Bucket Boxes – Help Your Highly Sensitive Child Empty Their Bucket

Each of my sons has a bucket box in their bedroom full of items they can use when they need quiet time to reset, or recharge. It’s a simple tool they can instantly access.

Bucket Boxes to help your highly sensitive child empty their bucket A Highly Sensitive Child’s Bucket Fills Quickly and Easily

My children come home from school full of stories of moments, activities they have undertaken, experiences they have had, and emotions they have juggled with.

They have concentrated hard.

They have played boisterously on the football field or playground.

They may have dealt with harsh words from another child.

They may have fallen and hurt themselves, or seen one of their friends stumble and hurt themselves.

They may have had a replacement teacher, an unknown face and unfamiliar teaching style before them for the day.

They may have celebrated a classmate’s birthday.

Or struggled with a maths question.

Or had a gym class.

Each school day is different, but each day takes a lot out of a highly sensitive child. Every experience, emotion and moment finds its way, unfiltered, into their imaginary bucket. The fact is that the bucket of a HSC fills quicker than that of other children.

And generally, they don’t empty those buckets until they get into the safety of home.

Recognising a Full Bucket

A child carrying a full bucket home from school may be tearful, angry, obstinate, unreasonable, silent or hyperactive. You can read more about recognising when your HSC’s bucket is full here. If you see that your child is struggling then it’s wise to guide them to take some time to focus on emptying their bucket.

Emptying a Child’s Bucket

There are many ways a child can empty their bucket. What works for one child may not work for another. Through trial and error you can work out what works for your family.

Some children will retreat to their rooms and cherish alone time. My youngest (6 years old) will take himself away upstairs and build with Kapla until his bucket is empty. He enjoys alone time when his bucket is full.

My 11 year old, on the other hand, isn’t so keen on being alone in his room.  He will seek out time with me or his father, or a quiet activity with one of his brothers. Or he will sit in a room where we are and read, or play with Pokemon cards, or draw. Or just sit.

My 8 year old sits somewhere in the middle. His quiet time often involves a chess board, or Lego, or a book. Sometimes he chooses to be alone in his room, other days he needs ‘time in’ with one of us to help him empty his bucket.

There’s a list of ideas here to help you experiment with what works for your HSC.

Bucket Boxes

I got my children to the point of accepting that full buckets need to be emptied before they busy themselves with activities that add to the already overflowing buckets. However, when a child is feeling overwhelmed it can be hard for them to think straight. Emotions take over. My children often struggled with what activity to do to empty their buckets. Suggestion I made were met with, “I don’t know where it is,” or “I can’t find it,” or “I don’t have that in my room”.

So I bought three plastic boxes, which they decorated with stickers,  and sat with each of my sons filling those boxes with items they often played with or used to empty their buckets after a busy activity or a school day.

This is what went into those boxes:

  • “How To” drawing books
  • Activity, colouring, word search and sudoku books
  • Little brain teaser puzzles and games
  • Drawing paper and pencils.
  • MP3 player
  • Music CDs
  • Audio Story CDs
  • Kid meditation CDs
  • Stickers
  • A note reminding them of a larger item or game that doesn’t fit in the bucket box (this penguin game is one example – I definitely recommend checking out the Smart Games series)
  • Stress balls
  • Fidget toys (such as spinners and Tangle, which are big hits in our house)
  • Silly putty

They also wrote bucket emptying ideas on a piece of paper which they hung in their rooms. These ideas range from jumping on their bikes and cycling their stress away to splashing their face with water.

Why Having A Bucket Box Helps

The bucket boxes sit in each of the boys’ rooms. When they are clearly overwhelmed I say “bucket box” and they head up to dig something out of their boxes to help them. They don’t need to search for an item, or think about what they want to do. They can easily grab something and get busy with bucket emptying.

Just remember to regularly revisit the contents of the bucket box to ensure it is stocked with items that help your child as interests change and as they get older.

Explore what works for your child!

I’d love to hear about the bucket boxes you make: What’s in them? When are they used? Do they help?

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About Amanda van Mulligen

Mother, writer, author, blogger. Born British, Living Dutch. I have three Dutch sons and a Dutch husband and I blog about Turning Dutch and raising highly sensitive children.
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