Tackle the Stress Monster Exercise

By Nicole Lipkin
Scared cute little african kid girl looking at camera lying in bed cover with blanket, surprised small black child peeking from duvet wake from bad dream sleep feel fear afraid of nightmare, top view, stress

Kids experience stress in lots of different ways. There’s the stress of grief and loss during traumatic events, but there’s also the stress from exciting events like trying new things and meeting new people. Encourage your child to get to know their stress with this Stress Monster activity.

Help Your Child Create Their Own Stress Monster

Stress monster jumping on bed

Stress is a normal part of everyday life, so helping kids manage stress means staying mindful through all of life’s ups and downs. Personalizing the look (big, mean, wild, fluttery) and feel (hot, spiky, loud, heavy) of stress gives kids a way to articulate how they feel, which makes it easier to talk about.

Why do this…

This activity helps your child identify, confront and befriend stress in a creative, non-threatening way. It’s a really great activity for the whole family! 

How long it will take…

20-30 min., with an optional additional 10-20 min.)

Let’s Get Started!


  • Paper, markers, colors and colored pencils 
  • Optional: A balloon, sand and any other art materials for decorating such as yarn, pipe cleaners, buttons


  1. Take a moment to talk about what stress is and how it feels to be stressed. We all experience stress and sometimes, the stress in our lives can get so big that it becomes like a big monster. Ask, “What does stress feel like to you?” 
  2. Now, take some time to imagine your own personal stress monster. Your monster will represent all of the stressful thoughts, feelings, and sensations you experience day-to-day. Ask, “What will your monster look like? What will you name it? Does it wear clothes? Is it smooth, slippery or spiky?”
  3. Using markers, colors and/or colored pencils, draw your stress monster on paper. Once you’re done, look at what you’ve created. Ask, “What do you think about your monster? Is it as big or scary as you imagined?” 
  4. Ask, “Do you think it could ever become a friend?” Imagine inviting your stress monster in to play a video game, out to a slumber party with friends or to sit down and talk about why it’s there. 
  5. Optional: Instead of drawing on paper, pour sand into a balloon and tie it up when it is big enough to fit in your hand. You’ve just created a stress ball! Now, decorate your stress ball in a way that looks like your stress monster. Do you think you could give them a wink or a squeeze in times of stress? 

Break It Down

Try these prompts to keep the conversation going!

  • Ask your child what they learned about their stress monster. 
  • Share what you learned too!

You can refer to the monster the next time your child needs help recognizing their stress. Ask, “Are you okay? You had that look on your face the last time you talked to your friend!” 

Dr. Nicole Lipkin is the founder of HeyKiddo™ a text-based subscription for parents to help build the habit of conversation with their kiddos. 

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