The Dreaded Slime!

If you work with kids, odds are you’ve heard of slime. It’s another one of those kid crazes that are taking hold of their entire attention spans. And this one seems to have endured for quite some time!

I had a couple of clients request that we make it in session. For those of you who do arts and crafts or fun experiments, I’m sure you have too. I’ve tried a couple of different recipes in session and there are a TON on YouTube.

If you’re wondering what the benefits of slime are in session I can name a few:

  • Working on directives by providing clear instructions for the child to follow
  • Discussing limits such as “I see you’d like to see if the slime sticks to my walls, but we are going to keep our mess contained to the craft table today”
  • Tactile stimulation and being comfortable with messes.
  • Engaging them in what they’re interested in
  • Mindfulness! You use all of your senses to create slime (maybe not taste). We’ve talked about what feeling this slime looks like, feels like, smells like.
  • Focus. Yes it’s a preferred activity, but for our kids who have some trouble with impulse control, this can be a way to help them be aware of those behaviors.
  • Agency! They are making something completely their own from scratch. That’s HUGE.
  • Feeling identification. What feeling does slime feel like? What does it look like? What feeling do you have when you play with slime? You’d be surprised here. Kids get pretty creative with those answers.
  • Responsibility! They take this goopy, messy stuff home with them. And it can be messy if it gets stuck somewhere or forgotten. Talk to your kids about the responsibility of having slime. Can they take care of it? What if it makes a mess? What can they do to make it better? Are they building up to a bigger responsibility soon? This could be a good stepping stone.

Now, as I’ve said, I’ve tried a few different recipes. I’ve done the detergent route (very successful but very smelly for small offices with poor ventilation). I’ve done cornstarch (comes out more like play-doh or oobleck). My favorite recipe I’ve been using for a few months now:

  1. Glue (Elmer’s has been the best so far) Either clear or not depending on what effect you’re going for. I use the regular old white glue as I have a literal gallon of it at home. I put about 2 globs in, meaning I take the main cap off and squeeze until I have about 2 quarters size in the bowl.
  2. Baking Soda. Start with a pinch. If you add too much at once, it starts to come out more like play-doh and dries it out. You can always add more as you stir together later on. This is the ingredient that will make it less sticky.
  3. Contact Solution. I believe this gets the reaction going. I do about a 3 second squirt from the bottle and add more as needed, usually no more than that is needed.
  4. Optional: Food coloring/glitter. Beware that adding a little bit of optional ingredients might not change your formula, but adding LOTS will definitely mess with the texture.

This makes a small handful of slime. I usually limit it to this weekly otherwise I will be buying glue like crazy!

Have you made slime? How did it go? What did you use? What interventions did you use with it?? Share below!

Fidget Spinners and Other Kid Crazes

Hello Everyone!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve been able to post. I’m hoping to increase my activity again and offer some new links to training and services.

Today I wanted to discuss the fads that kids go through. We have probably all been a victim of the  fidget spinner craze! It can take up their whole attention, and – in some cases – offer a huge distraction.

The beautiful thing about these popular fads is that it’s an easy-in to be able to discuss what kids are interested in right now. In this post, I’ll discuss some of the ways we can use these fads as therapeutic interventions.

I know my teacher friends and some parents find fidget spinners to be nothing more than a huge distraction. I don’t blame teachers for banning them from classrooms! While they are so popular, it’s hard for kids not to be fascinated and distracted by them. However, that doesn’t mean they (and other fidget toys like the cubes, tangles, or stress balls) don’t work! For anxious kids, teens, and adults, it can be a way to keep your hands busy while your mind is able to get some work done.

Now to be fair, I’ve seen more of this progress with young adults and teens. But with some training and practice, I think fidget toys can be useful for responsible children as well. The first steps would be to help the child discover when they feel most inattentive, anxious, or hyperactive. You can do this by working on a journal or talking to their teacher about keeping a log.

Next you can use some strategies (see some previous posts) to discuss body awareness. Figure out what their body feels like inside when they are feeling these very distracting feelings. This can include playing doctor and listening to your heart beat. It can use calm jars to discuss our bodies when we feel anxious or hyper. It can include learning how to deep breathe and using yoga poses to help us feel what being calm feels like.

Then figure out what has and has not worked. Does the child work better when taking notes or is just listening good enough? Is it helpful to sit in the front of the class or remove themselves when they feel anxious? Have they tried some of the strategies above? What works at home vs. in the classroom?

I know as a child and all through college I used doodling to pay attention. It helped me quiet my mind and concentrate on what I was hearing by keeping my hands busy. Fidgeting tools, specifically the cube, have been more effective for me now, especially in meetings where I can’t always doodle on memos. Even in sessions I can be seen with something in my hands to help me focus!

Everyone is different! Figure out what has worked and what hasn’t for your child and see where you can go from there. If fidgeting is something that helps them concentrate, then we can begin talking about how to use these tools and how not to distract others by using them. This is when talking to the teachers and knowing your child’s school environment can be so helpful!

With adults, I have fidget toys in reach during all of their sessions. I’ve seen it be very helpful in managing anxiety and staying focused, especially when we start discussing trauma or grief.

