Mancala Feeling Stones
Tammi Van Hollander, LCSW, RPT
Recommended Age Range: 5 to Sixteen
Treatment Modality: Individual or family
-Increase feelings vocabulary
-Expand therapeutic dialogue about the issues that matter most to the child
-Help child regulate their feelings
-Provide an understanding of empathy
-Link feelings to actions and how others perceive certain behaviors.
Have the child sort the colors of stones into piles. The sorting of stones is a calming and organizing ritual of this activity. The child identifies a feeling with each stone color. For example, they may choose red to be angry. The child picks up the red stone and says, “I’m angry when my mother yells at me.” The adult then says, “Can you put the number of stones in the hole for how angry you get when this happens?” The child may put three or four stones in the hole. Sticking with the angry feelings the adult can ask of a time when they were just a little angry and one stone would represent their anger or a time when they were so angry that all the red stones would be used. A child who is really, really excited for their birthday party may fill the hole with yellow stones. A child who was frustrated with their homework but not super frustrated may put three stones in the hole. They decide. The adult then puts in the opposing side how many stones they thought the child felt. For example, a parent may have thought their child was really mad when they became explosive and it was frightening to them, but the child may have seen the incident not quite as serious. The parent can say, “When you kick and hit, it is not safe, so it looks like you are really, really mad.” The worry hole can be used the same way but can also be used in another manner. The child can name each worry they may have for the day. Each stone represents a worry as they place it in the hole. When the day is over, they revisit the stones and they remove each stone one by one for each worry that did not come true that day. What happens is, most worries do not come true and the hole is emptied.
Mancala is said to be one of the oldest games in the world dating back to 1400BC. Most children enjoy this game and find it quite empowering and calming.
The activity can also be used in parent-child sessions, with families, problem solving with siblings, guidance counselors, OTs and other professionals. For example, the child may put one stone in the hole for a situation where the parent thought the child was very angry. The practitioner can then ask the parent how many stones they thought it looked like when they witnessed the event. The different perspectives can then be discussed and each members’ feelings validated.
About the Author:
Tammi Van Hollander, LCSW, RPT, is a licensed clinical social worker and Registered Play Therapist who has worked with children and families since 1990. She has presented numerous workshops throughout the nation on play therapy and sand tray therapy to teachers, parents, students and clinicians. She currently practices at the Center for Psychological Services in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, specializing in young children, trauma, anxiety, ADHD and sensory processing disorder.