4 Ways to Help Kids Understand Emotions with “Inside Out” (Disney/Pixar)

My recent “Inside Out” Study Guide for helping teens and adults understand emotions has been getting positive feedback on Pinterest. Today I’m sharing some ideas for helping younger kids and tweens (grades K-8) use the Disney/Pixar movie to better understand their feelings.

Helping Kids Understand Emotions with Inside Out

1. An emotion pie chart

To be honest, I can’t take full credit. One of my young clients* came up with this idea on his own. He had the brilliant idea of turning his face into a pie chart and using the five colored emotions from Disney/Pixar’s “Inside Out” to represent the mix of his feelings. He then drew a key identifying the significance of each color.

You can use this idea even if you or your young one haven’t seen the movie. Neither of us had actually seen the movie at that point, but he had seen a trailer which gave him the idea.

2. Talk about a time he or she has felt each feeling

You could have your child, student or client draw colored spheres for the emotions he or she had that day. Some good prompting questions to ask, “Did you feel any joy today? When?”

“When was the last time you felt sadness? Why?”

“Can you remember a time you felt disgust?”

“Is it good or bad to feel anger?”

Emotion Pie Chart Faces Inspired by Inside Out

3. Compare before and after

In order to get a sense of his progress in therapy, I asked my client to draw two pictures of himself: one of when we first started and a picture of himself that day. I simply gave him a piece of paper folded in half, suggesting he use one half for before and one half for now. He came up with the emotion pie chart above. Pretty cool, huh?

Initially, his predominant feelings were sadness and fear. Afterwards, he mostly felt joy. We were really happy about the progress. But, don’t leave it at that! Talk about what is making a difference. “Why do you think you have less fear and sadness? Why do you have more joy? What is different now?”

4. Create your own mind map

Map of Riley's Mind from Inside Out

Using Riley’s Mind Map (above) as inspiration, have your young one draw a map of his or her own Islands of Personality. Ask, “What memories or qualities define you?” You can have them make one drawing of the different islands (like below) or make a bigger illustration of each one.

draw your own mind map

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

*My client and his parents gave me permission to share his drawings here. We made sure there was no identifying information! Movie images courtesy Disney/Pixar. Riley’s Mind Map from Disney wikia.

About Abigail Burd, LCSW:San Diego Therapist Free Consult

Abby is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist with over 15 years experience in mental health and substance abuse. She helps individuals, couples, and families in her practice in the Clairemont neighborhood of San Diego, CA. Areas of interest include parenting, maternal mental health, depression, anxiety and personal growth.

About the Author:

Abigail Burd, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist practicing in San Diego. (CA lic #LCS26867.) Specialties include maternal mental health, parenting, addiction, depression/anxiety and personal growth. Abby is experienced providing counseling to others in the helping fields, college students, and graduate students.

3 Comments

  1. Kate Hamernik July 27, 2015 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    This is such a good idea! Our kids LOVE using the movie Inside Out as a way to communicate their feelings, this is such a cool extension – thanks for sharing =)

    • Abigail Burd August 9, 2015 at 4:52 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much, Kate! Yes, please give one or more of these ideas a try!

  2. clare vincent January 26, 2016 at 1:39 am - Reply

    Thank you so much, I work as a counsellor for young people with behavioural problems and special needs, this has been so helpful and the kids love it. Thank you for sharing your ideas.

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