and when he used an “I feel” statement.  If a kiddo were to tell me something didn’t match the feeling (e.g., “I feel happy when my grandma tells me ‘no.'”), then it’s a great opportunity for me to process it with them and help them match it with a more appropriate feeling.

To normalize feelings and model expressing them appropriately, I also follow the modified rules of the game, by sharing about times that I feel a certain way when it’s my turn.