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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Highly Sensitives and the Power of Smell

Although Aron states that highly sensitive people (HSP) are not shown to have heightened senses in general a HSP usually has one sense that is extra tuned in and sharp. For some this is smell. Some notice every smell around them, whilst others are oblivious to scents.

Highly Sensitives and the Power of SmellThe Power of a Smell

Smell is evocative for many people – a particular smell can cast you back in time; a particular baking smell can send you right back to childhood days standing in your mother’s kitchen waiting for the cookies to bake, cut grass can take you back to lazy childhood summers.

Smells evoke memories.

Smells evoke associations – like the scent of a mother on a t-shirt laid in a baby’s cot.

Our sense of smell is a powerful thing.

A HSC’s Overwhelm May Stem From Scents

But smells can also cause overwhelm for a highly sensitive child (HSC), or adult for that matter, if they are unable to effectively filter out sensory stimuli.

If your HSC has a sharp sense of smell and seems to be overwhelmed when you are out and about then consider the role that the scents around you may play.

Think about all the different aromas you can pick up at the shopping mall: Coffee, food, perfumes, cleaning materials, body odour, garbage. Just for starters.

Or the scents that invade the nostrils on a hike in the woods.

Or whilst walking around town.

Or sitting in a kitchen.

Smells can cause both an emotional and a physical reaction – disgust, hunger, nausea, yearning, nostalgia, joy.

Use Smells to Your Advantage

I smell things that my husband does not. I could be used as a police sniffer human. It can cause immense irritation and discomfort; for example if someone is smoking anywhere near me or rubbish smells in the kitchen bin.

As an adult I have learnt to turn it around and use my heightened sense of smell to help me. Different scents can cause positive emotions and favourable states of mind.

It’s something I first related to whilst reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and it’s an idea I have embraced ever since. Spending money on things that smell nice may seem luxurious – but the impact the right smell can have on your happiness or state of mind is worth the investment. It really is worth indulging! (You can read more on this here).

In short, smells can also make you happy!

Essential Oils

In the past few months I have delved into the world of essential oils, learning which particular smells make me feel relaxed, which raise my spirits, which help when I have a headache or scents that help balance me.

I extensively use a diffuser in our home.

And I’m learning to use essential oils to help my children too. You need to make sure you use child safe oils, and always dilute. Here are more tips before trying any oils with children.

I’ve lots more to learn but so far I do know that a whiff of a favourite essential oil can really do wonders.

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Take Good Care of Yourself Too Mama

Mother. Wife. Professional career woman. Keeper of all house related activities. Agenda organiser. School liaison officer. Taxi service. Entertainer of little people. Chef. Cleaner. Toilet scrubber. Financial planner. Event planner. Homework supervisor. Comforter. When it is time to just be you?

Take Good Care of Yourself Too Mama

The Tough Job of Motherhood

I have three sons; 11, 8 and 6. For eleven years I’ve put my needs  bottom of the pile. First the kids, then my husband and then the rest. And me? There’s been no time for that.

Motherhood is a joy. But it’s also tough. And it’s an all consuming role, particularly with highly sensitive children who need you to parent differently. Eleven years is a long time at the best of times; it’s been intense and I have lost a part of myself along the way.

What Happens When You Neglect Yourself?

I’ve not been taking care of me. And no one else has being doing it for me.

Guess what happens after more than a decade of that?

You wake from a slumber one day and realise you’re living on autopilot, from one day to the next.

You realise there’s a fog in your head. An eternal fog.

You realise negative feelings are in charge.

You realise that your marriage is holding on by a thread. And you realise you have known it for years but have been too tired or too fogged up to know what to do about it.

You realise your children are reacting to the constant tension you are feeling and throwing out into your home.

You realise no one is winning.

You realise things have to be different.

Time to be Just You

And it starts with putting yourself first for a while. To get back on track. To grant yourself time to be you. Just you. Not a mother. Not a wife. Not a professional career woman.

Just you.

A few weeks ago I joined a Dru yoga class. It’s a class based on movement, breathing, visualisation and positivity. It’s had a powerful effect on me. The yoga classes awaken emotions that have been buried deep. They have triggered the start of a healing process I had no idea I needed to go through.

Take Good Care of Yourself Too Mama

Take Good Care of Yourself Too Mama – yoga can have a surprising impact

Those yoga classes are about me. And only me. My place in the world. My place in my family. What do I want? What are MY goals? Who am I?

Further more I planned a weekend getaway to Barcelona with my best friend in September. We’ve been talking about taking a break together for years but I dragged my feet – kids first, then my husband and then the rest. And never me. And now it’s booked.

