Goal(s): This activity can be amazingly useful for kids (ages 11 and up). This activity can help children who are resistant to talking about their feelings to identify and express themselves in a structured and safe way. It can help build insight and can be a great conversation starter for older children and teens to reflect on their emotions.
This activity has been very useful for some older children who are able to be a bit more “reflective” and insightful about their feelings. It can also help when children do not want to talk, and prefer different mediums of expression.
First, have the child draw a “scribble” on the paper with a darker color. Second, let the child know that you will lead them one at a time to identify an emotion and choose a color to represent that emotion. I usually will say, “O.K. Now I want you to choose a color that represents your anxiety. Now color in the pieces of the scribble that you think should be that color. How many spaces should be anxious…” I continue to go through this process slowly with the child with multiple feelings (i.e. angry, sad, lonely, happy, loved, loving, hopeful, depressed, sad, kind, strong, creative etc.).
When the child is complete, you can ask them if you have missed any feelings they want to add. Have the child look closely at the completed piece of art. Then, ask them reflective questions and engage in conversation about the project. Questions may include: What do you notice about your picture? What surprised you? I noticed _____ when you finished the angry color. Which one was the hardest to color? Which one was your favorite to color? What do you think it means that ___ one is right next to the other one? etc.
Make sure that you do not interpret the drawing without the client/child leading you. This can be a scary activity for some children that have difficulty expressing emotions. I have used this activity to start conversations and continue to work on one emotion in future sessions.