It’s important to know: fidget toys are not a fix-all! It’s not going to cure ADHD or anxiety, and it’s important to communicate this to your clients and their parents! Even if you try adding fidget toys to your child’s coping skills, you may find it doesn’t work. That’s okay! The great thing about interventions that use what kids are interested in, is that it shows them you hear them. You’re listening to what they have to say and you’re showing an interest. It means that your next intervention might not get as much push back since you’ve shown you are willing to work together.

Want to get even more creative? Help the child create their own fidget spinner in the session! There are lots of DIY videos that show you how. Even if you find they don’t work for that particular client, it can be a way to talk about what does! This is something I haven’t tried yet, if you have, let me know how it went in the comments!

Have you tried fidget toys with your kids, teens, or adults?

What has this been like for you?

Share your experiences in the comment section!

 

Worry Jar

Happy New Year!! (give or take a few days)

Today I’d like to talk about an activity that I’ve been doing for goal setting with my clients. I like it because it incorporates not just what we’d like to see in the new year, but also what we’d like to let go from the old year.

I developed it myself in a pinch, it’s a pretty simple activity right now, and I would welcome any ideas anyone has!

What you need are pieces of paper, markers, and a jar. In my worry jar, I have worry dolls. I usually start the activity by talking about what worry dolls do.  There is a link to a great story, typically I talk about how you tell the dolls your worries and put them in the worry jar. I find that even just using these dolls is therapeutic! Even for my adults.

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After explaining the concept of worry dolls, I have the client write down at least one worry that they’ve been carrying around since last year. It can be something they’ve been anxious about, something they want to leave behind, etc. They can write it, draw it, or even whisper it to one of the dolls. I give the child the option of letting me see it before it goes with the dolls into the worry jar.

Then, while the dolls are taking the worries away, we talk about things they would like to see happen in the new year. We talk about goals they have for themselves and new feelings they’d like to have. I have them write down at least one wish or goal that they have for this new year. I encourage decoration with this goal and we talk about ways to accomplish it. They can then choose to take the goal with them or leave it in the room as a reminder of what they’re working towards.

Let me know if you’ve got some creative ideas to add or new ways to ring in the new year with your clients!

Snowflakes

Hello all!

It’s been a little while since I last posted. It seems I’m coming into something of pattern of two posts per month. I’ll try to step it up as best I can.

Today I’m going to talk about an activity that I’ve been doing with nearly all of my kids for the last week. I work with a mixed population, so doing activities based around the holidays can be a little tricky. I found an excellent ornament activity for grief. I was going to do a post, but the original blogger that I adapted the idea from does such a great job talking about it that I’ll just post a link.

So my activity is winter based, and it’s about creating snow flakes. I limit the items they can use to paper (any color), scissors (if you feel they can handle this, if not I pre-cut paper into strips), and tape (or stick glue). And I simply tell them to create a snowflake.

Some children might struggle, some might ask for directions. When this happens, I go into a little speech about snowflakes. “You know what makes snowflakes so special?” (They list what they know about snowflakes) “No two snowflakes are the same. They are all unique, just like you.” (Sometimes they need some help with the word unique. I usually equate it to special).

I then encourage them to do their best. I’ve had only one child continue to ask for instruction. I allowed them to look up a video of a snowflake they liked best and try to create it all by themselves.

After the snowflake is completed, I ask them to write on their snowflake (or talk about) things that make them unique or special. I like to  have at least 6 things (like the typical 6 points on a snowflake). If they have trouble, I encourage them to use my Greatness Sticks (see previous post) to help them find something special!

This activity is great to help build self-esteem. It also allows you to assess a child’s focus on a single task, attention to detail, see if they show any perfectionist tendencies, and test their resourcefulness.

Have any additional snowflake ideas? Comment and let me know!

Here’s the instructions for the AMAZING grief activity!

Talking About Greatness

Hello all!

I have another fantastic intervention to share today! It relates well to my ‘Increasing  the Positives’ post, but I wanted to separate it. First of all, I got this activity from another counselor: Tammi Van Hollander, LCSW, RPT. Her website and the link to her post is hyperlinked in her name.

I loved this idea so much I asked permission to use it in my own practice. It’s super easy to create. You just need Popsicle sticks and markers. You write down POSITIVE words and attributes. I like to use this exercise with individuals with issues with self-esteem or depression. This activity is also fantastic with children and their parents. It helps them talk more positively about each other.

I’ll talk more about using this exercise with parents and children today.

I use the sand tray (usually) with this activity. I have the parent and child pick out a figure to represent themselves and place it where they like in the sand tray. Then I have them look through the sticks and pick attributes they recognize in the other. I usually start with 2 or 3 in the first few sessions. Then we talk about how the other person possesses these positive attributes. I have them take turns saying these positive things about each other and then they place it in the sand box.

I love this activity and I’m so grateful to have seen Tammi discussing it on Facebook. It has been an amazing way to move the talk away from problems and look at strengths in the session!

Have you tried an activity like this? How did it go?

 

Increasing the Positives

Hello all!

