Feelings Catcher

Activity Type: Craft
Stage of Counselling: Middle, Ending
Supplies Needed: Plain paper, markers, craft supplies as desired

Remember cootie catchers from grade school? Basically they are paper games, folded from a single sheet of paper to look like this:

Kids play the game by picking one of the four outer sections. Next you spell the word or count the number while opening the game up or out with each letter or number. If I picked 3, I would open up, out, up. At this point you will see a middle section of options – again, it could be a word, a colour, a number. At this point you can repeat the up and out process once more or you can unfold whichever flap is chosen for the final layer of options.

I’ve used this game in counselling to make either an “anger catcher” containing coping skills specifically for anger, or a “feelings catcher” with more generalized coping strategies for dealing with difficult feelings. This game works well in the middle or end of counselling, after you have had time to develop some strategies for managing emotions. Kids up to about 10 or 11 enjoy making and decorating their catcher and they have fun finding out what strategy they get. They can keep the game and use it when they are in need of a tool to handle their tough feelings.

1) This site has great folding instructions with pictures you can follow: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-cootie-catcher/

I keep these instructions close by during sessions, as the game won’t work if you don’t fold it correctly. It might be good to fold up an example so kids can see the finished product before they start (And also so you know you can do it properly).

2) If you are making a general “Feelings Catcher,” you can write different feelings like sad, mad, scared, lonely, or whatever emotions are going to be relevant to your client, on the outermost level. Adding a picture of the appropriate facial expression can help in recognizing their own and others’ feelings states. Or if you are making a catcher just for anger or another emotion, you can pick different levels of that emotion (irritated, grumpy, angry, enraged), if your client understands those words, or you can pick colours or numbers.

3) Pick a second set of words for the inside. I stay away from using feelings on this level as well, simply because the child might not have the option to pick what he/she is feeling. If the child get to pick between sad, tired, scared, and lonely, but she’s feeling angry, she may feel frustrated that the game did not work for her. Instead, use numbers or some other word or symbol (heart, sun, diamond, etc.).

4) On the inside flap, put whatever coping strategies you and/or the client have chosen to use to deal with her emotions. Some anger examples could include: Count to 10, go outside and kick the soccer ball around, Take a break, Take 5 deep breaths.

5) The client can add colour or whatever decorations she wants, so long as it doesn’t impede the opening and closing of the game.

6) Play the game and practice the strategies. Send the game home with your client. Not only can she use it when she needs a coping strategy, but her knowledge of the strategies will be reinforced as she shares the game with her caregiver or siblings at home.

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Carey EmmersonFeelings Catcher