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  • Writer's pictureGHF CAT Team

Turtle Retreat

Make a paper turtle to help you learn about staying calm when you feel upset, frustrated, or angry

What you’ll need: Paper plates, thicker A4 size paper, pens, scissors and glue

What’s it for?

This activity helps you learn how to stay cool when you feel angry and uses a turtle as a visual illustration of this calming technique.

Check In:

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?


  • Did you know that turtles can retract their head and limbs into their shells where they feel safe and secure?

  • This is their special way to stay safe and calm and you are about to design your own turtle to help you learn about ways to calm your mind and body when you feel upset, frustrated or angry

  • Take A4 sized sheet of paper of your choice and cut three strips along the longer edge to make turtle’s legs and spine, about an inch wide each

  • Can you think of a time when you felt upset, frustrated, or angry? Write it down on one of the strips

  • How does your body usually feel like when you experience these intense emotions? Write it down on the same strip

  • Turn the strip over so that the writing is at the bottom and cut a small circular shape to make turtle’s head by gluing it onto one end of that strip

  • Draw eyes and mouth thinking about a particular expression you would like your turtle to have

  • Put the strips aside for a moment and let’s design the shell!

  • Take two paper plates ensuring that one is inside the other and make two small marks on the edge of the plate, about two inches apart

  • Use a pen to draw a shape of a shallow letter C using the marks on the plate as your starting and ending points

  • Cut along the curved line to create the base for your turtle’s head

  • Separate the plates and turn them up-side-down

  • Using coloured pens, decorate the first plate to become turtle’s belly

  • Decorate the other plate to look like turtle’s shell

  • Think about what helped you calm down when you felt angry last time? Write it down on the paper plate representing turtle’s shell

  • Can you think of some other ways to help your body and mind feel calmer? This could be taking a few deep breaths, telling yourself that you’re okay and that you can calm down – write them down on the shell

  • Turn the ‘belly’ plate clean side up and apply glue on each side of letter C and do the same on the other side of the plate

  • Take a clean strip and glue along the letter C cut side of the plate to create the legs and do the same on the other side of the plate

  • Take the third strip with the head attached and place in the middle of the plate so that the head goes across letter C cut side of the plate

  • Apply glue around the edge of the plate, avoiding the spine so that it can move freely

  • Take the ‘shell plate’ and glue it onto the ‘belly plate’ so that that letter C cuts align

  • Bend the legs down and cut the ends if needed so that your turtle can stand steadily, trim the tail and here you have it! What could be your turtle’s name? Try pulling the tail back and forth to help the turtle retreat into its shell to calm down.

  • Now think about how you could use TURTLE RETREAT technique:

  • NOTICE: Remember some of the anger signs to watch out for that you have written down and try to notice them within yourself

  • PAUSE: Whenever you recognise them, it means that it is time to PAUSE in order to calm your feelings down

  • RETREAT: Try to pretend that you also have a shell to go into to calm down or think about what would be your safe ‘shell’? Could it be a special or a chosen place in class or at home? Or could you perhaps visit it in your imagination by closing your eyes? Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself that you are okay and that you can calm down. Keep breathing deeply as that will help your body feel calmer.

  • RETURN: When you are calm, you can come out of your ‘shell’ and think of a safe solution to whatever caused you feel angry, frustrated, or upset

  • How about telling your friend or a sibling about your Turtle Retreat method to remain calm in stressful situation?

  • Practice this technique in your daily life whenever you feel upset, frustrated or angry

Extra Activity: Try to recognize different facial expressions between frustrated, upset and angry and make several turtle faces writing down different warning signs for each feeling on the spine strip. Being able to recognise these signs early will help you calm down quicker and stop your feelings from growing stronger.

When you’ve finished, spend a moment reflecting on the activity and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How important do you think it is to be able to calm down before our feelings become explosive?

  • How did you find the process of ‘Turtle Retreat’ as a calming strategy?

  • How did you name your turtle and why?

  • How did your body feel when you took several deep breaths? What changes have you noticed in your body?

  • What is your preferred ‘shell’ to retreat to when you feel upset, frustrated, or angry?


This activity uses a paper turtle to visualise the process of going into a safe place to calm down and teaches you to gain control over difficult feelings. When you notice yourself becoming upset or angry, remember about Turtle Retreat and work through the technique steps to guide you towards self-soothing and calmness.

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 ( Don't forget to subscribe for more fun CAT activities!

Created by Karolina Koman © May 2020


Creative Arts Used: Art

Psychological Areas Explored: Resilience, Emotional Wellbeing and Relationships

If you enjoyed this activity, you might also like:

Bin it: Enable your feelings to become more manageable through a process of acceptance and reflection.

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.

This website was made by CAT Corner to help you explore your feelings through fun creative arts activities. The people using the website and the people responsible for them need to make sure they stay safe (full disclaimer on About page).

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