In the suburb of Bellmere, just north of Brisbane, a colourful character has taken over one of our Busy Bees Services. The Colour Monster has come to visit the children in our Investigators and Researchers rooms at Busy Bees at Bellmere, to teach them all about feelings and what to do if we feel overwhelmed or confused by our emotions.
Recognising that there were children in the Service who were becoming overwhelmed or having trouble expressing their feelings, the team at Busy Bees at Bellmere have built a program focused on nurturing children’s emotional and social development, using colours to name and talk about their feelings.
Supporting Children’s Emotional Development
Emotional development is complex. It begins at birth and continues well into adulthood. Babies first learn to express emotions such as joy, sadness, fear and anger. As children grow and develop their sense of self, more complex emotions such as shyness, embarrassment, pride, shame, surprise and empathy begin to emerge. (Be You)
In the early years, supporting children’s emotional development means helping them experience, regulate and express their growing range of emotions. However, this can be especially challenging for children with additional needs who can easily become overwhelmed when faced with feelings they don’t yet understand.
With the Service catering to several children with additional support requirements, Service Manager Monica Cooper saw a need to develop a program dedicated to supporting children through their emotions by providing them with a safe environment and the right tools to help them process, identify and understand their feelings.
While researching ways to implement this in the Service and looking for resources that could help, the team discovered a book called The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas.
About The Colour Monster
The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas is a gentle book with vibrant pop-up illustrations that encourages children to open up and talk about their feelings, even when they may be confusing. One day, a Colour Monster wakes up feeling very confused. His emotions are all stirred together; he feels angry, happy, calm, sad and scared all at once, and he doesn’t know what to do!
A little girl helps him to figure out what he’s feeling, by showing him what each feeling means through colour. Sadness is blue and gentle like a rainy day, while anger is red and loud and makes us want to stomp our feet. Calm is green like the trees, and happy is yellow like the sunshine.
The Educators have been building upon the children’s love of the book by using resources and activities featuring different Colour Monsters, as well as wearing Colour Monsters shirts that mean children can instantly recognise and call out which Colour Monster they are feeling.
“We recognised that our children required some extra support to express exactly how they felt. With some amazing resources that have been created to prompt these crucial conversations with our little people, they are constantly exposed to the normality of expressing your emotions.” – Monica Cooper, Service Manager Busy Bees at Bellmere
The Time In Room
As part of the program, the team have set up an area called the “Time-in Room” that provides children with a safe and quiet space they can go to when they begin to feel overwhelmed. Children are presented with ‘time in’ to calm down, engage in quiet activities and simply be with their feelings.
“We introduced the ‘Time-in Room’ to better support our children who required a little bit more time to regulate their emotions.” – Monica Cooper, Service Manager Busy Bees at Bellmere
Educators are mindful of children’s emotions throughout the day, expertly clued in to children’s unique triggers and emotional responses. When a child becomes upset, overwhelmed or begins to act out in response to their feelings, an Educator will calmly diffuse the situation and invite the child to the Time-in Room.
While in the room, children are able to meet their emotional needs in a safe environment. An Educator will sit with the child and engage with them, or interest them in games, until the child has calmed. Using the Colour Monsters, Educators engage with the child to identify the emotion they are experiencing.
This helps children have a conversation about their feelings and for Educators to coach children on ways to manage big emotions. For example “it’s okay to be angry, but that doesn’t mean we can hit our friends”
Since the program was implemented, it has had an amazing impact on the children and on the Service environment as a whole. Behavioural issues and incidents have decreased significantly, as children are offered a safe and constructive way to express themselves. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by their big emotions, children are learning that it’s okay to feel angry or sad or scared, and how to express and manage these feelings when they happen.
“We are working with the children not only to understand their emotions but understand how their actions and certain events can affect the emotions of people around us. We are linking actions to emotions to encourage the children to develop a better understanding of themselves.” – Monica Cooper, Service Manager Busy Bees at Bellmere
Not only has this program been beneficial for the children, it has even had Educators, staff and parents talking about their feelings too! The Colour Monster has given everyone the tools to open up about feelings and encourage open and honest communication.
Monica recommends extending the Colour Monster program at home, encouraging parents to refer to the Colour Monsters with their children to continue embedding the idea that feelings can be powerful and it’s okay to talk about them.
“As your child’s first teacher, engage in these powerful dialogues, encourage your child to express how they feel. Remind them that it’s okay to feel a certain way, whether that be sad, angry and scared, or the many other feelings that we may experience at any time.”
Watch Miss Kayla from Busy Bees at Bellmere read “The Colour Monster” by Anna Llenas