I love the activity idea that I am going to share with you today. It is simple, low-cost, appeals to a wide age range, and can be used for children dealing with any number of emotional challenges. The idea was actually first shared with me by a parent who uses it with her son.
The craft is a coping pillow – well a pillowcase that the child or youth can then put over a pillow at home. I have often recommended using pillows as a coping strategy. Perhaps a child learning to control his anger might punch or scream into a pillow. A child struggling with depression or grief might find comfort in hugging a pillow. Or a child dealing with anxiety and trauma might find holding a pillow against herself brings both comfort and a sense of grounding.
This activity encourages the use of a special pillow for any of these kinds of coping situations. Furthermore, it makes use of the soothing nature of creativity and encourages mindful engagement in the present moment.
You Will Need:
A plain pillowcase (I picked one up from the Dollar Tree)
This activity is so simple and is also versatile, so the child or young person can really make it his own. The child could do the craft in its entirety at home or the therapist could allow the child to use time in session.
1) Find a plain pillowcase (I prefer white, but really any light colour would work) and some markers.
2) Put a piece of cardboard or a file folder in the middle of the pillowcase so the colours don’t bleed through. You may also want to play around with a few different makes of pillowcase and markers. As you will see from some of my images, my markers bled across the surface of this pillowcase a bit. Different brands will react differently. Younger children probably won’t care, but teens might.
3) Ask the child to draw some designs, words, or phrases that make him feeling calm and peaceful. Use stencils or look up patterns online. He may choose to draw the initial designs in pencil.
4) The child can do as much drawing in this initial session as he likes. Drawing or tracing pattern outlines is best, as then he can colour them in without having to come up with design ideas while dealing with intense emotions. In any case, just make sure to leave plenty of blank space so the child can draw or colour as a coping strategy when he is upset.
Allow the child to take the pillowcase home and put it on a pillow. Instruct the child and parent that whenever he is experiencing strong emotion and needs help to feel calm, he can soothe himself by drawing or colouring on his pillow. Of course, he can also scream into it or punch it if he needs to – it’s his special pillow after all.