For many students, especially your kinetic learners, the following hands-on activities will help them deal with any anxiety or stress. These coping activities will help them develop resilience that will serve them well their entire life.

Make Worry Dolls

Get pipe cleaners or other supplies and make worry dolls.  This is an old Guatemalan tradition and this can be used at any age. Don’t forget to make some kind of little box or “home” for them. Each night, you can tell your worry doll your worries and let them worry for you. Adults use them also! 

For Older Students: Have them make a worry doll to trade with a friend so the doll they take home also has an additional connection: “My friend made this for me.”

Give Each Student a Token

Give each of them something from you to take home.  If you have time to get some beads and put a few on a little piece of cord, do that.  Little pewter angel coins from the Hallmark store.  If you’ve traveled and have foreign coins left over from trips.  Shrinky dink hearts.  Or just take a slip of colored paper and write something to each student from you.  Suggest that they keep it so when they’re wishing they could be at school, they can read your message again.

Help Students Write Messages to Each Other

Have students write messages to one another on little slips of paper so they  have something to take home from their friends.

Visualize Their Personal Network

Draw a target on a piece of paper. In the center, students list the people who they can talk to most easily. In the second ring, people that they can share a lot with, but maybe not their most inner or private thoughts. Then the next area out is for names of people you are glad to have in your life, maybe because they’re lots of fun or interesting, even though you maybe don’t know them well enough to talk about deep stuff. When they finish, you might give them a second chance to add more. “Look at your people again. Might there be other people you want to add?  (This reinforces that we really do have a network of people in our lives and then also reinforce that this is true for adults as well.)Use the “empty body” template attached. 

Identify Their Feelings

For this activity, use this “empty body” template, one for each student. 

  1. Invite kids to share the names of feelings they think kids might be feeling right now. Notice you’re not asking “how do you feel” but rather you’re generating a list of feelings that include the whole range of what everyone might be feeling.  Then invite kids to use the color that seems to express an emotion they feel, and have them draw that in the body… where do you hold that feeling? 
  2. Next, ask students to look at their pictures and choose one feeling they’d like to decrease, and the place in their bodies where they hold that feeling.  That’s where they’ll focus. Then invite them to close their eyes and as they breathe in, imagine that they’re breathing in warmth that will melt some of that feeling, and when they exhale, the feeling begins to dissipate.  Inhale, melt the feeling, exhale, let it flow away. Have them continue for as long as the group stays focused to do this. Quietly continue the narration.  “Inhale, breathe in the warmth…”  (pause)  “Exhale, let go.” 
  3. Point out to them that they don’t need a template to do this at home. They can just draw a body on paper – big and open like this one – and repeat the exercise. 
  4. Suggest that they could teach their siblings and parents how to do the breathing.