My son is a huge fan of all types of truck or work vehicle- garbage trucks, tractors, big trucks, emergency vehicles, and especially fire trucks. His favorite book, which we read every night (yes, I can recite it by heart!) is called “Dig, Dig, Digging” by Margaret Mayo and Alex Ayliffe. It’s a colorful and fun book about various work vehicles that dig and lift and pull and roll that excites my truck-loving son. On every page, it says “They can work all day.” about each truck, until the end when it says “They can rest all night.”
Learning to set clear and effective limits is one of the most important techniques a parent can learn. I took my kids a the Home Depot workshop recently and my son was so excited that he was running up and down the isles. While I love to see him having fun, it was not safe to run wild with so many crowds and we had to set some limits on the running.
Three Steps to Setting a Limit:
1. Use If/Then statements
2. Emphasize the child’s choice.
3. Clearly define benefit and consequence of choices.
I think this video by The Kid Counselor is a great explanation of using if/then/choose statements:
The best quote of the year in my play room so far:
A 6 year old little girl playing and surrounded by a doctor kit, cash register, marbles, musical instruments, and and more…
Little girl: “What would life be like without toys?”
Me: “Hmm, that’s a very interesting question.”
Little girl: “It would be very boring, that’s what!”
1. Moon Sand
Sand boxes are irresistible to most kids. I use moon sand for play therapy, which has a consistency between a wet sand and dry sand. Click here for purchase information.
A simple box of nearly 100 marbles is by far one of the most popular toys in my play room. They are played with at nearly every session! Children stick them inside cars and in the sand box, smash them between colors of play dough, and love to simply watch them roll off the table.
3. Bean bag toss
I initially bought this game for another purpose and decided to try it out in the play room. It is a simple, wooden bean bag toss game that I paid around $15 for at a party supply store. Well, it turns out that the child will use it as a way to involve me in their play when rapport is just being established. Through the therapy process, they use it as a mastery game, and often add new challenges and twists to the game, showing me their creative and problem solving skills.
The National Association for Play Therapy has designated this week National Play Therapy Week! This is a time for all play therapists to help spread the word about play therapy.
Educate Yourself and the Community
There are still many people who have never heard of play therapy or do not understand how play therapy helps children. The APT has released a fantastic video that summaries how play therapy helps children and it’s worth sharing with you all. Spread the word this week!
The Association for Play Therapy (www.a4pt.org) has released new brochures on play therapy, which are intended to educate the community about play therapy and the therapeutic benefits for children. I make a habit to keep these brochures with me and hand them out to all new and potential play therapy clients.
I like the new brochures much better. They are shorter, more simple to read, and the images are crisper and brighter. The APT mailed a sample to APT members, which I received today! Read more
If you follow me on facebook, you know I recently began using a new tool for working with young kids coping with divorce. It’s Liana Lowenstein’s new book- Cory Helps Kids Cope with Divorce: Playful Therapeutic Activities for Young Children. Love it!
Cory is a child featured in the book who is coping with his parent’s divorce. The book is layed out so the child can create a scrapbook/journal over the course of their sessions. Cory experiences many of the problems children have when their parents divorce, such as feeling responsible for the divorce, adjusting to two homes, accepting a new type of family, and feelings of sadness, anger, and anxiety. Having the boy, Cory, as part of the book normalizes and validates the feelings kids have and introduces these issues in a fun and child-friendly way. There are also letters for the parents at the end of each chapter to keep the parents involved, informed, and help carry over the lessons learned in session into the home.
Here are a few activities in the book I really enjoyed:
Balloon Bounce: This is an activity for the first session to help build the rapport between the therapist and client. I often use games or a child-centered approach, but the balloon activity was actually really fun! Here is an explanation pulled from the first chapter:
“Let’s play a game to get to know each other better. It’s called Balloon Bounce. I’m gong to throw the balloon in the air and we’re going to work together to try to keep it in the air without it touching the ground. When the balloon falls to the ground we’re going to freeze our bodies. I’m going to ask you a question to get to know you better. Once you answer the question, you get to ask me something to get to know me better. (You can ask me the same question I asked you, or you can make up your own question that will help you get to know me better.” We’ll play five rounds so we can ask each other five questions to get to know each other better.”
