A Jar Full of Feelings is a visual sensory regulation activity to help children recognize and respond appropriately to their feelings.
Explaining feelings and emotions to young children can be complicated; especially so for children on the Autism Spectrum. I had been making progress with one of my young students by drawing comic strips and meters but one day he told me, “This is not working. I have too many feelings!” The next level after recognizing and regulating one’s emotions is to realize that there are many times that we have mixed emotions and we have choices about how we respond to those emotions.
- Recognizing and regulating feelings
- Sharpie pen
Take a jar and write the numbers 1-5 on the side of the jar. You can draw a horizontal line to clearly measure level 1, 2, etc.
Have the child assign a color to an emotion. Then have the child fill the jar to the level that they feel their emotion is at that time. Talk about what is causing the emotion as they put each pompom into the jar. For instance, your child is disappointed because a favorite toy was lost. Have them tell you what they are feeling: sad, angry, etc. as they put the pompoms in the jar. If they keep filling the jar past the level where one would expect that emotion to be then talk to the child about how that emotion grew bigger than it needed to be. Then take another jar for calm and happy feelings. Have the child talk about what helps them feel calm or happy as they put the pompoms into the jar. Then go back to the “disappointed” or “angry” jar. Ask the child if they are willing to take any of the pompoms out of the jar.
Hopefully, they will. If not, try to entice them by making a game of throwing or “exploding” the pompoms.
If a child is too angry to place the pompoms in the jar in the first place have them throw the pompoms into the jar; it will help them work off some frustration.