Previously, I shared a post on the Meebie doll by Orkid Toys.
The post was titled “Expressing Emotion and Mending Wounds with Meebie,” and it explained the benefits of using the Meebie Doll during play therapy with children.
However, I’m trying to post more videos for a better view of the items, so I’m adding to my previous post a video of my Meebie doll.
It’s still a popular item in my playroom well after a year has passed!
Check out the video below!
Last year I purchased the Melissa & Doug Deluxe Jumbo Cardboard Blocks for my son’s superhero-themed birthday party. Inspired from an idea on Pinterest, we created a wall out of the bricks and the children took turns destroying the wall wearing enormous Hulk Smash Fists. The activity was a huge hit, and I’ll always remember that party!
Witnessing how much the kids loved the jumbo bricks, I naturally had to bring them to my play therapy room, and I’m so glad I did! Imaginations took over with the new addition and children incorporated the bricks into their play and processing right away. Read more
I recently had the honor of attending a fundraiser luncheon for The Council on Alcohol and Drugs in Houston, Texas. Tom Arnold, actor and philanthropist, spoke about his own experiences with personal and family substance addiction. An LPC Intern under my supervision is a child therapist for the children’s counseling program at The Council. Among many other interventions, I have been particularly impressed with their Kid’s Camp. Held a couple of times a year, this camp offers a place for children who have parents affected by substance addiction. Children are given an opportunity to share their stories with others, receive education on substance addiction, and begin healing the emotional wounds their parent’s addiction has left.
Attending the luncheon and hearing from those who have survived and overcome addiction was truly eye opening to the impact that addiction has on families. According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, more than 28 million Americans are children of alcoholics. This statistic doesn’t include other addictive substances. When a parent struggles with substance addiction (alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription drugs), the impact on children crosses all areas of their lives, including social, emotional, and academic. The list below only scratches the surface of this very complex family struggle.
- Loss of relationship with parent. A parent who is seeking a high or on a substance high is likely to be emotionally unavailable for their child. Many children describe their mom or dad as “not the same person.” Personality and mood changes in a parent are scary for children and leave them with a feeling of insecurity.
- Loss of relationships with other family members and friends. The nature of addiction is that a person damages relationships with loved ones and friends. The child’s aunts and uncles may decide they can no longer expose their own family to the toxic and unpredictable environment and friends of the addicted parent and no longer come around. In addition, the child may stop having friends over because of the potential for embarrassment.
- Emotional problems: shame, embarrassment, anger, confusion, and frustration are just a few. Imagine the ongoing struggles the children face when parents argue, show aggression, nearly overdose, lose their jobs, etc. The list goes on, and so do the emotional struggles for a child.
- Birth defects. Parents who use alcohol and drugs during pregnancy may pass these chemicals along to the baby. Other detrimental effects include poor diet, dehydration, and lack of sleep and exercise. WebMD summarizes these effects well.
- Developmental impairments. Parents under the influence of substance use may invest less time with their babies and young children. Less interaction, meaning less talking and playing, with the child can impair their cognitive, motor, and speech development.
- Limited social life. A child’s social opportunities can become strained in many ways. In addition to the broken relationships mentioned above, parents under the influence are not capable of supporting (i.e. scheduling and driving) the child to birthday invitations, sport events, and other activities that are important for building peer relationships.
- Stress and related mental and physical health problems. The home may lack the warmth and nurturing the child needs, creating stress, hindering, development, and other physical problems as a result of the stress.
- Academic disadvantages. A child may struggle with poor concentration, limited support resources (tutors, supplies, etc.), lack of parental support, and help with homework.
- At risk for their own substance abuse problems. Statistics indicate that children of addicted parents are at a greater risk for developing their own substance addiction. This is due to both genetics and environmental reasons including parent modeling, childhood trauma and abuse, and poor coping skills.
- Exposure to unsafe environments and people and possible abuse. According to the NACOA:
Most welfare professionals (79.6%) report that substance abuse causes or contributes to at least half of all cases of child maltreatment; 39.7% say it is a factor in over 75% of the cases.
