A highly sensitive child (HSC) has difficulty filtering out sensory input around them. This means, for example, that every noise, smell, touch, action and movement around them is noticed and deeply processed. Building in quiet moments into a HSC’s day is essential to stop them becoming overwhelmed.
Why Does a HSC Need a Bucket?
What does this have to do with buckets? We have been using buckets in our home as a tool to help my highly sensitive children with emotions and sensitivities for nearly five years now. When my eldest son was four he was visibly struggling with school so I introduced the idea of a bucket to him. I explained that all the sensory input he experiences in the course of a day goes into his bucket. It’s something he found easy to picture – and was able to put into words how he was feeling when he came out of school. “Mama, my bucket is full.” “My bucket is overflowing.” “My bucket is empty!”
We could then easily talk about activities that are ‘bucket fillers’ and those that are’ bucket emptiers’.
Bucket Printable for Your HSC
As the bucket as a a tool for highly sensitive children has had so much positive feedback I decided to put together some printables so that you can give your HSC a bucket too.
The Bucket: Step 1
Print out one of the buckets using the links directly below (the collection of buckets here will grow over time). Your child can colour in the bucket or decorate as they wish, or just use as they are.
Bucket Fillers: Step 2
Print out the pages with the droplets on them. These can be used to capture sensory input that will go into (or have gone into) your HSC’s bucket. Some droplets have ideas on them, others are blank for you and your child to fill in. Think about all the sights, sounds, noises, smells, interactions and events that happen around a highly sensitive child likely affect them in some way – these all get put into their bucket. You can, in general, assume that the younger your child is, the less filtering that goes on before things are placed in the bucket.
Sit with your child and choose or create droplets that are relevant to what you have going on that day (or the next day) and add them to the bucket. It gives you both a good visual of whether your child’s bucket is likely to overflow that day – and you can then talk about potential issues and take measures to help your HSC.
However, whilst it makes sense that the busier a child’s day is the quicker their buckets will fill, it is important to remember that each child is different. What fills one child’s bucket may actually be an emptier for another child. One lone activity (for example a friend’s birthday party) may be enough to fill a bucket. So look for common links between activities and emotional reactions afterwards so you can make your own list or make adjustments (e.g give a particular colour to the droplets that have more of am impact on your child than other list items). For this reason there are blank droplets of various sizes to add your own bucket fillers to. The more you talk with your HSC about their day and identify bucket fillers the easier it will be to make your own list and preempt meltdowns and overload.
Bucket Emptiers: Step 3
Lastly there are clouds you can use to visualise ‘bucket emptiers’. These are calming activities that help your child refocus and create quiet time to clear their minds – and empty their buckets. Again some activities may actually be a bucket filler for your HSC so think about what works for your child – a good example here is TV, which for some children is a calming activity but a filler for other children.
There are some clouds with pre-printed ideas and blank clouds to fill in activities specific to your HSC. There are lots more bucket emptying ideas here.
The bucket emptiers help you and your child get an overview of how to counteract all the fillers of the day, but also give you a great list of activities to tempt your HSC to take some well needed down time.
Using the Bucket Activity to Help Your HSC
The three printables together (the bucket, the droplets with ‘buckets fillers’ and the clouds of ‘bucket emptiers’) provide you with a tool to talk about your child’s day with him or her and anticipate problems before they arise – in a visual way that makes it easy for even a young child of 4 or 5 to understand.
As an example: if you sit with your HSC before your day gets going and put school, a party and papa going on a business trip in the bucket then you have a very clear picture of how full their bucket will be by bedtime. You can then plan to build in some quiet time in between activities, emotionally prepare your child as necessary and preempt a meltdown. The dialogue is already open with your child about how full your child’s bucket could be before the day gets going – and, depending on the age of your child, your HSC can already take account of that as their day gets underway.
All Printables at a Glance
I hope these printables help you and your HSC – I welcome your feedback on how it works (or doesn’t) for you and your child(ren). This is something that I will keep adding to so your feedback is very welcome to help with improvements.