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 (mid-West; South Texas; Paris, France, etc.)
- Profession/employment 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 to look for to help build your multiclultural play room. 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 (below) 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.
The Concept: If we can be aware of our emotions, and the intensity of those emotions, towards 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. Appropriate response to the situation?
Steps to Process and Complete this Activity:
1. I have the children (an even teens and adults) determine appropriate responses and feelings for scenarios in each category (small, medium, or big deal).
2. I then present various scenarios and have them place it into one of the categories. I use made-up scenarios, as well as scenarios that have actually happened in this person’s life.
3. 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.
4. We discuss and review any scenarios that really happened to them, and whether their response was appropriate at the time.
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 hear from the 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 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 different. 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 similar to what you see in the picture to the right and attached it on the wall outside of their bedroom door. They were able to pass mail back and forth when they wanted to say something to their sister. We set some rules up first, such as no name calling on the letters. The girls found this to be a very helpful alternative to the difficult task of face-to-face communication. Read more
Anyone can benefit from activities that require focus and concentration. Not only does it keep your brain functioning well into adulthood, but it can make other tasks less frustrating and increase productivity at school and work.
7 Ways to Promote an Good Concentration Skills:
- Set realistic tasks, especially considering your child’s maturity level. Unrealistic expectations create frustration, which then interfere with concentration.
- Break up the tasks into small steps or parts. If you or your child are not used to studying for an hour straight, then break up homework time into shorter spans to allow for breaks.
- Create a distraction free zone. Lots of noise and visual distractions can limit concentration and focus.
- Be supportive and encouraging. Learning a new skill can always be challenging, and learning to concentrate is no different. Encourage your child with verbal praise during fun games, as well the more serious homework times.
- Play fun concentration building games. More of these below!
- Good nutrition, plenty of sleep, and exercise. Our brains need a healthy lifestyle to function at it’s best.
- Allow plenty of time for free play, entertainment, and hobbies.
As therapists, our work with clients begins on our very first encounter with them. We aim to establish positive rapport, professionalism, and expectations for the therapeutic process. I am always looking for ways to accomplish these goals in my therapy practice. Most of this is done through direct engagement with a client and a therapeutic environment, but I always love to find new ideas to develop a unique and successful practice.
Coming to therapy for the first time can be a nervous time for any client. In an effort to welcome kids and their parents to play therapy, I send home welcome bags after their first session. I include some items that are typically included in a calm down basket, as well as information for parents.
Benefits of a Welcome Bag:
- Helps establish a positive therapeutic rapport
- Provide psychoeducational materials to parents
- Communicate my commitment to their emotional well being.
- Help spread the word about play therapy
- Market your play therapy services
As a final post on sensory processing challenges, following Identifying Sensory Processing Challenges in Children and Treatment for Sensory Processing Challenges, below is a list of helpful books, handouts, links and more for professionals, parents, and children. If you have any further resources, please share with me and the readers!
Books for Parents, Caregivers, and Child Specialists
Sensory processing is a term that is becoming more and more recognized with educational and health care professionals. Everyone processes information from their environment through their senses- sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste. We often take it for granted that our sensory systems can provide us with the information we need to function, enjoy life, and be alerted of dangers. But for some individuals, this bodily function is not working properly and, as you can imagine, this causes great distress and hinders their ability to function appropriately in every day life.
As I learn more about sensory processing, I can identify sensitivities and preferences in my own children. My son, for example, often complains of loud noises. He doesn’t like when someone raises their voice and covers his ears when the toilet is flushed. In my counseling practice, I provide a sensory processing screening tool to most parents who seek help for behavioral and emotional concerns. I also keep a number of sensory tools in my playroom. Screening handouts are listed at the end of this post and information on treatment options will be a follow up post.
I hold quite a few fond memories of playing in the sand as a child. We lived for a short time in a remote area where I had freedom to roam and explore the natural world around me. I remember spending hours in the sand and mud- digging, squishing, building, and so on. The earth in my fingers and toes felt cold and gritty, and my imagination transformed the sand to pies and mountains.
I hope my own kids find just as many opportunities to enrich their lives with one of earth’s natural toys. Our back yard has a sand box and I often encourage them to dig and feel the sand in their fingers whenever they can. I tell them that super dirty means they had super fun! I also use a sand tray in my counseling practice in various forms. It’s a wonderful tool for process and self-exploration. Read more
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.”