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Make Checking In With Your Child a Time to Learn, Connect, and Co-Create

Play for Peace + Kikori Check Ins, Part 1

Now that you have a full house at home or are supporting your students in their houses, now is the time to check in with our children/students even more. So much has changed for them in a short amount of time and it’s important to normalize communication of their feelings. Once they are able to recognize how they are feeling, the conversation can open up to how to manage those feelings. 

So, you’ve been trying to check-in with your child more often and you’re getting the same response. How often have you asked your child how he or she is doing and can’t get more than “fine” out of them?  

We’re excited to share five fun and unique ways to “check in” with your children to give them new ways to express themselves—and help you know what is really going on with them!  Bonus: For some extra fun, take these check-ins and create your own with your child!  

Why do metaphoric check-ins work? 

Metaphoric check-ins engage participants, rather than making them feel like they are being put on the spot. When metaphors are created in the creative left side of the brain participants can bypass the conscious resistance that occurs on the right side of the brain. When you take an emotion that is normally difficult to express (i.e. sadness, fear, anxiety) and and turn it into an object (shape, color, weather), the left side of your brain allows you to make the connection without the normal resistance that comes from sharing your feelings!

In order for one to create this connection, your child’s brain must do a little work. When presenting one of the following check-in activities to your child, he or she must go into his or her mind’s eye and think about different feelings they’ve had through past experiences, books, they’ve read, or any other host of sensory experiences. For example weather; perhaps they have a particular fond memory of dancing in the summer rain in Australia or a terrifying memory of being on a boat while the sky turned green and a tornado hit. When the participant seeks these memories, this is called a transderivational search.  

Category Check-ins

Category check ins are simple, prop free, and can be done anywhere! During these check-ins you will ask your child how he or she is doing based on a category. Options for category check ins are as varied and plentiful as the world around us! Depending on what you’re studying, learning about, or interested in, there are even more categories that can be used for a check-in! 

One of our personal favorites is, “What’s your weather?” Creativity abounds when children start with the simpler weather patterns (sunny for happy, cloudy for okay, rainy for sad) and then move into more interesting weather patterns:

  • “Fog is rolling in” might help a child describe how he or she is confused and nervous that the weather will get worse  
  • “Lightning strikes while I’m in a pool” 
  • “Sunrise is starting to peak over the top of the mountain”

Some other ideas


  • What shape are you today? At first, there may be a bit of hesitation but go ahead and think about it. What kind of shape do you feel like today? A circle? A square? A star?  Maybe a blob? The true exploration and connection comes, of course, in the discussion about why you and your child chose your particular shape. 
  • What color are you today? Feeling yellow or violet or neon blue? Explain why!


  • What animal are you today? Today I’m feeling a bit like a turtle but on another day, I might feel like a lion! This could be organized into any category: land animals, sea animals, insects, or reptiles.
  • What element on the periodic table are you today? Perhaps one day, you’re feeling clean and fresh like oxygen, while on another you’re feeling excited and glowing like neon!


  • What musical instrument are you today? Maybe one day you’re feeling like a flute and another you feel like the drums!
  • What song are you today?  
  • What musical artist are you today? Feeling more like The Beatles or Shakira? They’re all good answers once you find out the “why” behind them!

The secret to a successful category check in is to first allow space and time for your child to answer. When we are asked to think about something in a new way, we always experience a bit of resistance, which means we’ve taken a step out of our comfort zones and into a growth zone. To help your children in the process, you can ask them to name weather, shapes, or animals they know. As they start thinking through the possibilities, they will begin to connect the memories in their minds with the knowledge they have about the different options. Want them to go a step further? Offer a wild, creative idea, such as a pegasaurus or tie-dye to get them thinking outside of the box!

Look out for our follow up blog with more ideas and PDFs for creative check-ins with your family. And, use this free PDF for a “What’s Your Weather?” activity!

Photo credit: Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash