How Full is Your Bucket? for Kids

"How Full is Your Bucket? for Kids" by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer
“How Full is Your Bucket? for Kids” by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer

One book I read in my pragmatics language group following a unit on feelings is the story How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer (see for more information).  This book demonstrates visually for children how we each feel and how our actions and words impact ourselves and each other.  The premise is that we each have an invisible bucket, which has “water” added to it when words/actions make us feel better (so that we feel great when it’s full) and has “water” removed from it when words/actions make us feel worse (so that we feel the worst when it’s empty).  The idea is to have the children begin to understand how their own feelings are impacted by the environment and others and to understand that their actions and words positively or negatively affect others.  They also begin to learn that filling someone else’s bucket can fill their own bucket, too! 

At home, use a small bucket or other container (maybe a plastic cup) for each family member.  Keep a stash of small objects nearby to use to fill them, such as pompoms, cotton balls, paper water droplets, or marbles.  Add and remove them throughout the day, or start with just an activity like a family board game or dinner.  It may help initially to draw or attach a face representing the feeling for each level of the bucket (ex:  very sad/crying face at the bottom, an “o.k.” face in the middle, and a very happy face at the top).          

Consider pairing this with looking at books on feelings or pictures in magazines or story books to identify whether each person is having water added to or removed from his/her bucket.  Initially, you can comment on them, and then begin to help your child identify them.  As your child gets good at identifying whether the actions/words are resulting in added or removed water, you can talk quantitatively about the amount of water that might be added or removed.  For instance, a little water might be removed when someone gently bumps a person (something that’s a little deal), but a lot of water would be removed when a child’s favorite toy has broken (something that is a big deal).

* As always, discuss this information with your child’s SLP for information on its relevancy and any appropriate accommodations to his/her communication needs.

                                                                                By Mary Jane Fledderjohn, MS, CCC-SLP/L

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4 Responses to How Full is Your Bucket? for Kids

  1. Tanya Coyle says:

    This is a fantastic book Thanks for your post on it. I know some teachers who rave about it and I think using it in therapy is a great idea 🙂 It is along the same lines as Rick Lavoie’s “Poker Chips Theory”, which I think is a fabulous illustration of how we have the power to build people up or tear them down and that not everyone comes to the table with the same amount of self esteem at the beginning.

    • Thanks for the comment, Tanya! You’re so right about the power of building up others. I really do love this book! In the pragmatic language groups I run, I’ve used a marble jar all year to reinforce positive social skills, and in the last few months the kids have worked hard on identifying and responding appropriately to feelings. Following that, a unit focusing on this book was completed. The feedback from parents has been positive, too. 🙂

      • Tanya Coyle says:

        That’s awesome, I’ll have to suggest this to some of the teachers I work with who have kids with social skills needs. For sure I’m going to suggest it to parents.

        Do you find that this book helps convey the idea of proto- theory of mind for kids with autism?

        • Sorry for the delay in responding Tanya. I find that it begins to introduce to them the idea of taking another’s perspective. We pair reading the book with lots of activities for putting “water” (water droplet shapes of blue foam, crumbled paper, small balloons, real water, etc.) in and out of buckets as related to kid-friendly pictures of people and situations, actions/words of puppets, and actions/words of each other. We practice saying nice things to peers (even as simple as “I like your shirt”) to fill up each other’s “buckets” (ice cream cones) with snack (raisins, goldfish crackers, M&Ms, etc.), and we do lots more “bucket” activities to begin to think about others and what they know and feel.

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