Updated: May 29, 2020
PROJECT: STRESS BAG
AGE RANGE: 5-12 suggested GOAL: To teach children to utilize coping skills when he/she feels stressed emotionally and/or physically in order to learn how to problem-solve and regulate themselves on their own.
THERAPY: Individual and Family. SYMPTOM REDUCTION: Feeling "Stressed," agitated, or helpless. SYMPTOM INCREASE: Self-awareness, self-esteem, self-regulation, and self-reliance.
MATERIALS: 1 Bag with Handles
CHOOSE 3 that work for your Child
Stress Ball DIY recipe HERE
Play-doh DIY recipe HERE Bubble Wrap- precut into 12” squares
Optional if you have one:
Sensory Body Sox HERE
Introduce the task by explaining to your child that "you are going to help your child learn to manage "stressful" feelings with the use of a special bag you will explore and create together."
Continue to explain that within the bag:
"There will be special skills for you to do as a "daily practice" every day, knowing there is a part of you that is experiencing more stress than usual, so we need to give them the attention they are acting out for and learn ways to express them."
The order is not important.
Stress Ball: The child is told the stress ball is used to put all his/her stress into the ball by squeezing it, sitting on it, flattening it etc. The child does this until he/she feels their stress has been relieved and can move on.
Bubble Wrap: Bubble wrap is used to help a child focus their energy in one place all the while externalizing “stress” in a fun way. The child is instructed to take 1 piece of the bubble wrap, (which is pre-cut, you may include as many as you would like.) Then the child is told to stand on the bubble wrap and begin popping the bubbles with his/her feet. The parent/therapist can explore with the child how the wrap feels beneath his/her feet, what are they popping away? Where is the stress going?
Paper to Draw: The child is told the “Paper to Draw” is used to draw pictures about their stress. The child can draw pictures of the person and event and/or write words that express his/her stress. (See attached Paper to Draw Cover page for drawing book.)
Play-doh Rip-Squish-Spaghetti Technique: This technique teaches a child how to regulate and externalize their “stressful” feelings. The child is instructed to open the play-doh, take out the play-doh and say out loud “RIP” while breaking it into 2 pieces. The child is then instructed to say the word “SQUISH” while squeezing his/her feelings into the play-doh, then the child says “SPAGHETTI” while separating his fingers so that the play-doh squishes right through them like spaghetti. Tell the child to begin all over again with Rip-Squish-Spaghetti. He/she should do this 5-10 times until they feel more relaxed. Tell the child, this tool will help him/her release their "stressful feelings into the play-doh" instead of somewhere else where someone may get hurt.
Bubbles Blow-away-disappear technique: The bubbles are used for blowing, of course. The child is instructed to sit down in a chair while performing this task. He/she is going to imagine seeing the stressful feelings enter the bubble and then disappear when it pops. Encourage the child to focus, feel the lightness of the bubble gliding within their control. Each bubble he/she blows they watch until it pops, so that the child begins to regain focus and internalize a sense of calm.
Stress Busters: The child with the help of the parent/therapist will create 3-8 Stress Busters and write them on the card. These are also stored in the bag and the child is told he/she can reach in the bag and pick one out at any time and they will tell him/her what to do with their stress. Examples of Stress Busters are: (See attached cards.) 1. STRETCH my BODY like a CAT!!! Meow!!! 2. FALL on my BED backward 5 times. See if I can BOUNCE back up!!! 3. PRETEND I'm a STATUE in a museum for 10 seconds!!! 4. STAND on my TIP-toes and WALK really, really slow to the count of 10!!! Shhh! 5. SMILE really BIG in the mirror to the count of 3!!! 6. TAKE 5 deep BELLY breaths!!! 7. TIGHTEN my BODY for 5 seconds and let it GO!!! Do it 3 more times!!! 8. GO up to SOMEONE in my house and make a really FUNNY face!!
In the end, all of the items are placed back in the bag and the child or parent/therapist writes on the outside of the bag “Things to do when I feel stressed or about my stress to help me calm and catch my breath!.” The child keeps the bag within reach hanging on a doorknob or hooks in his/her room.