My Emotions Activity Book encourages children within Key Stage 2 and the primary school year age range (4 –11 years) to share their feelings calmly and gently. The activity book was developed to help my nephew express his emotions during feelings of isolation in lockdown. You can receive your free of charge printable copy of the activity book by visiting My Emotions Activity Book
How My Emotions Activity Book started
Mia and Milana, the Penguins, Jenson the Octopus, Emme the Stork and Harry the Crab are all characters in My Emotions Activity Book. They are also named after my godchildren, nieces, and nephews.
My nephew Harry was the initial inspiration behind the activity book.
Harry, an incredibly funny, super smart, Man City supporter, started to show frustration and anxiety during lockdown. It was hard to tell Harry that plans arranged with family over Christmas were to be cancelled due to the change in restrictions.
Harry had plans for kickabouts in the park with his uncles, watching football matches together, sleepovers and cinema trips. To try and reassure Harry that we would see him soon, family members started to plan virtual activities to do with him. They ranged from geography quizzes to treasure hunts with his Grandparents and pancake topping contests.
With my own feelings of uncertainty and to engage with Harry, I started work on My Emotions Activity Book. I produced pages of the book weekly so that he could work on the book with grandparents within his support bubble.
Harry started to share how he felt. It was great to see him open about personal things from drawing his hero, Ederson. To share what would be his dream weekend away and how he felt about us as a family.
It was touching to see him write the words; ‘‘they are kind, lovely, and care about each other even when you’re not with them, they like spending time with you’’.
Over the weeks, we started to tweak the activity book together, with mostly Harry tweaking my grammar. I then started to share pages of the book with friends and family. The feedback was touching and insightful. I began to recognise the power of the activity book and that the book was opening opportunities for parents to communicate with their children.
‘‘My nearly seven-year-old son completed the booklet. He liked it and definitely found it calming. We particularly liked the page where he had to circle things that applied to him. He actually circled everything in the end, but it was good to get him to open up about his feelings. He initially did not circle that he was happy with himself the way he was, and he told me it’s because he doesn’t like his freckles. I really did not know it bothered him. I think that page was really good.’’
‘Lyndsay, mum to D (age 7)’’
Working as a Mental Health First Aider
During the pandemic, I also became a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) at the Investment Bank I am an employee of.
As part of my role as an MHFA, I noticed that colleagues were sharing the struggles their children were having with current restrictions. They were also ill at ease about the future impact of the lockdown on their families.
From hearing the concerns of my colleagues and starting to see the real benefits of using the activity book with my nephew, I shared pages of the book with a colleague who had previously worked in childcare and fostering.
With his help, we created an initiative for all employees within our European offices to receive printed copies of My Emotions Activity Book in the post, if they so wished.
My employers were fantastic and provided £2,000 for printing and postage to send My Emotions Activity Book to three hundred employees, some based in Germany, Dubai, and France.
Initially, I wasn’t expecting the scale of interest shown. It was humbling to see my employer recognise the benefits of the book in supporting employees to address their children’s concerns positively and constructively.
Colleagues then reached out to share how they had started to use the activity book. They too were learning things about their children they were not previously aware of. It was hard for young minds to understand why they could not go to school as before, play with their friends or visit their grandparents, and even more difficult for them to articulate these feelings.
Abnash, who used the resource with his nine-year-old daughter, shared.
“Thought I’d take this opportunity to provide you with some feedback on your book, having done it with my 9 y/o daughter. She really enjoyed it, as did I. It acted as a great prompt for other discussions. She really loved the characters, and it has sown the seeds for me to be able to refer to characters and how they might feel as a way of exploring her emotions in the future.’’
The stories from the parents have been so incredibly touching and overwhelming at times. It ranged from parents learning about their child’s everyday frustrations to more serious concerns being raised.
One parent had reached out to say they had been having difficulty understanding why their child was so anxious about lockdown restrictions lifting. The activity book helped start a conversation with the child opening up that they were being bullied at school. This led the family to seek help. I have since heard that their child is happier and has made many new friends.
From this feedback and hearing that my watercolour animal illustrations and the pages that I had worked on with Harry were helping other families talk, I decided it was important to share the activity book with a broader network.
Hit with high-profile child care experts
The book is gaining real traction from people working within children’s mental health. It has proved a hit with high- profile child care experts. Among them are specialist play teams at Great Ormond Street Hospital, who now use the activity book with their patients’ families in play therapy sessions.
Child and family support workers from the NSPCC and Barnardos have also been in touch to support the book. The anti-bullying charity Kidscape has shared the activity book with their professional education networks.
Women’s Aid has signed up to receive the book. A Staffordshire-based charity, The Buddy Bag Foundation, is printing copies of the booklet to feature in their resource packs distributed to children who have entered emergency care to help them during their rehabilitation process.
Alongside my employer, other corporate organisations have signposted their colleagues to the activity book, including John Lewis, Barclays, Hays, CBRE and the Southbank Centre.
Children’s mental health in the UK
With child poverty on the rise, I knew I wanted to continue with the project and keep it free of charge. Everybody can download it via my website: My Emotions Activity Book
However, not every family or organisation in the UK has access to the technology or the funding to print the activity book easily.
Record numbers of children and young people seek NHS mental health services as the impact of the pandemic continues.
With the number of children and young people seeking mental health services, it’s humbling that the project is helping open dialogue for children. The feedback drives me to push the project forward and raise awareness of wellbeing and resources to help nurture children’s emotional literacy.
My mission is for every child in the UK to access My Emotions Activity Book to help them open up and express themselves.
The goal for 2022 is to bring greater awareness to the activity book and its benefits. In addition, I want to secure a corporate sponsor to fund professionally printed copies of the activity book. As a result, I will be able to provide copies for families that do not have easy access to printing facilities.
It has been fantastic to share this project that started with Harry with Music, Football and Fatherhood. His favourite football player is Jack Grealish, and funnily enough, it is mine also. Harry recently gifted me his Jack Grealish Match Attax card. To my partner’s significant discomfort it is proudly displayed in our living room.
Thank you to Elliot for inviting me to write about the resource. It’s an incredible achievement for the book that Music, Football and Fatherhood supports it.
I would love to hear from Dads about they have used the book with their children.
How can I receive my free-of-charge copy?
To find out more about the activity book and receive your copy of the Activity Book, visit https://www.myemotionsactivitybook.com/ or call Laura Brown on 07932 897501