Upsetting Situations: There are several pages of “Upsetting Situations” to go through with the child using puppets to reinforce the message. I like these because the many scenarios that children endure are addressed here in a clear, child-friendly way.
(You can read a few examples on the picture, but since it’s hard to see I also wrote one below :))
When you are with Mom you miss Dad. You are afraid to tell Mom you miss Dad. When you are with Dad you miss Mom. You are afraid to tell Dad you miss Mom.
It’s important for you to know: It’s normal and ok to miss dad when you are not with him. It’s normal and ok to miss mom when you are not with her.You can tell Mom when you miss Dad. You can tell Dad when you miss Mom. You can talk to Mom and Dad about whatever you are feeling. Your feelings are most important!
Have the Mom and Dad puppet say to you:
You can talk to us about whatever you are feeling. We will try to help you feel better.
There are many features of this book I enjoy and recommend it for any therapist working with children! For those of you who have this one too, what is your favorite feature?
Morning routines, evening routines, and even weekend routines… this is an ongoing challenge for parents of young children. We know the importance of keeping kids on a consistent schedule, but it can be quite stressful making the process smooth. As a mom of two young kids and a child therapist, including one toddler, making this process easier was important to me. As a therapist, I also saw this to be a struggle for many parents of the children I was seeing. The Challenges with Routine
- Distractions. The temptation for the kids to want to play instead of eat dinner, and for me to watch the news instead of prepare dinner, is one example of how distractions affect us at my house.
- Stress. Getting yourself and the kids ready in the morning is no easy task and often very stressful. You do “what you have to do” just to get out the door on time.
- Change. There’s no getting around the fact that changes in your family/life happen and adjustments have to be made. New babies are born, job schedules change, kids start new extra curricular activities… all requiring a modification to your routine.
- Lack of Energy. I don’t know any parent who feels they get enough sleep and with all the activities of life today, disregarding a routine is very tempting, especially when you kids are resistant (bath, bed, etc.).
How a Routine Chart Is Helpful
- Visual. Kids respond well to a visual picture of the routine. I use pictures of each stage of the morning, evening, or day.
- Active Participation. On the chart I created, kids move the picture of the completed task from start to finish. It’s similar to the satisfaction we get when when we check off or mark off an item on our “to do” list!
- Variation. As mentioned above, routines change, and sometimes daily. This chart allows for variation and flexibility to meet one’s needs.
- Control. Since the pictures can be arranged in any way, the child may choose the order of certain areas, within the limits set by the parent. For example, the child may put “brush teeth,” “brush hair,” and “get dressed” in the order they desire. This gives the child a sense of control to part of their routine and encourages participation.
- Reinforcement. The child can choose from the rewards allowed by parents. For example, after the morning routine, the child may choose to play the ipad or play with toys for their remaining time, or when they get home that day.
Creating a Routine Chart I remembered from working with Occupational Therapists for many years, they used activity charts to get kids to participate in all the activities in therapy. I adapted this concept to my own parenting needs, and shared it with some of my clients’ parents. So far, the parents I made a chart for have reported they are finding it useful and the kids are happy to follow the chart and earn their reward. With my own toddler, it was a huge improvement from the battles we were facing every night. Step 1. I first downloaded Boardmaker Studio by Dynavox Mayer-Johnson. You will want to register for their free 30 day trial if you are not familiar with the program, or have no other use for it. This program offers a lot that I am still discovering and playing with. It will take you a little time to become familiar with the program, but it’s pretty simple to learn. Step 2. You will want to search for pictures that describe the activities and rewards you will use. Here is a sample of the pictures I downloaded:
Examples of Activities:
- Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
- Bath time
- Brush teeth and brush hair
- Get dressed
- Gather things (I used a picture of a back pack)
- Clean Up
- Use Potty
Examples of Rewards:
- Ipad (This search doesn’t come up, but I found a picture of a laptop and named it Ipad)
- Swimming pool
- Read books
- Play with toys
Step 3. Choose a routine template from Boardmaker Studio. You can modify to your needs, or print out as is. I do not put activity symbols on the routine template because I am going to cut them out separately later.
