Spatial Requirements: Regular classroom setup; little or no space required
Activity Type: Object
Grades: 3-12
Group Size: 1 or more
Time: 5-10 minutes

Introduction: This is an amusing object lesson for students to understand how they approach and handle their stressors. It illustrates the way we experience stressors – many over time or all at once – and it opens communication lines for how that stress can be managed in positive and negative ways.


  • 6 tennis balls
  • 1 bucket or trash can to hold the balls 


Begin the activity by asking for a volunteer. Have the student stand in front of the group and instruct him/her to catch as many tennis balls as they can.

In the first round, toss the tennis balls one at a time to the student slowly. Each time the student catches a ball, he or she can drop it in the bucket or trash can next to them. Gather the tennis balls. Tell the student you are going to repeat the activity, only this time you are going to throw them a little bit faster. Repeat the activity, throwing the tennis balls one at a time but fast enough that the student has trouble catching some.

Gather the tennis balls and tell the student you are going to repeat the activity one more time. Toss all the tennis balls (underhand) at the student at the same time.  He/she should not be able to catch very many.

Processing the Experience:

  • What could these balls represent?
  • How is this like the stressors in our life?
  • In life, when stressors come at us slowly like in the first round of this activity, how do we usually manage them? 
  • How is it more difficult to cope or manage our emotions when all our stressors come at once?
  • Does anyone have an example of when this has happened?
  • What are some positive ways to manage stress in life?
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