How to Create a Grief Box or Comfort Kit for Kids & a Building Block Grief Intervention
Building Block Grief Counseling Intervention
Gen Judayna, LCSW was kind enough to share this awesome activity with our readers! She also has this great article about how to talk to children about death at different ages and developmental levels.
Gen writes that: this activity can be applied to other significant life events, in addition to bereavement. This can be a useful tool to express feelings in a non-threatening way, or as a means of communication about distressing life situations. For example, if a child is upset with a parent they can use this to create a building project to represent what they feel about the situation. This can also be used as a means of communication with the parent as they talk about the Lego project once complete. This useful and engaging activity also helps to assist with emotional regulation as well.
First, have the child select at least 5-10 legos in a variety of colors. Five or more colors is usually best. Then, have the child identify a feeling for each color. You can have them write the feeling down on a piece of paper and set the associated colored legos on each feeling. Talk about how we have many different feelings and varying amounts and intensity levels for each feeling.
Then, have the child build a creation that represents all of the feelings and the amounts of those feelings that they have about the loss. The more legos they use in that color will represent a stronger or more intense emotion.
Have the child tell you about their creation, how it relates to their loss, and what each color represents, and what the amounts of the various colored Legos mean to them in regard to the loss. Alternatively, if talking about each feeling is too much, they could also select one color each session to discuss.
For more interventions on grief, please check out this blog post!
How to Create a Grief Box or Comfort Care Kit for Kids Who are Going Through Hard Times or Grieving
Let's be honest, when a child is going through a difficult experience, whether it is due to grieving the loss of someone they love, or some other reason, what they need most of all is our PRESENCE. I've heard some kids say they got upset when the flowers they received died after the funeral services, just like the person they love died. So instead of sending flowers to a child or family, as an alternative bereavement gift, I have been creating these grief boxes or comfort kits for a number of years. Both children and families have been very happy to receive them.
There is something really SAFE and CONTAINING about placing all the contents in a box. I used backpacks for a while, but it just didn't seem right! It's also really nice for the kids because they can pull out the supplies when they need to, and then store them safely away and put the lid on the box. We usually discuss a special place in their home where they'll keep their box. With some kids, if they choose to we've even used the boxes themselves to create a memory box. Check out this post for many more grief intervention ideas!
Since I was buying all of the supplies in bulk, I tried to shop around for the best prices and I'm happy to share what I found with you! When I first started making these, I bought everything myself. After a few years, I decided to ask my staff for support and everyone was happy to contribute!
I have created a free editable version of this FORM you can use to list all of the contents in the box, and another free editable form to ask your staff to help you get the supplies (if you want to)! Many of the supplies can be purchased locally at a dollar store as well. You might even consider doing a donor's choose project to get the supplies! The staff request form, and the editable comfort kit forms are both available for free in my free resource library for subscribers. Just scroll down to the bottom of this page to subscribe!
When I first started making these comfort kits, I used the Tjena Boxes from Ikea but they stopped carrying the size I was using. So I started using these boxes from Amazon and when you buy them in bulk they are actually cheaper! At the time of this writing, they are about $1.38 per box.
You don't need to include every item that I did, that's why I am giving you these free comfort kit and grief box editable digital forms! Included here are the items I found my kids most benefitted from. At the time of this writing, these are the prices for buying the items in bulk, but the prices may change. You also might want to add in other supplies, which are unique to that particular child and their age, such as a stuffed animal or play-doh.
Grief Box or Comfort Kit Contents and Pricing:
A frame for your memories ($1 each)
Tissues for your tears ($0.33 each pack)
Coloring and drawing supplies for your feelings: I have this free art journal available in my free resource library (just scroll down to subscribe) and you can add in either Colored pencils ($1.17 each pack) or Crayons ($1.27 each pack) and these positive affirmation coloring pages (see below)
A sequin heart for soothing ($0.54 each)
A sleep mask for helping you rest ($0.28 each)
A stress ball for squeezing when you have big feelings ($0.48 each)
Bubbles for practicing deep breathing ($0.83 each)
A Journal for your thoughts (see below)
Coping Skills Cards for helping you relax (see below)
Gentle Stretching Poses for relaxing your body (see below)
A box to contain everything in ($1.38 each)
If purchasing these items in bulk, you can get most of the contents for about $6.01 per comfort kit/grief box!
