Somatic Approach to Emotional Growth and Development

Empowering Children to Influence their Feelings and Behavior

So Frustrating!

Reactions are swift. Reactions are faster than thought. In movement classes, we address the act of reacting itself. The children freeze-frame the shape and intensity of their reactions and differentiate them, allowing time to participate in how they form their response.



“What kind of shape do you

Leave Me Alone!

make when you’re mad?
Angry, frustrated, fed up?
What do you do in your face and your hands?
Do you squeeze? Scrunch? Squish yourself up?

Stay right there!
Don’t go anywhere!
Just notice the shape that you make.

And make it a little bit MORE.

Do you puff out your chest and make yourself big?
Or pull in tight, ready to fight?
With a frown on your face and hands on your hips,
Do you stomp your foot with all your might?


Take your mad shape, and move through space.
What is that like?

Powerful? Frustrating?
Helpless? Exhilarating?


Freeze right there!
Don’t go anywhere!
Just notice the shape that you make.

And this time, make it a little LESS intense…”

Deeply informed by the principles and approach of Formative Psychology®, movement classes encourage children to explore how changing the intensity of their physical shape affects their feelings and how this, in turn, informs how they form and can influence their emotional behavior.

Along a Dynamic Continuum of Intensity and Shape

IMG_1364Along a dynamic continuum of intensity, the children explore the physical ways they shape their bodies and how they can influence their feelings and behavior. This action-oriented, body-based continuum empowers children to recognize and participate in how they shape themselves and the intensity with which they do this to physically influence their feelings and to personalize how they express themselves.

In and Out Along the Continuum


Instead of creating a linear continuum, this formative approach creates a continuum which moves inward and outward — gathering and scattering, pulling in and reaching out, receiving and giving, listening and talking, condensing and expanding. Our feelings rise and subside, increase and diminish. We all pulse — our hearts pulse, our brains pulse, all living cells in our bodies pulse. We pulse within ourselves and we pulse in relation to others and our world.

Through physically influencing the intensity with which the children shape themselves along this continuum, they begin to learn how they can participate in, influence and form the ebb and flow of their emotional inner landscape and how they express themselves.


IMG_1261 I tape four zones on the floor (using the same colors from the Zones of Regulation®) along this dynamic continuum, so the children can physically move inward and outward through space while also transitioning their physical shape and intensity as they move in and out of each zone. They also create distinct shades of intensity within each color zone.

IMG_1033From the blue zone in which the children create little form with low excitement and little containment or boundaries for themselves or with others;
to the green zone in which the children give themselves more form —gather themselves together and create self-containment, with medium intensity which generates a collected, calm, yet engaged way of participating; IMG_1186into the yellow zone in which the children increase their form, making themselves and their boundaries more rigid and increasing their level of excitement;

Wild and Crazy!

and into the exploding red zone in which the children break their boundaries, lose their form and go out of control.

And then the children practice transitioning back and forth between the zones.

Darker, Lighter and Brighter Shades—Exploring Degrees of Intensity

The children freeze-frame their emotional shape and then through intensifying or de-intensifying their shape, they increase or decrease the level of intensity of their shape. This creates shades of their inner emotional state. The children explore how this affects how they feel and how they can influence and form their emotions. They explore how they can generate and shape their excitement, how this affects their feelings, how they can influence their feelings and how this can inform and influence their further actions and interactions with others and the group.

Linking Language to Experiential Learning

In movement classes, actions come first. The children begin by doing, experiencing and exploring. They develop their own experiential understanding of their emotions by starting with the physical actions and then linking language to this. From their own direct experiences, the children describe in their own words the qualities and feelings they generate in each zone.

Some ways the children described the different zones for themselves include:

    • Blue — cozy, comfy, sleepy, cuddling with my dog, resting, soft (“the softness of my cat”), warm, tired, bored, floppy, heavy, sad, “I give up” (defeated), ready for a nap (exhausted).IMG_1155
    • Green — calm, comfortable, interesting, happy but not too much, “I feel like skipping and humming” (enjoying myself), a little boring, but in a good way (not too stimulating or overwhelming)
    • Yellow — cuckoo, crazy, wild, silly, fun, exciting, awesome, scary, nervous, fantastic, too much (overwhelming), frustrating
    • Red — thrilling, dangerous, super duper fun (exhilarating), out of control, super scaryIMG_1037

Ownership and Influence of Reactions, Attitudes, and Behaviors

The children are encouraged to identify and work with the physical shape and intensity of their own feelings and behavior as they relate to their classmates. Instead of focusing foremost on the behaviors of others, particularly casting blame, they direct their attention toward their own feelings and behavior, and how they can modulate their own behavior in situations. This empowers them to take responsibility for their own feelings and behavior and to recognize how they can influence themselves in the forming of new behaviors with others.

IMG_1183In movement classes, children work directly with the physical shape and intensity of their actions and reactions to manage and form their emotional behavior for themselves and in relation to others and the group.

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