So it’s no secret that most people come to therapy for a specific problem. A lot of times we see that our clients are so focused on these problems that they have a hard time seeing either solutions or just the other positives going on.

Working with children, I see this a lot with parents. And, having worked in various types of childcare for the last 10 years, I can sympathize. When a child is throwing constant tantrums, doing poorly in school, or fighting with their siblings, it’s hard to focus on much else.

The thing is, when we give so much attention to problems, we give them power. You might see this in a child who is looking for any kind of attention, so will act out at school or home. Attention is attention, we all crave it. It means we’re noticed and heard in some way.  But there are positives to focus on. And by helping our clients refocus on these positives, we’ll be able to help them encourage positive change by giving that much-needed attention to what we want to see.

**Just a quick note because I get this a lot from the parents I work with. I am NOT saying not to discipline your child or say no. I’m talking about not giving negative behaviors as much attention. I’ll talk more about it in a discipline post!

I’ve got a couple of activities we can do with parent (or just with our clients) to increase that positive talk. In a session where my client/parent is showing some all-or-nothing thinking, I’ll stop them. I’ll hand them two different colors of sticky notes and tell them to write the negatives in their life/child/current situation on one color and the positives on the other. Typically, I have them stick them to one of my walls. You can also have them put them in a mason jar.

This way, we can visualize what is REALLY going on. For example imagine the red stickies in the picture above are issues a parent has with their child and the yellow are positive qualities. By putting it into perspective we can help parents remember what they know already: Their child is a good kid!

This exercise works great with anxious clients who get caught up in negatives and forget what support systems they have too.

It’s important to know sometimes the negatives do outweigh the positives. This is just as valuable. It’s an opportunity to talk about updating and establishing new supports. It may show some insight into a depressed client’s outlook of hopelessness.

I love this exercise because it gets us talking about supportive systems and solutions rather than problems.

Tell me about your experiences with increasing positives!

Calm Jars

Hello All!

This is one of my absolute favorite activities. It does involve glitter, so beware, but it’s pretty self contained. This activity is great to do with clients with behavioral concerns, anxiety, ADHD, and pretty much anyone who could benefit from mindfulness.

When using it with children, I like to encourage parents to allow their child to utilize it in their “cool down corner” along with belly breathing activities.

The supplies you’ll need are a jar/bottle, warm water, glitter of various colors, glitter glue/clear glue, and I add a bit of food coloring to give it a finished look.

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  1. First, fill the bottle or jar about 3/4 of the way full. You’ll want to leave space for glitter. Warm water is preferable if possible as the glue will dissolve quicker.
  2. Add your glitter glue or clear glue. Sometimes it’ll splash a bit, so I like to add the glue first. Plus, it gives it time to dissolve. Keep in mind, the more glue you use, the slower the glitter will fall.
  3. Add glitter! Your clients can get really creative with what colors they’d like to add. I like to put a plate under the bottle/jar so that any spilled glitter can be used later on and we can avoid a bit of mess.
  4. OPTIONAL! Add food coloring! I keep the basics around so red, blue, yellow, and green. Now a drop of food coloring goes a long way. I like to practice mindfulness with this step. I ask them to do one drop at a time, watch it fall, put the cap on and shake it up. They want to get the color perfect without making it so dark you can’t see the glitter. Some younger kids might need help with this step.
    • Food coloring isn’t totally necessary. It’s more cosmetic. I like it as it keeps the jar looking nice while it’s not in use. I know others who prefer to leave it clear or let the water turn colors depending on the glitter/glue you use, which can happen.
  5. Carefully add the rest of your water. Don’t fill too much as it might leak out.
  6. Seal tightly and shake it up!!

I’ll share a couple of YouTube videos so you can see what they look like.

Now after the creation of the jar. I like to practice mindfulness. So before this session, I typically do belly breathing techniques with all of my clients. I’ll ask them to shake up their jar, sit back and watch the glitter fall. They’ll then be asked to take slow, deep belly breaths until all of the glitter settles. (Keep this in mind when adding glue, as if you add too much, it’ll be a LONG breathing exercise).

This is also great with kids with ADHD or clients with anxiety. You can use it as an exercise to understand the value of calm and deep breathing. The bottle is them when they get angry, anxious, hyper. You shake it up and move it around like they move. The glitter can be their emotions. Ask them what is happening to the glitter as the bottle moves. Then ask them to set the bottle down and take deep breaths. What is happening to the glitter now? How do they feel?

In stillness we can calm ourselves and be mindful. This is hard when we’re anxious or hyper and we can’t seem to control our emotions or thoughts. Using the time to take a deep breath can help to slow us down just like the glitter in the jar.

Also, this can be used for mindful time outs. I know time-outs can be a sensitive topic in the therapy world, but I personally think there can be some benefit when they are used in the right way. I’ll go into it more in a later post, but these jars can be used to start practicing mindfulness and self-soothing with younger children too.

I hope this post was helpful! Please feel free to add your use of the Calm Jar (or Mindfulness Jar) in the comment section! I’d love to see pictures or videos of yours!

A cute DIY video

I use the beginning of this video where they show a calm jar in action to explain to parents how to use this with their children.