Art, Anger, and Five Year Olds

After a few days of breaking up fights and drying tears, I decided a new classroom approach was in order. The kids were get angry and with limited vocabulary they were resorting to hitting and crying. After a quick Google search and scanning Pinterest, I came across directions for making stress balls out of balloons and flour. A little more searching led to a note from a wise mother who advised Play-Dough instead of flour. In the event that the balloons burst, the mess is much easier to clean up.

[We did have one break. To the delight of some of the students and the horror of others, the “brain” slowly exploded from the balloon face. I can only imagine if it were flour.]

I gathered my supplies and started to work. After stuffing the balloons with play-dough, I drew on the faces. They became happy, sad, concerned, surprised, angry, scared. I brought my new friends to school and just let the students play with them for a few days.


It didn’t take long before everyone could identify what emotion each balloon was representing. At this point the stress balls were re-named “squishy balloon faces”. Overall, that sounded much nicer to everyone.

When students would get angry, we would take a walk to the squishy balloon faces. They would pick which face they felt on the inside. What amazed me is how easily they could do this. Most of them would pick two, angry and ____.

Angry and Sad.

Angry and Confused.

Angry and Scared. 

Angry and Surprised. 

At five years old they are so much more aware of their emotions than I gave them credit for knowing. They just needed a way to identify the words.

Once they had sufficiently squeezed, twisted, and poked the squishy face, they calmed down. We could talk about why they were feeling whatever it was that they were feeling. At this point, everyone could move on. We usually ended with hugs and laughter.

The best part for me came this morning. I had one of the boys bring me the bright pink happy face. He gave it to me and said, “this face is my inside ALL day long.” They don’t quite have the words yet, but they are learning by themselves how to identify emotions and respond appropriately. 

It seems silly. In many ways it is silly. Taking “Angry Guy” and squeezing him so his face distorts can make many a child laugh. Silly works. Crazy and creative works. I’m going to keep doing what works, because I would much rather teach happy and laughing students than angry and crying ones.

And even as an adult, I have to say they are pretty fun to play with.

Linking up today with Velvet Ashes for the theme “Art”

3 thoughts on “Art, Anger, and Five Year Olds

  1. Emily, I love, as you said, that children are often more able to know what they are feeling than we give them credit, but aren’t able to express it. I love this balloon idea :)!!


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