The last year of my life has been one of change. Of starting anew. The last month or so has been tough. A bomb went off and blew things apart. But I’m emerging from the rubble more determined than ever to rebuild a more solid foundation. My way of living has changed. My attitude towards myself has changed. I know now that I am important too.

Looking After Yourself is a Necessity

I see and feel the difference already. I see the impact that being a calmer, happier mother has on my children.

I see how more connected we are as a family. I see how we are more open for each other’s emotions.

I feel how much more room there is in my heart for my family.

I also know I cannot do it all alone. And I reaching out to others to help.

We’re all guilty of neglecting ourselves as we take of our family at some point. But we shouldn’t be living our lives like that so that it just becomes the norm. Ignoring our own needs takes its toll, not just on us, but on everyone around us too.

The adage about putting the oxygen mask on yourself before placing it on your child rings true.

Take a minute and ask yourself:

Am I taking care of me? Is anyone taking care of me?

If the answer is no, do something about it.

For everyone’s sake.

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Highly Sensitive Children at the Playground

Playgrounds through the eyes of a highly sensitive child are busy places, full of noise, activity and even danger. If your HSC is cautious or hangs around on the outskirts at the playground, then they are certainly not alone. Here’s why and how you can help them.

Highly Sensitive Children at the Playground

Playgrounds are Overwhelming for a HSC

Continue reading

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Time to Stress v Preparation Time: When to Tell a Highly Sensitive Children

My youngest sat in tears as I told him he had a swimming lesson that evening, one to replace a regular lesson he’d missed one Saturday to celebrate his brother’s birthday. I didn’t give him days of warning this time around because I knew it would cause sleepless nights and stress. So how much notice of an upcoming appointment or event they are not enthusiastic about is enough for a highly sensitive child (HSC)? There’s an art to finding the right balance between providing a HSC with too much time to stress and not enough time to prepare.

Time to Stress v Preparation Time_ When to Tell a Highly Sensitive ChildrenHSCs Need Time to Get Used to an Idea

Springing an event or appointment on a HSC at the last minute will rarely end well. HSCs thrive on routines and need time to adjust to the idea of something that falls outside of their regular activities. They don’t like surprises, and want to know how their day will look so they can prepare – usually visually in their own mind. Continue reading

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Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

When life is busy, particularly as the end of the school year approaches, highly sensitive people often feel overwhelmed. Self care is even more important at these times. Helping our children empty their buckets is vital. Getting out for a walk in nature is an amazingly effective remedy for busy days.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

This is exactly what the five of us did last week one day after school. We headed to the woods and just walked, explored and relaxed. Each of us shook off the demands of the day and went home with an empty bucket. Oh and a collection of rather large sticks…..

We played.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy: Play

The boys ran.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

We stopped by the waterside and were amazed by hundreds and hundreds of tiny tadpoles swimming relentlessly around, in different states of development. Some were still incredibly small but some teensy frogs were already hopping around on land. The water’s edge was black with the volume of tadpoles.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

We admired the beauty of a passing butterfly who stopped to take a moment to rest on the ground.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

We walked and took in the blueness of the sky and the yellowness of the fields.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

We listened to the rustling of the wheat in the field.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

Get out this weekend into all that nature has to offer. Let me know where you went in the comments……

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Help Your Highly Sensitive Child Accept That Different is Okay

Despite many highly sensitive children (HSC) trying their best to blend in with the kids around them, many find that fitting in is not always so easy. Finding the balance between feeling authentic but not sticking out is a challenge for highly sensitive children and their parents alike. But a child without balance in their lives may feel unhappy and even ill. How can we help them?

Help Your Highly Sensitive Child Accept That Different is OkayFeeling Different

Being highly sensitive is not something that is going away, and thank goodness for that. The positives of being a HSC are enormous, but there are downsides too.

My eldest in preschool was an emotional sponge, taking on the emotions of the children around him. If a new child missed their mother and felt sad, my son felt sad too. If a child fell and hurt themselves my son would have tears in his eyes and would worry about his classmate.

At a certain age he realised that these type of things didn’t seem to bother his friends, only him. He began asking why he reacted so differently.

A HSC needs lots of down time. An eleven year old boy isn’t keen on quiet time and would rather go straight out to play with his friends after school. Frustration kicks in when he realises that he actually does need some time to cool off after school before he can go out and start again. (Yes, that’s my son.) He asks why his friends don’t seem to have a problem going straight out without any a ‘break’.

It’s a fact that children compare themselves to other children. And they ask why they react, behave or think differently. And generally children do not like to stick out. The older they get, the more important this becomes to them.

