Color Your Emotions

This simple art project can help kids build up the brain-body connection and get in touch with their emotions.

By Taylor Freeman, M.S., LPC, LMFT Group Innovation Manager | Mar 06, 2015

Momentous Institute Therapeutic Group Leader Taylor Freeman shares an art activity that is perfect for helping kids with the brain-body connection.
When we feel big emotions, it’s not uncommon for us to have a physical reaction. I know I’ve felt stress like a knot in my stomach, or I’ve felt relief like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. Being able to identify where we feel this emotion is important. If we can be more attuned to our feelings, and our body’s reaction to feelings, we’ll be better able to self-regulate.
I work in a therapeutic program at Momentous with pre-teen kids. This is an age where kids are particularly confused about their emotions and also about their bodies. So to help them make the connection, we introduced this activity called Color Your Emotions.
For starters, here’s the template we use. I tell them that today we’re going to do an art project. I say:
I want you to think about a time in your life when you felt incredibly happy. Maybe you were spending time with your friends or family. Maybe something really exciting happened or you got really good news. Once you recall that time of feeling very happy, I want you to notice where you feel that emotion in your body. Allow yourself to smile as you feel happiness in your body. Now take a deep breath in, and let it out.
I ask them to open their eyes and choose a color for happiness and color in the area of the body where they felt happiness.

Emotions Example1

We continue on and they do the same for anger. I ask them to make a fist with their right hand. We take a deep breath in, and we release it. Then I ask them to compare how their right hand feels to their left hand. We choose a color for anger, and we color that emotion in on the sheet.
Next we move on to pride. I ask them to raise their arms above their head as you would in celebrating a victory. We take a deep breath in. We release it. This goes on for the other emotions listed on the sheet, which are sadness and regret. For each one I have them do a physical movement that corresponds to the emotion and then release it as they breathe out.

Emotions Example2

The bottom of the sheet has questions about how they react to these emotions. This section is especially important for processing the activity. It’s one thing for a child to identify that she feels happy or sad in her body; it takes it another step further for her to know how she responds when she feels this emotion. Giving kids the tools to link what’s going on with their feelings and their bodies is really powerful!