I was first introduced to connecting feelings and colours in a play therapy course at University. The technique was called Color-Your-Life (See reference below) and it required that a child would connect different feelings to specific colours. Once they had their feeling-colour pairs, they would then be asked to fill a page with these colours to represent the feelings they had experienced in their life. For some children this is rather an abstract concept. A piece of white paper hardly represents a "life", so sometimes one needs to model it first. I must mention that the technique is usually used with children aged 6 to 12 years.
Now whether I use this technique in therapy or not, I always tell children about feelings and colours. The book Colour Me Happy by Shen Roddie and Ben Cort is a wonderful companion to have in this process and even though the pictures may seem appropriate for a younger child, I can assure you that older children are grabbed by the bold, bright colours and the humour depicted in some of the pictures. If your child doesn't immediately understand the concept of connecting a colour to a feeling, this book really helps.
Before introducing the book though, it is always interesting to see what feelings children will tell you about when asked. Sometimes they will leave out a feeling that you may consider significant, such as feeling "afraid". but will add a less discussed one, such as "confused". The choice of feelings can give you an idea of what your child may be experiencing at the moment. Remember that children for the most part operate in the here-and-now, so will probably talk about feelings that are relevant to them on that particular day.
Here are some more ideas for using colours and feelings:
Draw a picture of a feeling face or feeling person in the feeling colour that is chosen by your child and use these pictures to make Feeling Cards. Paste them on some card stock and stick them up in your child's room. It's so easy then to point at a card and say "I'm feeling like this today!". That reminds me, remember to label your feelings out loud, so that your little one hears you acknowledging it.
The Pick-Up-Sticks Game (See reference below) is a another fun way to encourage children to talk about feelings. When your child is familiar with colour-feeling pairs, you can play a traditional game of Pick-Up-Sticks, however when you pick up a stick, you need to tell about a time when you had the feeling associated with the colour of the stick. Remember to share your feelings too. Children want to hear about Mom and Dad's feelings and it's a great time to model the appropriate sharing of feelings.
Most importantly, these games are meant to be fun! If your child resists, try again on another day or think of a different variation. I would always love to hear what colour-feeling games you have come up with. Please leave comments below. I love receiving them.
The Color-Your-Life Technique(Kevin J. O'Conner, 1983). In C.E. Schaefer and K.J. O'Conner (Eds), Handbook of Play Therapy. New York, Wiley, 252-258
The Pick-Up-Sticks Game (Barbara McDowell). In H. Kaduson and C.E. Schaefer (Eds), 101 Favorite Play Therapy Techniques. Aronson, 1997, 145-149
PS. I have linked this to: Show and Tell @ ABC and 123