There are many children and families struggling with addiction, and we may not even realize it’s happening in our own social circles. Raising awareness is the first step. Whether you are a family member or friend, be prepared to support and love those involved. The family will need ongoing counseling, programs for addiction, and strength from those around them.
Resources on Addiction:
Happy, sad, angry, proud, afraid…these are all normal feelings. As a psychotherapist and child therapist, I spend most of my day helping others to sort out and cope with these feelings, and as a mom, I take time to teach these skills to my children as well. I’ve posted on the impact of sand play in a child’s life before, but I especially love the idea of using colored sand as a tool for teaching and coping with feelings.
Sand art has been around for quite some time now, as described on Smithsonian.com. I love it because the final creations are beautiful, and each one is different in its own way. I incorporate sand art activities into play therapy sessions, as well as to help my own children learn about and cope with their feelings.
Getting Started — Here’s What You Need:
- Various Colored Sand
- Sand art bottles. Various kinds include Sand Art Bottle Assortment packs, Under The Sea Theme, and Melissa & Doug Sand Art Bottles (my favorite).
- Funnels. I use this 3″ Sand Art Funnel.
- Sand Art Bracelets
- Art tray (optional) to keep the mess contained. I keep various sizes of the Creativitrays on hand. They are a life saver for clean up, whether it’s sand, paint, and other crafts.
Ideas for Using Sand Art in Therapy
Happy Feelings Bottle or Bracelet:
- Identify various positive feelings: happy, peaceful, proud, excited, thankful, loved, and looking forward to…
- For each feeling, choose a color and ask the child to tell you about a person, place, thing, or time that the child feels that positive feeling.
- The child pours the colored sand into the bottle or bracelet while they talk about their memory or anything they associate with that feeling.
- Talk to the child about how they can take this bottle with them to help them remember these positive feelings and memories.
Mixed Emotions Bottle:
- Identify various positive and negative feelings: happy, sad, angry, peaceful, ashamed, proud, excited, lonely, frustrated, loved…
- For each feeling, choose a color and ask the child to tell you about a person, place, thing, or time that the child associates with that particular feeling.
- The child pours the colored sand into the bottle while they talk about their memory and association.
- Processing the bottle: the bottle can be an analogy for how we all have lots of feelings. You can choose to mix the sand colors and describe how feelings often get mixed up and it’s hard to figure out what colors (i.e. feelings) are inside. Use this to reinforce that talking to someone can help them sort out their mixed feelings.
Feeling Loved Bottle:
We have all heard of friendship bracelets, so this idea is an extension of that done with a parent and child. This is especially good for children with separation anxiety or who have to be away from a parent for an extended amount of time.
- The parent and child each make a bracelet.
- They choose a few colors and describe something they love about the other. For example, “I love how you hug me tight when we are together and will choose purple to remember that.”
- Talk with them about how they can wear their bracelet to feel close to one another when they are apart and how they have a special bond.
The image above shows my daughter’s sand bracelet creations (she wanted to make more than one!). I’d love to hear your ideas for using sand art with children.
I recently got a new doll for my play therapy room, the Meebie Play Therapy Doll. I had doubts and it took me about a year after first hearing about it to finally make the purchase. Before placing eyes and hands on the MeebieI imagined it to be a little smaller, and it is such an odd looking doll I wondered if the kids would even be interested.
The truth is that the doll is a great size, and even a little heavy, which I love. It’s purple exterior feels both soft and silky. It’s wonderful! I even have one child patient who now carries Meebie to the exit of my office as far as he possibly can go before handing it back. Fellow play therapists have used this with their own kids, so I’m sure I’ll be getting one for my son and daughter soon.
Below I’ll share some pictures of Meebie after actual sessions. I would love to hear your feedback in the comments section on what you see in these images! Read more
As our world becomes more and more diverse, the importance of creating a space for acceptance and learning of various groups within my play therapy room, and my own children’s play room at home, grows.
Many people think of multiculturalism as consisting of racial and ethnic groups only, but this term also refers to many other characteristics that make up a group or society.