Help Your HSC Accept That Different is Okay

So it’s important that a young child knows that different is okay. If they understand that actually we are all different in different ways then reacting differently to situations may not seem so unusual to them later. Help them see how we all react and behave differently in the same situation. There’s no right or wrong.

Help your HSC embrace different and help them understand why and how they behave differently, or why their needs are different to a non- HSC. If they already have an attitude of ‘I am who I am’ at a young age it will certainly help later on.

Acceptance of ourselves is a skill that many of us do not learn until later in life. How much easier would it have been for you growing up if you had understood yourself and why you react the way you do to the world around you? That’s a gift we can give to our HSCs whilst they are still young.

Be There

If the majority of children around a HSC behave or react in a certain way there will be a tendency for a HSC to withdraw, or not share their thoughts or observations with the others – because of a fear of standing out or being different.

As a parent provide a safe place for your HSC to share all their thoughts and experiences. My children will often out an opinion at home that they didn’t want to share in a group elsewhere because no one else seemed to have that opinion or idea. They don’t want others to think they are ‘strange’.

HSCs are often wiser beyond their years, and have fabulous insight. They are therefore prone to stand out, and consequently feel uncomfortable.

As they get older, they will feel more confident to share more outside of the home if they have grown up with a nurturing safe space. When they learn what they have to offer others around them they will also learn to share it with others.

Help HSCs Understand Themselves

As I mentioned HSC have a tendency to take on the emotions of others around them. If a teacher is off her game, a HSC feels that and it taints the lesson for them, or they worry about their teacher. If a friend is upset a HSC will feel sad. A HSC may come home from school feeling negative and down, without being able to explain why.

Taking on all these emotions is confusing and tiring.

It’s important that a HSC learns to understand which emotion belongs to them, which problem is theirs to solve, and when offering a listening ear is enough. Shaking off the emotions is a skill that every HSC needs to develop to avoid getting bogged down in negative emotions that are not theirs to process.

In other words, help them answer the question: What emotion is mine and which ones have I taken on from someone else?

Final Words

Finding the balance between behaving so that you feel comfortable in an external environment and being true to yourself is important.

As parents we can help a HSC develop the skills and tools to feel where that balance lies as they develop into adulthood; by understanding that we are all different, that different is okay, that we accept ourselves as we are and learn that the emotions and problems of others are not ours to take on as our own.

Book Tip: Thank Goodness for Different

Help Your Highly Sensitive Child Accept That Different is Okay

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Movies & TV Shows for Highly Sensitive Children – Parent & Kid Approved

It’s not always easy finding a movie or TV show that doesn’t negatively impact a highly sensitive child. From years of advice passed from parents in the Happy Sensitive Kids Community here’s a list of movies and shows that have passed the highly sensitive kids test.

Please remember that each child is different and reacts differently to scenes in shows and movies – you know your own child best when it comes to suitable viewing material.

Movies & TV Shows for Highly Sensitive Children - Parent & Kid Approved

It is also worth noting that watching a movie in the cinema is a more intense experience for HSCs than watching at home. Here’s more on making it a successful trip to the movie theatre with a HSC: 7 Tips to Make a Highly Sensitive Child’s First Trip to the Cinema a Success.

TV Shows for Younger Children

Kipper the Dog

Clifford the Big Red Dog


Peppa Pig

The Octonauts

Gummie Bears

Little Bear

Go Jetters

Paw Patrol

Thomas the Tank Engine: Mine are now a bit old for Thomas but when they were little Thomas was a huge hit, in particular the films, which were played over and over.

The Magic School Bus - parent approved for highly sensitive children

The Magic School Bus: Emmy award winning educational series

Winnie the Pooh: A loveable classic that is as innocent as it gets on TV, if you accept that Pooh Bear thinks it wise to wear a T-shirt but no pants…….

Story Bots


Puffin Rock

Doc McStuffins

Bob the Builder

Super Wings

Justin Time 

Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs 

Go Diego Go



Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

Nature Cats

TV Shows for Older Children

LEGO series: Huge hits with my three sons (ages 6, 8 and 11). The Lego Ninjago series is a particular favourite.

Factual Programs

Sending Mit Der Maus: German series

Checkpoint: Dutch program which my three boys LOVE. There’s lots of crazy experiments and tests done, resulting in lots of explosions and things being blown up. A real hit. Aimed at children 9-12 but my 6 and 8 year old are as immersed in it as their elder brother.

Klokhuis: Dutch program on NPO Zapp explaining why and how on a wide range of topics.

