Month: August 2018

52 Things I Love About You (A Keepsake to Make for Your Child That I Promise He’ll Treasure)

When my oldest son was seven-years-old I made him a “52 Things I Love About You” card deck. I placed a white label on each playing card of a new deck of cards and wrote something I loved about him on each card. My son is now twelve-years-old. I walked into his room a couple weeks ago and found the deck of cards lying on his desk and learned that he still sometimes gets them out and looks at them! I was surprised. My so-tough, strong-willed, almost-teenage son not only kept the cards I thoughtfully made for him all those years ago, he actually still pulls them out and looks at them!

After seeing how much the cards meant to my oldest son, I decided I would do the same thing for my youngest son, who is on the verge of turning six. This time I decided instead of using white labels and a sharpie, I would create a Word document to make my 52 labels for each of the cards.

At first the idea of thinking of 52 different positive things to say in general seemed a little overwhelming. It’s not that I wondered if I could come up with 52 things that I love about my son – give me time and I can come up with hundreds! But when you first sit and stare at your page of paper to do your brainstorming, it’s a little intimidating. Thus, I decided to use my Notes app on my cell phone and over the course of a couple hours, as I would think of something, I’d stop and make a note in my app. I personally found this much simpler and less intimidating than sitting at a blank sheet of paper or blank document on a computer screen. I was able to brainstorm 70 things (of the hundreds) that I love about my youngest child in no time!

That evening I sat and created a new Word document, inserted a table in the document and chose 52 of my brainstormed items to make sure to include in my deck of playing cards. After printing my table out, I cut each individual rectangle and glued one item onto each card with a glue stick. I also created a label for the card box: 52 Things I Love About JACK.

The next morning after my youngest woke up, I asked him to sit on my lap and I read each card to him while he alternated between looking at his new cards and hugging my neck, grinning from ear to ear.

I don’t know if he will save his cards like his stronger-willed older brother has, but it was definitely worth it just to be able to spend that time with him sharing so many of the special things I love about him. As I did with my oldest, I’ll get them out from time to time and read them to him again and again – because every kid deserves a reminder.

Variations

There are a number of ways you can vary this keepsake activity. You can use white labels and a Sharpie marker like I did with my oldest son. You could also just use a Sharpie marker to write on the actual cards themselves. If you want to get really crafty, you can print and cut out pictures to glue onto the individual cards. You can also hole punch your cards and bind them together with a ring or two to assure that the cards stay together.

Free Printable List of Ideas

For this post I typed up my initial 70-item brainstorming list to share in case anyone might need ideas or some help getting started. Just remember to personalize your own list for your child, as all of our kiddos are unique and special in their very own ways. Click below to see my own list.

52 Things I Love About You

Have fun!

Feelings Buzzer… Teaching Children How to Identify Their Feelings

Being able to recognize and name your emotions is one of the most important skills a child can learn. Knowing how to identify your emotions is the first step in learning how to express them more appropriately and for implementing strategies for managing your emotions. Often you’ll find when a child acts out, it is because they don’t know how to otherwise identify or express their big feelings any other way.

The feelings buzzer activity is a great way to help teach young children how to identify their feelings. I first learned about this activity from the book “Creative Ways to Help Children Manage BIG Feelings” by Dr. Fiona Zandt and Dr. Suzanne Barrett. It’s best when the child has already worked on learning at least some basic feelings vocabulary beforehand. It’s an activity that can be easily completed with parents in the home, with therapists in the counseling setting, or with school counselors and their students.

Creating a Feelings Buzzer

First you will need something to serve as a buzzer. This can be a round laminated circle or a piece of craft foam cut in the shape of a buzzer. The authors note that you can also use a bell, though some kids can be distracted by this and become more focused on ringing the bell than on completing the activity.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

What to Do

Praise the child for the good job they’ve done on learning about feelings. Talk to them about how their body changes when they experience various feelings, and explain how hard it is to notice these changes sometimes when we’re working or playing hard at home or at school.
Next suggest practicing noticing any changes while they’re playing today by using a “buzzer.” Every time they notice any changes in their feelings, they should hit their buzzer. If done as a family activity, suggest that they hit the buzzer also when they notice any changes in how others around them feel. You can also make it where each family member has their own individual buzzer so the child can hit that person’s buzzer as well if they notice someone else’s feelings changing.
Make a silly buzz or beep sound when you hit the buzzer and have the child do this too. This further engages the child, and it pairs a noticeable sound with their thought, “My own or someone else’s feelings changed.”
Allow the child the chance to practice by role play, demonstrating changes in your feelings through words, facial expressions, and/or body language cues. While using words to demonstrate a change in feelings is great, remember that no one is able to verbally communicate how they feel all the time, so it’s good to make sure that you reinforce the fact that sometimes we can notice a change in a person’s feelings by watching their face and body cues (including our own), and that sometimes people don’t use words to indicate that their feelings have changed. Switch roles and allow the child to practice changing his feelings through words, facial expressions, and body language cues as well.
Leave the buzzer somewhere prominent and engage the child in playing a game. The authors of this activity suggest using board games, as they offer the experience of winning and losing, which frequently evokes emotions in children. When the child hits the buzzer have them explain what they noticed and think of a feeling word to describe it. For instance, a child may feel excited and smile and raise their arms if they win. You can hit the buzzer if the child doesn’t and ask that they look closely at what is going on inside of them or in someone else so as to elicit and reinforce keeping an eye out for changes in feelings.

Adaption for Children Who are New to Identifying Their Feelings

For children who have learned the basic emotions (such as happy, sad, angry, and scared) but are still working on identifying what they are feeling and may not quite be ready to delve into how observable body changes can signal us to changes in emotions, I adapted this activity.
Finding a feelings chart with various basic emotions, I cut out pictures of the feelings the child is already familiar with in addition to a few extra feelings to add to their emotions vocabulary. I prefer to use a feelings chart in which the feelings face is either an animated cartoon face or a photograph of a real-life facial expression versus using emoji faces for this activity. I then tape or glue a different feelings face on one’s own individual note card (for instance, one card might have a sad face while another card has a happy face). I also write and label each card so the child can see what the word looks like when it is written or typed.
Emotion Cards
When we play a game or do an activity, I lay the individual emotions cards out to the side where we can still see them while we play. As we play, I will prompt the child occasionally as to what he is feeling at that moment. For example, if the child looks to be getting frustrated because he thinks he is losing, I stop and ask him what he is feeling at that time; whether he is able to verbalize his feeling with or without a visual emotion card cue, I ask him to go ahead and either “buzz” or point out which card demonstrates the emotion he is feeling. If the child isn’t sure what he is feeling, I ask him to look over the emotion cards and point to the one that seems to fit best.
When the child and I are just talking in general during an activity or game, say about how the school day went yesterday, I will throw in the question, “How did that make you feel when that happened?” The child is then cued to stop and examine his feelings for that time, then he either buzzes or points out the appropriate emotion card. You can also use the cards to elicit conversations about empathy and to help children explore how others might feel in a given situation.
There are a number of ways you can adapt the feelings buzzer for any stage of emotion identification learning! Just have fun!
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