The Feelings Parking Lot

feelings parking lotThe Feelings Parking Lot is a great tool to use with kids to both identify the feelings they are experiencing and to discuss different coping mechanisms that can help with those emotions. On top of that, it’s always fun to play with Matchbox Cars.

Here’s how to build it:

  1. On a large piece of paper, poster board or foam board, draw a series of lines on either side to create “parking spaces.” Leave some space between the space for a driving area. Have fun decorating your parking area.
  2. On one side of the parking lot, write the name of one emotion in each parking space. We also includes a simple emoji for each emotion to help younger kids who may not be able to read the emotion names (a list of the emotion names we used is included below, but you can use whatever emotions you want to include).
  3. On the other side, write various coping mechanisms kids can use to deal with difficult emotions (again, the list of coping tools we used are listed below). Depending on how artistic you are, feel free to draw pictures representing the coping skill to help younger kids.

You can use the feelings parking lot one-on-one with an individual child, leave it out as an emotional “check in” for a group of kids at the beginning of a class or group with an adult to talk through the process, or just leave it out for the kids to explore and play with themselves.

Here’s how is works:

  1. The child should pick a car or other vehicle.We suggest having a variety of types of vehicles for both boys and girls so they can pick one that they like.
  2. Have them drive their car on the board and park in a spot that represents the emotion they are feeling.
  3. From there, have them drive their vehicle to a spot on the other side of the board which represents a coping mechanism they can use to deal with that emotion.
  4. Sometimes kids will be open to discussing the emotion they have selected or about the coping mechanism. Other times they will not want to talk about it. Either choice is ok. Keep in mind, that particularly younger kids talk and express themselves through their play, so pay attention to how they play with the The Feelings Parking Lot.

We are grateful to Therapeutic Interventions where we found the original idea for the Feelings Parking Lot.

The Emotions We Used on Our Feelings Parking Lot

  • Proud
  • Embarrassed
  • Excited
  • Happy
  • Sorry
  • Hurt
  • Sad
  • Bored
  • Lonely
  • Mad
  • Confused

The Coping Mechanisms We Used on Our Feelings Parking Lot

  • Exercise
  • Play a Game
  • Ask For Help
  • Play a Sport
  • Count to 10
  • Listen to Music
  • Stretch
  • Give a Hug
  • Ride a Bike
  • Play With a Friend
  • Take a Deep Breath
For more awesome resources for learning about and dealing with emotions, please visit our Hope 4 Hurting Kids Emotions Help Center.
Written by Wayne Stocks
Wayne is the founder and executive director of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. He is a happily married father of four kids with a passion for helping young people who are going through rough times. In addition to Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne previously started I Am A Child of Divorce and Divorce Ministry 4 Kids to help kids who are dealing with the disruption of their parents' relationship. These are now part of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. Wayne speaks frequently at conferences and churches on issues related to helping kids learn to deal with difficult emotions and life in modern families. Wayne lives with his wife, three youngest kids, three dogs and an insane collection of his kids' other pets outside of Columbus, Ohio. In addition to his work with Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne is a partner in a local consulting firm, an avid reader, coaches his son's soccer team and is a proud supporter of Leicester City Football Club (and yes, for those in know, his affinity for the club does predate the 2016 championship). You can reach Wayne at wayne@hope4hurtingkids.com.