Movies for Children

The Aristocats

Toy Story: Some children may find Sid and his mutilated toys scary in the first Toy Story. I would put a caution warning on Toy Story 3 for younger children. In the Netherlands Toy Story is rated an AL, which means suitable for all ages. However the UK rates as a PG, which means parental guidance is advisable.

Storks: There is peril in this film but there is always a safe ending.

Boss Baby: Recommended for 6 and over, with some potentially scary scenes when one character imagines looming figures. Humour is probably more for older children and is about sibling rivalry.

The Secret Life of Pets: The animals in this movie are in peril. Common sense media states suitable for children 7-10, depending on whether you believe the kids or the parents.

Stuart Little: For kids aged 5 or 6 up, with small amounts of peril (Stuart is a mouse who is regularly chased by a cat).

Yogi Bear

Mary Poppins: An oldie but my goodness a goodie. Still trying to convince my sons to give this classic a go……

The Sound of Music: Watch out in the last ten minutes as some HSCs might find it too much.

Robin Hood (Disney)

My Neighbour Totoro

Sing: Contains characters in peril, but in general a fun, song filled movie for kids aged 6 up. My three have watched this a couple of times – and love the music.

Moomins on the Riviera

Cars: These movies can be loud, there is name calling in the first movie and the action is fast paced. Watch out for car crashes, the part where Lightening gets lost and another scene they are chased by Frank – all potential wobble moments for HSCs. In general though, my kids have loved all three of the Cars movies. Cars 2 is probably best left for older children – there’s a ‘torture’ scene at the beginning for a start and a fair bit of shooting and peril.

The Land Before Time: note that there are some sad scenes, young dinosaurs are chased by predators and natural disasters feature.

Given: This is about a family exploring different cultures.

Inside Out: A movie about big emotions and one that is possibly too complex for really young viewers. Aged 7 or 8 upwards is a good guide.

Movies and TV Shows Parent and Kid Approved for Highly Sensitive Children

Despicable Me Films: Massive hits in our house. The minions are loved and my children often make lots of random minion noises…… 6+ rating but take care with adopted children watching the first movie. The second movie carries a HSC parent warning too – the minion turn into frenzied purple minions, which can be a bit scary for younger children.

Movies for Older Children (12+)

Star Wars: There is a great age by age guide on Common Sense Media for Star Wars fans.

The Hobbit: Rated as PG 13 though Common Sense Media states 11 as an appropriate viewing age. There’s violence and scary scenes so very child dependent.

Men in Black: A movie for tweens, but again violence and scary scenes so you are the best judge if it is something for your 12/13 year old.

Films That We Had to Switch Off and Try Again a Few Years Later…..

For what it’s worth we have had a few mishaps over the years, films we started but had to cut short as they were too scary, too intense, too emotional……. Often as a year or more go by it’s worth trying again. And as I have said more than once in this post: every child is different. One of my sons has found something way too much whilst his younger brother is totally unfazed. It’s a learning process!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas: the Grinch freaked my eldest two out the first time we picked this film as the family Christmas movie. A year later they loved it.

The Boxtrolls: we recently watched this and it was enjoyed by all but we did try this previously and switched it off. Lots of scenes set at night, characters in peril, scary looking villains.

Pete’s Dragon (2016 remake version)

Evergreen List – Add Your Suggestions

This list will be continually updated and added to. If you have comments on any of the shows or movies listed here please let me know in the comments. If your HSC loves a movie or TV program that is not listed then get in touch and I will add it. Together we can create the ultimate HSC friendly list!

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Electronic Devices and the Highly Sensitive Child

Electronic devices and their effects on children are a concern for many parents, not just those of highly sensitive children (HSC). As parents we are aware that we are raising children in the digital age. Electronic devices and gaming systems are unavoidable; they are a fact of life. But what impact are electronic devices having on our HSCs? Are they an appropriate tool to help a HSC empty their bucket when they need time out?

Electronic Devices and the Highly Sensitive Child

Does Screen Time Calm Highly Sensitive Children or Fill Their Buckets?

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Highly Sensitive Children Don’t Fit the Mould – And They Shouldn’t Have To

Many highly sensitive children don’t behave like other children and certainly don’t always meet society’s expectations of them. Coming up with creative compromises that play to a highly sensitive child’s (HSC) strengths is a large part of parenting a HSC. And it’s an essential element of raising a child that is happy and confident with who they are.

Highly Sensitive Children Don't Fit the Mould - And They Shouldn't Have ToModern Day Childhood

These days children are under pressure to do as many outside school activities as possible to give them a step up for their future. Children, particularly boys, are expected to enjoy team sports. Continue reading

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