In addition, the four items below are a one-time investment of $12.75 total, as you can make photocopies to use them with all the children you work with over and over again:
A journal for your thoughts: I've used Carol Miller's Wings of Courage Journal for years and it's a great resource! (This is a one-time investment of $4.75 and you can make copies for your students.) It is a writing journal so it's best for upper-elementary and middle school students. It comes with 40 booklet-sized pages with prompts, quotes, and space for drawing and writing all about their thoughts, feelings, and memories of their loved one. There are also additional resources including ideas for group sessions, journaling tips, and "What to Say and Avoid Saying to Grieving Students," I highly recommend this journal! I usually copy the cover on cardstock for durability. You can follow these directions for a simple hack to bind the book!
Coping Skills Cards for helping you relax: my 100 Coping Skills Card kit is a one-time price of $4.00* and you can make copies for your students. This resource comes with both colorful and black and white copies for the kids to color themselves. There is also a digital version for telehealth. This is the perfect resource to help increase autonomy, self-efficacy, and an internal locus of control by having your kids choose and prioritize which skills they'd prefer to utilize by using the 3 sorting mats and the included checklist!
Coloring and drawing supplies for your feelings: these Positive Affirmation Comfort Kit Coloring Pages are a one-time price of $3.00* and you can make copies for your kids! Coloring can be such a mindful, calming practice and has been proven to have positive effects in people including “anxiety reduction and…higher perseverance." (Eaton and Tieber, 2017, p. 42.) These 27 coloring worksheets are paired with positive affirmations to share with someone when they are grieving, have experienced something difficult, or have gone through a loss. Just pair them with colored pencils or crayons, which are both resistive or dry media and so they allow for “cognitive control and safety.” (Ichiki and Hinz, 2015, as cited in Hinz, 2020, p. 28) This dry media also elicits “feelings of control” which “can decrease feelings of anxiety early in the therapeutic relationship" (Regev and Snir, 2018, as cited in Hinz, 2020, p. 29). Be sure to encourage the children to be creative and color the pictures however they want to! Remind them that there are no right or wrong ways to color because the special worksheet belongs to them.
Positive Affirmation Gentle Stretch Cards for relaxing your body (my cards are a one-time price of $3.00 and you can make copies)* Combining gentle movement with a positive self-talk phrase can be very regulating and calming for many children. Many studies (Chandler and Tricot, 2015) have demonstrated that body movement positively impacts children’s cognition, learning, and academic achievement.
*I have all 3 of these resources above including my coping skills cards, positive affirmation coloring pages, and gentle stretching poses available at a discount in this Grief Box Comfort Kit bundle here for $8.00! These resources will help you start discussions around helpful thoughts, positive affirmations, resiliency, and positive self-talk.
I posted about other grief interventions and resources before so be sure to check out that post! I also always include this very helpful brochure about how to talk to children about death for parents.
Freebies For You in My Free Resource Library (scroll down to subscribe):
What else would you include in a grief box or comfort kit? Let me know on instagram or in the comments below!
Chandler, P. & Tricot, A. (2015). Mind your body: the essential role of body movements
in children’s learning. Educational Psychology Review, 27(3), 365-370. http://doi.
Eaton, J. and Tieber, C. (2017). The effects of coloring on anxiety, mood, and perseverance.
Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 34(1), 42-46. https://doi.org/10.1080/
Ichiki, Y. and Hinz, L. D. (2015). Exploring media properties and the expressive therapies
continuum: Survey of art therapists. Paper presented at the 46th Annual American Art
Therapy Association conference, Minneapolis, MN.
Regev, D. and Snir, S. (2018). Parent-child art psychotherapy. Routledge/Taylor and Francis