Minting New Thoughts: Engaging CBT Activity for kids with ASD and others

Here is a great activity for individuals or groups of kids to introduce or expand on how to cope with upset feelings.  It uses the metaphor of paper money that is first minted, and then shredded if it is defective or worn out. To do the Mint New Thoughts activity you need to print out lots of the special play money (the link for the download play money is found below) and a paper shredder (or you can just tear up the old money).

  1. Print out the OLD THOUGHT money and NEW THOUGHT money in quantities large enough for each participant to have about six to use.
  2.  To introduce this activity:

Try using language like this:  “Did you ever wonder where money comes from, and what happens to it when it is no good anymore?  Money comes from a huge printing factory called a “mint.”  All of our money comes from these places called mints.

“Often, when the money is not printed right, they have to destroy it.  They use something like the paper shredders you see in an office.  Also, other money gets worn out, and they have to shred that money too.

“To replace the destroyed money, the mint prints brand new money.

Your mind is something like a mint that makes money, except your mind makes thoughts instead of dollars.  Hundreds of thoughts, thousands of thoughts, every day.  Most of the thoughts are good and helpful to you.  But some kinds of thoughts aren’t good because they just make you upset too much.  When you get these thoughts, they are like bad or worn-out money that needs to be destroyed.  Then, you need new and better thoughts to make you feel good and calm instead of upset.”

  1. Now, show the kids how to fill out the OLD THOUGHT money.  If you have not already introduced the kids to “poison” and “antidote” thoughts, you will want to do this slowly and carefully.   You can offer them examples.  I suggest you look at my earlier blog entry for “Help the Upset Person”  to give you and the kids some ideas.
  2. Have the kids fill out the NEW THOUGHT money now.  Provide plenty of extra blank money for them to practice.  Tell them that they can use more than one NEW THOUGHT to replace the OLD THOUGHT.
  3. Have the kids run the old money through a paper shredder.  If you have the opportunity to work outside and actually burn them, like on a charcoal grill, this really gets kids’ attention.
  4. If you like, you can laminate the new money now, and with the kids’ permission, display it.

CBT game

To download the play money used in this activity, click HERE.

Derived from a method described in Cognitive Therapy with Children and Adolescents, ed. By Reinecke, Dattilio and Freeman, 2006, Guilford Press.

To go to a number of other engaging, simple activities to help children on the autism spectrum to deal with upset feelings, click here.


Joel Shaul, LCSW

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