Materials: Time: 10-15 minutes
Hug the Monkey Coloring Page
Why it Works
A hug causes the brain to release its “feel good” chemicals into our bodies physically helping us to feel better. In this exercise, (adapted from Dr. Rick Hansen), we use a monkey puppet to represent our “inner monkey,” that part of us that feels hurt or scared when something hard happens. When we feel this way mostly, we just want “recognition, inclusion, respect, and love.”
What to say
-Introduce the monkey to your group, and have her explain that we all have an “inner monkey.” “I feel bad when you are hurt or sad.” “I live right next to your heart, and what makes me feel better is a hug.”
-Share with the kids a time when you felt hurt or sad.
-Then have the children talk about a time when they felt that way, or if someone is having a tough time right now. Ask what helped them feel better.
-Invite kids to either hug the monkey puppet or hug themselves and their inner monkey together.
-They also can ask for a hug from someone important to them.
-Ask if anyone needs to hug the monkey at this point. Take turns hugging.
Practice this with daily check-ins to explore how kids are feeling.
Use the coloring page as another way to understand the concept.
* Story: Working with a pre-k group I introduced the concept of “hug the monkey.” We shared times that we felt sad. One boy shared that he was sad when his mother died. I quickly expressed sorrow for his loss, while another child leaned over to me and whispered: “I think he needs to hug the monkey.” I nodded, and he took the puppet to him. A few moments later the puppet was returned, and the child said “Thanks. That helped.”
Goal: Children are learning how to soothe themselves when they are having a hard time.
Don’t be surprised if you have lots of children feeling “bad” when you introduce this concept! They love it. It can be a helpful strategy for the child, but also as you can see from the story above, children can show empathy and offer strategies to their peers. Helping someone else is the way to a happy brain!
Hug the Monkey
When You Need to Feel Better