Updated: Apr 8, 2020
Make your clan’s totem pole and represent all your family members as animals!
What you’ll need: Paper, kitchen roll tube, coloured pens or pencils, scissors, and glue.
What’s it for?
This activity will help you think about what is important, special and unique about you and your family members. All elements on a totem pole have meaning. Totem Poles are monumental wood carvings of first nation Americans. The word ‘Totem’ means ‘kinship group’ - which means family. In this activity, you will represent yourself and each of your family members as animals and stick them all on your family’s totem pole! Your ‘family’ can be anyone that takes care of you, it might be a carer, a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or your brothers, sisters, mum and dad.
Notice how you’re feeling right now. Close your eyes and notice what’s going on inside your mind and body.
How are you feeling?
What are you thinking?
How does your body feel?
Take a moment to think about what is important, special and unique about you. What animal would represent some or all of those qualities?
On a piece of paper draw and colour the head of your chosen animal making sure that it somehow represents some of your important, special and unique qualities.
Then, take a moment to think about what is important, special and unique about your other family members. What animals would represent them and their qualities?
Draw and colour the heads of the animals for your family members. Try to make the heads roughly the same size, even if the animals are different sizes! Remember that they all need to fit on the kitchen roll cardboard tube so don’t draw them too big!
When you’ve finished, carefully cut the heads out. Stick them to the kitchen roll cardboard tube. If you don’t have the cardboard tube, on a large separate piece of paper, draw a long pole and stick the heads to it. Think about the order of the animal heads - what feels and looks right?
Share your family totem pole with your other family members and make sure you explain who everyone is, why you chose their particular animal, and what everything means.
Extra Activity: Think of a name for your family clan and decorate your family totem pole / picture with the clan name.
When you’ve finished, spend a moment reflecting on the activity and ask yourself the following questions:
How easy or difficult was it to imagine your family members as animals?
Did thinking about everyone as an animal reveal anything about you or them?
Do all of your animal heads fit together nicely or not? Why not?
Did the order you decided to put the animal head pictures on the totem pole say anything about your family?
This activity helps you to identify what is unique and special about you and your family members
Take a moment to notice how you are feeling at the end of this activity. Did you discover anything surprising? What can you take away to make you feel better about yourself from this activity?
If you would like to, share something about your experience with this activity with someone you live with! Ask the person who looks after you to send us an email if you have any questions or comments about the activity, or would like to send us any pictures (email@example.com). Don't forget to subscribe for more fun CAT activities!
Created by Ian Grundy © March 2020
Creative Arts Used: Art
Psychological Areas Explored: Emotional Wellbeing, Self-Esteem, Self-Exploration
This activity was taken and adapted from ‘Family Totem Pole’ (pg. 176) from:
Jones, A. (1998): 104 Activities that Build: Self-Esteem, Teamwork, Communication, Anger Management, Self-Discovery, Coping Skills, USA: Rec Room Publishing, Inc.
These activities could be done by children of all ages, but some may need the support of their parent or carer to read the instructions or complete the activity safely.
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