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Helping Your Grandchild Express Feelings Through Play

By Janyse Jaud

Taking the time to play is crucial to a child’s development. So crucial, that play was recognized as a right of every child by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights.

The benefits are numerous. Play can help your grandchild learn how to problem solve, build empathy, communicate more effectively, negotiate, develop creativity, gain confidence, and express feelings more freely.

Let’s look at some fun activities that you could do to help your grandchild identify, express and manage their feelings.

1. Puppets

Being a professional voiceover actress, I love to perform for children and also show them how I create the voices of the characters in my stories. I will either pretend I’m the character and physically take on the persona or I will perform with a puppet as the character. Puppets are intriguing because children are more inclined to talk to a puppet, rather than an adult, about their problems.

For example, one of my stories has a panda bear (Coochi Coo) that is afraid of the dark. Children can easily identify with the emotions that Coochi Coo is feeling. They start to talk to the panda puppet, which leads to discussions on all the different ways that they could help the panda. By helping the panda calm down, the children learn how to calm themselves as well. By finding solutions, children start focusing on their strengths instead of their weaknesses.

Now let’s take a look at how you can incorporate this fun activity!

Sock Puppets     

Materials Needed:    

1 sock

2 clothespins  

Thread and needle  

Whatever you like for eyes, hair or ears  

 Put the sock on your hand with your fingers in the toe and the back of your wrist in the heel. To create the mouth, push the toe of the sock between your fingers and thumb towards your palm. To create the cheeks, place the clothespins on the left and right side of your hand. Take off the sock and stitch each cheek and then remove the clothespins. Use your imagination to create eyes, hair, or ears out of whatever kind of material you like. Now it’s time to experiment with a voice and personality by reading a story or creating your own. J

  2. Sand Play

Playing in the sand is not only a fun sensory activity but it also stimulates the imagination. Therapists have had great success in using “sand play” to help both children and adults express emotions that are hard for them to verbalize.

Sand Play   

Materials Needed:        

Sandbox or simply use a plastic dish bin and fill it with sand

1 cup of water (optional)

Action Figures (people, soldiers, animals)

Miniatures (trees, cars, houses)

Note: Use bigger items for children under 3

 Start to create your world with dry or wet sand. Use your imagination and have fun!

3. Laugh-A-Lot

The third activity that I love is laughing! Laughter strengthens the immune system and also releases endorphins, which are brain chemicals known for their feel-good effect. Laughter helps you forget about your worries and enjoy the moment. And on a side note, did you know that 10 to 15 minutes of laughter burns 10 to 40 calories per day? What a great way to exercise!


 Materials Needed:


 Sit on the floor with your grandchild and face each other. One person will try to stay expressionless while the other will try to make that person laugh. See how many silly things you can come up with to try and make the other person laugh!

4. Finger Painting (with healthy food)

And last but not least, finger painting! This activityhelps your grandchild express their emotions visually, stimulates their imagination, and helps them focus on the process of creating rather than the end result. The following recipe makes use of some yummy food!

finger painting Finger Painting    

Materials Needed:

Your paint:

Plain Yogurt (room temperature so it’s not too cold for your grandchild)

And your food coloring:

Cherry Juice (red)

Blueberry Juice (blue)

Pineapple Juice (yellow)

Spinach or Kale Juice (green)

4 Baby Jars, or regular size



 Measurements will depend on the size

of jars and how dark you want the colors

to be.

 Ask your grandchild to help you measure and scoop the yogurt into the jars. Then add some cherry juice to one jar and stir to create the color red. Repeat with the other juices to create the colors blue, yellow, and green. Now it’s time to create! J

For more activities based on social and emotional learning, check out my new Activity and Audio book “The Magic of Think and the Stone of Courage” at www.themagicofthink.com and find out how you can receive a personalized voiceover from our panda Coochi Coo!

IMAGE Janyse Jaud is an award-winning singer/songwriter, voiceover actress, author, and thinkologist working with clients such as Hasbro, Warner Bros., Marvel, Discovery, and The Cartoon Network. The Magic of Think™ series helps children build courage, empathy and social skills with music, stories, activities, lessons, and games, based on social and emotional learning.  www.themagicofthink.com


Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Article 31 of the UN Convention, https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx

General Assembly Resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989.

Pediatrics, Vol. 129, No. 1, Deborah Ann Mulligan, MD (January, 2012) https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/1/e204.full

NY Times, James Gorman, (September, 2011) https://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/science/14laughter.html

Vanderbilt University, Clinton Colmenares, (June 2005) https://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/reporter/index.html?ID=4030

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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