Coping Skills Craft Activities
Updated: Sep 30, 2022
There are so many developmental and emotional benefits of doing craft projects with kids — especially coping skills craft activities!
This is a great way to help kids remember and practice the coping skills they’ve learned!
My newest eBook, Coping Skills Craftivities, is a supplement to the Skills for Big Feelings curriculum and includes 40 coping skills craft projects. This book is available at a discount when you purchase the Super Ultimate Growing Bundle and comes with games, digital interactive notebooks, editable documents, MP3s and so much more! Each of these craft projects represents and has directions for a separate, unique coping skill.
These arts-based interventions will allow you to extend the learning and reinforce the coping skills taught through hands-on, engaging, craft activities.
Benefits of creating coping skills craft activities
There are extensive benefits of doing craft projects with kids, including opportunities to work on:
Being okay with making mistakes
Measuring challenges and equal measurements
Frustration tolerance skills
In-the-moment coping skills practice
Being okay with making mistakes
Lots of kids have perfectionistic tendencies (which is often tied to anxiety) and they want everything to be perfect. But perfectionism doesn’t benefit anyone. In the words of Maria Shriver “perfectionism doesn't make you feel perfect. It makes you feel inadequate.” And feeling inadequate is not a comfortable experience. Creating art together is the perfect opportunity to help kids practice working through some of those perfectionist tendencies and letting go of getting things perfect.
When creating art projects together, you can model making mistakes and being okay with it. James Baldwin wrote that “children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them” and this is so true! You can talk to the kids about the fact that their art doesn’t need to be perfect, and use in-the-moment coaching to lead them through this when you are doing the craft projects together. When I am making art with children, I purposefully don’t make it perfect, and I often model making mistakes and I’ll talk the process aloud. “Oops, I drew that line longer than I wanted to. Oh well, it’s okay to make mistakes!”
Measuring challenges and equal measurements
In Skills for Big Feelings we teach children how to measure the size of a challenge or problem using a 4-point scale. Once they learn how to measure the size of challenges using the scale, we then teach them about figuring out if their reaction is an equal measurement to the size of the challenge.
For example, if they pour out too much glue, this is a small rock problem, and the reaction would not be a big hill problem of screaming and yelling for help from an adult. An equal measurement to this size challenge would be getting some paper towels to wipe up the glue and saying to yourself “Oops! I made a mistake. It’s okay to make mistakes. I’ll make sure I don’t squeeze the glue bottle so hard next time.”
Frustration tolerance skills
When doing any craft projects with kids, like those in the Coping Skills Craftivities eBook, there are a lot of different activities that include a range of fine motor skills like drawing, coloring, painting, gluing, cutting, etc. These skills won’t be easy for every child to do and some children may experience some frustration while doing these tasks.
For example, if a child is frustrated with one of the guided drawing activities, it would be a great time to practice their F-B-T-S (Feeling-Breath-Thought-Skill) strategy from Skills for Big Feelings.
Working on a craft activity allows children to see that others may go about a task differently from them, which helps with flexible thinking as well. They may do something in a way that doesn’t match the “model”, but they can still achieve a similar result. If they want to see the project through to completion, they will have to address and work through any frustration or fear of making mistakes.
Fine Motor Skills
Bilateral coordination (using both hands together)
Fine motor skills
Young children require frequent practice when it comes to their motor skills and coordination. Craft projects provide fun and engaging opportunities to use their hands and to practice fine motor skills like cutting, gluing, and drawing. They use their hand-eye coordination to look at the model or watch what others are doing and create a similar project themselves.
Executive Functioning and Creative Thinking Skills
Problem-solving and decision-making skills
Creative thinking skills
Flexible thinking skills
The creative and flexible thinking that comes along with crafting can build on children’s problem-solving and decision-making abilities. They are in control of many of the options and they get to choose which colors something will be, how big something is, etc.
Listening and following directions
Executive functioning skills such as paying attention, planning, organizing, and switching focus
Having to plan a craft activity from beginning to end, while avoiding distraction, can be a large task for students who are prone to experiencing big feelings. The more they do it, the better they will get and the more confident they will become.
Drawing for Coping Skills: Psychological Effects
Interestingly, studies show there can be a difference between art-making for distraction and expression! A study by Genth & Drake (2019) investigated the effects of drawing over one month to look at whether any benefits are related to expression or distraction.
Researchers induced a sad mood in participants, and then people were randomly assigned to use drawing to express themselves, drawing to distract themselves, or not to draw at all.
The results showed that drawing to distract improved people’s moods more than drawing to express after a single drawing session as well as after one month. These results suggest that the psychological benefits of drawing may occur immediately and over time.
In another experiment, Genuth & Drake (2019) induced sadness or anger in their participants. They found that those participants who drew for distraction experienced greater mood improvement than those who drew for expression, regardless of which mood was induced. Participants in the distraction condition also experienced greater flow and more enjoyment.
