One of my favorite ways to sneak social emotional learning into the classroom is by doing crafts. These activities can be hands-on, engaging, fun, and creative. Meanwhile, kids are still learning the critical skills they need. In particular, a coping strategies wheel is a great tool to help teach coping strategies to help manage stress. So often, we just assume kids know how to calm themselves down when they really don’t! That’s why teaching calming activities explicitly can be so helpful.
A coping strategies wheel is a spinner craft that reveals several different coping strategies kids can choose from. Kids can even make their own individualized wheel with strategies specific to them. This helps kids to “buy in” to coping strategies, since they have control over which strategies they want to try and use. After making the craft, kids can spin and practice the strategies. Later on, when the child or young adult is upset, they can even use the wheel to remind them about which coping strategies to use to help them become calm again.
Use these directions to make your own coping strategies wheel with kids and young adults. Feel free to use this Coping Strategies Wheel activity if you want to skip the directions and get to making your own wheels right away with directions, templates, and over 30 coping strategies ready to go.
1. Draw a circle. This will be the base of the wheel. Divide the wheel into fractions. The number is up to you. I prefer to have around five coping strategies to give kids several different choices and ideas for managing emotions. Cut out the circle.
2. Add coping strategies to each fraction of the wheel. You can have students add their own individualized strategies. It might help to use this free list of coping strategies to brainstorm ideas for each student.
3. Create the top of the wheel by drawing another circle of the same size but leaving a fraction of the wheel out. This will allow the bottom piece to show one coping strategy at a time. Have students design the top of the wheel. Encourage them to color it and write “My Coping Strategies” on the top of it.
4. Cut out the top of the wheel.
5. Place the top of the wheel and the bottom of the wheel together. Make sure it aligns to show one coping strategy at a time.
6. Place a fastener through the middle so the wheel can freely spin.
7. Encourage kids to spin their wheel to practice and discuss strategies as they go. Remember that kids will need lots of time practicing their coping strategies when they are already calm to effectively use them when they are stressed. That means you will need to dedicate time to practicing those strategies. Know that it’s truly not a waste of time. Instead, it’s an investment in social emotional health and learning.
Best of all, kids can keep their coping strategies wheels in their binders, in their desks, or in a calm down area. Encourage them to use their wheel when they are upset to choose a strategy that will help calm them down.
Feel free to make your own coping strategies wheel or use this Coping Strategies Wheel activity to print and make with your students right away. It includes over 30 unique coping strategies to include in each wheel or you can add your own! I also have a Managing My Emotions Wheel activity if these are crafts your learners love!