A vital but often overlooked tool in helping children learn to effectively manage their emotions is teaching healthy coping skills. Parents can help their children learn these skills through role-modeling, encouragement, positive reinforcement, and verbal praise. It is never too early to start. This DIY coping skills box is a fun and simple way to help children learn and implement coping skills into their routine. This can help reduce temper tantrums, lessen anxiety and sadness, and boost self-esteem. It can also pave the way for self-care techniques they can take with them into adulthood.
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One of the greatest things about this DIY coping skills box is that it can be completely customized to fit each child’s individual needs and preferences. Even older adolescents and teens may enjoy creating their own unique coping skills box. All it takes is a few supplies and some imagination.
The tutorial for this DIY coping skills box is meant to be a guide but all rules can be thrown out the window. The main objective is to have fun, be creative, and allow the child to create something that they love. Putting effort and their own unique spin on it means it is more likely to be used! To get started, you will need a box or container of some kind. I found this cheap cardboard box at Walmart for less than $1 per box. They are currently sold out online, but may be available in store. You can also find these bundles online, which could be perfect for school counselors, therapists, or teachers. Otherwise, check in store, craft stores, or around the house.
Next, paint and decorate! It really is that simple. I prefer to paint with acrylic paint because it covers the cardboard so well, dries quickly, (which is important when working with children with short attention spans), and cleans up easily. For decorating, I love using these sticky stencils. Since they stick straight to the cardboard, you don’t have to mess with taping or the paint bleeding through the lines as can happen with regular non-stick stencils (see photo below). Other ideas for decorating can include printing out pretty pictures, quotes, or positive self-affirmations, or sticking on jewels or stickers.
Once the box has been created and dried, the next fun part comes in deciding what to include inside. Because this is a coping skills box, all items should be usable coping skills. Therefore, the contents will depend on the age of the child and which coping skills are effective for him or her. The options are endless.
Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Free printable coping skills cards
- Bubbles (for distraction and deep breathing)
- Small pad of paper and pen (to write or rip up shreds of paper)
- Free printable mandalas
- Small coloring book and colored pencils
- Fidget spinner
- Pictures of family or friends
- Bubble wrap (cut into small pieces, for distraction or anger management)
- Fidgets or tangles
- Activity books
- Small puzzle
You can also create some DIY coping skills projects to add to the box:
It’s important that children understand the objective of the coping skills box and are encouraged to use it when needed. Have any other ideas for what to include inside of a DIY coping skills box? Help someone else out by leaving your ideas in the comments below!