These findings replicate those of the previous study, therefore, suggesting that drawing to distract regulates sadness. They also extend the findings to address the idea that drawing regulates anger as well.
Drawing as Part of Children’s Meaning-Making
In 2017, Kirsten Darling-McQuistan researched the relationship between drawing and meaning-making. Drawing is a common activity in preschool and elementary school classrooms, although it is increasingly looked at in terms of being accurate representations of the world.
Darling-McQuistan wanted to look at using drawing as a means to see how and what children were learning, with less concern for representational accuracy. The process involved using walking and drawing as methods to allow children to engage with and reflect on their lived experiences.
Findings of the study suggested the need for more relational interpretation of classroom activities, such as drawing, that include the perspectives of children.
Coping Skills: Art Activities for Thinking and Learning
In Eileen Adams’s article based on her autobiography (2017), she presents evidence of the value of drawing as a medium for learning. Adams argues that drawing is a useful educational tool because it forces you to think. Drawing serves to prompt different kinds of thinking and therefore supports learning. It is important to consider how drawing impacts learning, rather than how one learns to draw.
In isolation, marks that make up a drawing have no clear meaning. As a whole picture, drawings represent and suggest physical or emotional qualities. Drawing nurtures intellectual curiosity while also cultivating emotional and social intelligence. It also can help people to generate ideas and make it possible to put those ideas into effect.
While you may teach your students coping skills through the Skills for Big Feelings program, the craft activities that come with the Growing Bundle will allow them to solidify, generalize, reinforce, and remember what they have learned.
Coping Strategies Crafts and Activities for Youth
Smell the Flower, Blow the Candle Craftivity
Each week in Skills for Big Feelings, children are taught three new coping strategies. In session one they learn the coping skill to "smell the flower" and inhale deeply, and "blow the candle" to exhale deeply and fully. This type of visualization really helps even very young children master this simple deep breathing technique!
I created this Smell the Flower coping skill craftivity to help reinforce and help kids remember this coping strategy. On one side is the flower image and the other side is the candle image. They practice "smelling the flower" and then flip it around to practice "blowing the candle." This makes a breathing technique an interactive hands-on practice and the kids LOVE to use scented markers with this activity. The scents make it more engaging to the senses, as the flower actually smells great!
Craft Tip: Use smelly markers for this project!
I love using scented colored pencils or scented markers with this activity and the kids LOVE it even more!! This way when they inhale to smell the flower, they can smell a nice scent they have picked out.
If you join my email list (at the top of this page) you will be sent this Smell the Flower Craft Activity as a freebie in a few days.
If you want this craft project along with 40+ other crafts, activities, games, MP3s, digital interactive notebooks, and more to help kids self-regulate and save you time, then check out my Super Ultimate Growing Bundle. You'll lock in the price today as it increases whenever new products are added in.
Craft Tip: Use puff paint and glitter glue for sensory and tactile input while tracing and breathing!
I use a lot of visuals and breathing techniques with kids, as I've found them to be most effective. For a few of the projects, I also use a guided drawing activity, where I walk the child through the drawing creation step-by-step. The kids often feel so proud of their end drawing!
After they are done drawing the breathing visual, we then use glitter glue or puff paint to outline the part that needs to be traced (in this case, the unicorn's horn) while breathing. The only downside to this is that it takes about 24 hours for the paint to dry completely, so the child can't use it right away. Once the glitter glue or puff paint is dry, it is awesome, because they can run their finger along the line of puff paint while practicing their breathing technique (in this case they start with their finger on the sparkle, breathe in and trace down, hold their breath and trace along the bottom, then breathe out and trace up, then repeat.) The puff paint or glitter glue gives awesome tactile and sensory input, that makes this multi-sensory experience more engaging!
More Coping Skills Craftivities
For more coping skills craft activities, check out my eBook here Coping Skills Craftivities, which is included in the Super Ultimate Growing Bundle along with the book, games, digital interactive notebooks, MP3s, activities, editable documents, and so much more!
For the coping skills crafts, you are given step-by-step instructions and templates for every activity and they are made with basic craft supplies!
Your students will enjoy the projects, think about the lessons in different ways, and internalize their coping skills for future use!
Adams, E. (2017). Thinking Drawing. International Journal of Art & Design Education, 36(3), 244–252. https://doi.org/10.1111/jade.12153
Genuth, A., & Drake, J. E. (2021). The benefits of drawing to regulate sadness and anger: Distraction versus expression. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 15(1), 91–99. https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000265
Darling-McQuistan, K. (2017). Beyond Representation: Exploring Drawing as Part of Children's Meaning-Making. International Journal of Art & Design Education, 36(3), 281–291. https://doi.org/10.1111/jade.12158