Examples of various cultures include:
- Race and ethnicity
- Religious and spiritual beliefs and values
- Generation and age ranges
- Geographical regions (Midwest; the South; France, etc.)
- Professional industry (play therapists, legal field, Hollywood, etc.)
- Hobbies and interests (comic book fans, video gamers, long distance runners, fashionistas, etc.)
- Socioeconomic status
- Sexual identity
- Marital (married, single, divorced, widowed, etc.)
- Types of families (blended, divorced, foster, etc.)
Below are some suggestions for art materials and toys that will help build your multicultural playroom. Please share if you know of other options!
Learning to be aware of our emotional responses to challenges and problems in life is one of the most important skills we can teach ourselves and our children. I have read My Book Full of Feelings with children for years and often do related activities on the dry erase board. I recently made it into a felt board activity, which I share with you below.
If we can become aware of our emotions, and the intensity of those emotions, toward a certain event, then we will learn to respond appropriately.
Example: A child decides to buy his lunch at school one day because they are serving his favorite meal. When he gets to lunch, he learns that the meal for the day has been changed. The child becomes enraged and claims he feels like he wants to physically harm the lunch and school staff for doing this to him. He spends most of his afternoon in the principal’s office, and his parents are contacted regarding the incident. What is the appropriate response to the situation?
Steps to Process and Complete this Activity:
- I have the children (and even teens and adults) determine appropriate responses and feelings for scenarios in each category (small, medium, or big deal).
- I then present various scenarios and have them place them into one of the categories. I use made-up scenarios, as well as scenarios that have actually happened in this person’s life.
- We review and discuss where the scenarios were placed in the triangle. Often, I find that clients with anger or anxiety problems will have “forgetting their lunch” and “pet dies” in the same category. This is often enlightening for them to see their “automatic” placement of the scenario.
- We discuss and review any scenarios that really happened to them and whether their response was appropriate at the time.
Making a Felt Board “Size of Problem” Activity Kit Gathering Supplies
- 1 background felt sheet, such as the Blue Medium Flannel Board Felt Background 26″x36″. I used a white 12″x 18″ background sheet.
- 1 large colored felt sheet for the triangle cut-out. I chose a blue 12″x 18″ sheet.
- 1 to 2 sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ felt sheets.
- Spray adhesive, such as 3M General Purpose 45 Spray Adhesive, 10-1/4-Ounce.
- Marker or pen for tracing.
- Sticker or foam letters, such as Fun Express Products – Adhesive Foam Letters (1040 pc) – About 1040 Letters.
Step 1: Trace a triangle shape onto the large felt piece.
Step 2: Cut out the triangle shape.
Step 3: Using stickers, foam letters, or colored markers, divide your triangle into 3 parts. Label the parts as “Small,” “Medium,” and “Big” from top to bottom as shown below. Step 4: Print a list of scenarios that can be categorized as a small, medium, or big problems. Attach the printout onto one of your 8.5″ x 11″ felt sheets with spray adhesive. You can view the scenarios I used, which are geared towards children and teens, or come up with your own.
Step 5: Cut out the scenarios after they are adhered to the felt. As you can see in the image below, they are attached to the felt so they can be placed on the felt triangle. I also cut out a bunch of blank ones to write customized scenarios as needed. Hopefully you will find this concept and activity as helpful as I do. If you have a different approach or helpful addition, please share!
As a child and family therapist, I listen to people’s deepest worries and problems almost every day. While no two individuals or circumstances are exactly the same, there are patterns I recognize from various age groups of clients. Below are the most common concerns of children, teens, and parents, as they are presented to me in therapy. Read more
This is a great article on Liana Lowenstein’s site this week that shares important changes that child therapists need to be aware of in the latest DSM. I find I am still learning every day!
I have actually done this before, just slightly differently. I was seeing sisters in therapy who were not getting along. The were fighting and hitting most of the time and communication was extremely difficult. Each girl created a mail box and attached it to the wall outside of their bedroom door. They were able to pass mail back and forth when they wanted to say something to each other. We set some rules up first, such as no name calling in the letters. The girls found this to be a very helpful alternative to the difficult task of face-to-face communication. Read more