Parenting intentionally is hard work. The act of raising self-focused children into loving adults takes a lot out of me somedays, even though it is my driving force.
My biggest wish for parenting is to raise kind humans; I strive to model compassion, to sow seeds of love, and to have healthy conversations about emotions. Teaching our children emotional health doesn’t just benefit them, it benefits the world. A healthy understanding of emotions helps us move through them thoughtfully and productively and allows us to be more sensitive to them in others.
This is why I love any tools that open the discussion. I know the true life lessons are not taught by one, big lecture and then never to be spoken of again. They are taught by open and consistent dialouge.
My children are four and two, so we spend a lot of time discussing the faces we make when sad or angry. The way our bodies give clues to our feelings. That way we can recognize them in ourselves or in others.
These play dough placemats are a tool we have used multiple times to encourage awareness.
I begin by drawing a faceless bust on a piece of paper and having the kids pick hair or shirt colors. After the drawing is complete, I laminate it (laminator available, here) and let them get to work making faces. It is a great opportunity to discuss different emotions and how we showcase them
“How can you tell if someone is sad? What if they aren’t crying? Do their eyes look heavy?”
“What does it look like when you are afraid? Do your eyes get bigger? Do you open your mouth or clench it?”
“How about when you are happy? How does that feel? What helps get you back there?”
These activities pave the way for wonderful conversations and I have seen the value in my own motherhood. I have one child who feels really big and it can take control. The practice of recognizing emotions as they come, naming them, and teaching to move through them in control had helped so much. It isn’t about making the emotions themselves bad, it puts the focus on the related actions.
“Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”Ephesians 4:26
I’ve spent a lot of years letting the sun go down on my anger. This was not because I was going off in a blind rage at anyone who would listen. It was because I never wanted to admit I was angry and, therefore, I never processed it. It hung around my head and I never gave it a place to go. Teaching our children these things is not an excuse to fly off the handle, it is giving them relatability in experiences that they will have.
We all want to see the big, cheesy grins on our children but we have to move through other emotions too.
I hope you love these mats as much as I do and they bring hours of productive, conversations into your home.
If you are wanting to make your own play-doh, here is a family recipe:
– 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
-2 Cups Water
-1/2 Cup Salt
– 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
– 3 Tablespoons Cream of Tartar
Step One– Add all ingredients to a large pot, place on stove, and turn on the burner.
Step Two– cook on medium heat, stirring regularly as the play dough glops together to form a ball. It will look like you have ruined it a few times during this process, keep cooking anyway.
-whatever color you choose for the play dough will become darker as it cooks, keep stirring to rotate the play dough and cook all the way through. It is done when most of the playdough has darkened and it has formed a giant ball.
Step Three– Remove pot from heat, empty playdough on counter, and knead for 5 minutes to encourage even heat distribution.
Step Four– pass out to eager children and enjoy your time!