Step 4. Print your routine template and picture squares. Step 5. Laminate all the print outs. Step 6. Cut out each picture square after laminating is complete. Step 7. Add velcro to the back of each picture square. Add the corresponding side to each square on the routine templete, as well as on the square next to “Reward.” Step 8. Ready for use! Describe the chart to your child. Be sure to show them the rewards they can choose from, as well as practice moving the squares from top to bottom after they are complete. Tips on Using Chart
- Play with the chart before showing your child. Decide which activities you want, and for what part of the day. Also, choose the rewards you want to offer, and at what times (you don’t want to offer the park if it’s at the end of the day). Also, I limit choices for my toddler to two at a time.
- Describe how to use the chart, the purpose of the chart, and rewards to your child.
- Show excitement about the chart with your child. They will likely share in your excitement, especially if it means they earn rewards!
- Be consistent! It’s important to use this regularly to reinforce habit, as well as show your commitment to the established routines.
- Let the child move the squares from the “To Do” section to “Finished.” Consider how you would feel if someone else crossed of an item on your list… no way!
- Print one general chart, or get more specific (morning, evening, etc.)
- And finally, modify the chart to meet your needs. If the sample I have provided doesn’t work, then make a change. I continue to modify the chart for my home, as well as for my clients… no shame!
Alternate Use: Chores I have also used this same concept for chores. Place the chores for the week at the top and as the child completes the chore, they move to the bottom. The reward can be at the end of the week. I would love to know how this works for you, or if you have another great idea for getting kids on a routine!
If you would like information on my services, please visit my website at www.kimscounseling.com!
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I was scrolling through toys for my kids a couple weeks ago and came across Rory’s Story Cubes. I thought they sounded fun and wanted to try using them in session so I purchased them for around $7 plus shipping on amazon.com. Turns out… I love this game!
About the Game
There are 9 cubes in the box about the size of your typical dice. Each cube is white with a black picture, different one on each side of the cube. The player,or players, roll the cubes and tell a picture from the story.
Ways To Play and Use In Therapy
1. One person rolls all the dice and tells a story using the pictures on the tops of the cubes while the other person listens. I used this on a young male client and young female client (both middle school age ranges). These were individual sessions and not as a group. I asked the child to roll the cubes and tell a story about their life and try to incorporate some difficult things they have been struggling with. At first, I wasn’t sure how effective or easy this would be, given it takes some thought and creativity. But the stories, and process of telling the story was great! It allowed the children another medium to describe what they were experiencing and I learned more about them as well. For example, one child rolled a cube with an alien face and used this to describe their parents and why they saw them in that way.
2. Two or more people roll the cubes and take turns telling a part of the story with one cube at a time. This will allow the therapist to incorporate themes or characters in the story and see how the client responds.
3. Incorporate superheros and villains. This idea is directly off the Rory’s Story Cubes website and I love it.
1. Describe your superpower.
Each person takes a turn to roll 3 cubes.
Use these to describe your superpower. (And a name, a name is very important).
2. Create a backstory.
Next everyone takes turns to roll all 9 cubes.
Use these to give your hero a backstory. Remember to add a flaw or weakness, this is what makes your hero human.
3. Create a Super-villain
All superhero teams need an arch-nemesis or super-villain to go up against. To create a super-villain, roll all 9 cubes then, as a group, use the 9 images to describe this villain. give him/her or it a unique ‘calling card’ a modus operandi, so for example The Joker always leaves a card, Bomb Voyage from the Incredibles leaves bombs etc.
Give him/her/it a name and a reason for doing what they do. How does the villain justify their actions?
Now that you have your characters, you are free to create all kinds of super-powered stories featuring the heroes and their arch-nemesis.
Story Cube App for iOS and Android
While pulling up the website for this post, I found out there is an app. Why not? There seems to be an app for everything these days. I downloaded the app for $1.99 and it’s pretty cool too. You shake your phone to roll the cubes and move them around as you wish with a touch of your finger. There are also different themed cubes you can purchase for another $1.99 each with themes of voyages, clues, enchanted and prehistoric. Below are pictures I took from my phone using the app.
Does anyone else have any suggestions for using this game? I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!
For more information on my clinical practice, please visit www.kimscounseling.com.