The Water Lily Way

A school counselor's story of how to live, work and play…the water lily way


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Monday Mindfulness: St. Patrick’s Day Relaxation Story for Kids

Happy St. Patrick’s Day (almost, right?)!

Here’s a cute St. Patty’s day riddle for you & your students:

Knock Knock
Who’s there?
Irish!
Irish Who?
Irish you a happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🙂

I felt lucky to find this perfect relaxation story for this week’s Monday Mindfulness (coming to you a day early so you can hopefully sneak it into your day tomorrow). What a great way to get in a little relaxation with your students tomorrow while celebrating St. Patty’s Day! 🙂

rainbow

Imagine that you are lying in a field of grass and shamrocks.
Let your body relax and get very heavy,
Letting the ground hold you.
Now imagine that it starts to rain.
The raindrops are just the right temperature.
Not too cold, and not too warm.
Imagine that as the raindrops fall on your body, They help you relax even more.
Feel the raindrops falling on your toes and feet,

And feel them relax.
Now feel the rain on your legs,
And let them relax too.
Feel the rain on your belly.
And feel the rain falling on your arms,
On your hands,
And on your fingertips.
Feel each body part relax.

The rain falls on your head and face.
Each raindrop washes away your fear or worries.
Feel your whole body relaxed and calm.
The rain slowly stops,
And a colorful rainbow appears in the sky:
Red… orange…yellow…green…blue…indigo… And purple.
Imagine following the rainbow until it ends.
What do you see?

Green rolling hills?
A pot of gold, shimmering in the sunlight?
Maybe even a Leprechaun, dancing in green?
Now follow the rainbow back to your resting spot in the grass.
Watch the rainbow until the colors slowly fade away,
And enjoy how relaxed and calm your body feels.

Relaxation story from: http://www.ImaginationsForKids.com


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Cotton Ball Hockey & Cotton Ball Races

These are both fun and easy activity for kiddos! I was introduced to do the first game last semester by one of my professors. Both activities are only two of the many activities from Theraplay, a form of play therapy that can be used with children and families. The goals of Theraplay include building and enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and engagement. Check out the Theraplay website to learn more about this creative & innovative organization!

My kids know exactly what the cotton balls & straws in my play tote are for and often times they ask to play the following games. Both activities can be used with classrooms or for individual/group counseling.

cotton balls2

1-Cotton Ball Hockey Directions:

*Materials: One straw per person, one cotton ball per pair.

Divide students into pairs (if doing with a group or in a classroom). Have each pair sit at opposite ends of a table. Instruct students to begin by placing the cotton ball in the middle of the table. You can give the group the “go” or each pair can be in charge of deciding when to start playing hockey. Students simply blow (using straws) cotton balls back and forth trying to get the cotton ball to the opposite end of the table. If the cotton ball falls off the table (opposite to where one child is sitting) they “score a goal.” Students are not allowed to used their hands, unless picking up the cotton ball from the ground. 🙂

Here is another Theraplay activity. I have only done this one with my kids at an after school program, so we have the luxury of using the hallway or gym when it is free. 🙂 This activity requires a little more space than the first just as an FYI!

2-Cotton Ball Race Directions:

Materials: One straw & one cotton ball per student

Students all line up (or have them divide into teams dependent upon how many you have) at a starting point.  (Note: make sure there is a little room between each student, as they do not typically end up staying in a straight line once they begin blowing their cotton balls.) Students are on their hands and knees, with their cotton ball placed on the ground in front of them. Provide students with a “finish line.” Tell them that once you’ve said “go,” their goal is to make it to the finish line by blowing their cotton ball with their straw (no using hands!). Encourage students to be mindful of other students around them!

cotton balls

Sounds simple, right? Your kids/teens (yes, teens!) will love these playful activities! Have fun! As always, let me know if you have any questions. 🙂


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Balsamic Salad

Yay for the weekend! This is one of my favorite salads from www.fitfoodiefinds.com. I think the original name for this recipe is “Balsamic Autumn Salad,” however I think it’s a great one for anytime of the year! It may not be the prettiest dish ever, but don’t let that fool you!!!! Give it a try!!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. -Jessica 🙂

Balsamic Salad

Ingredients:

– 1 lb. green beans

– 1 large sweet potato, cut into chunks

-1 large apple, cut into chunks -1T olive oil

-1/4C sunflower seeds

-1/4C balsamic vinegar

-2T honey

– 1t salt

-1/2T rosemary

Option: 1/4-1/2 C Raisins

Directions:

1. In a medium/large pot, submergegreen beans in water and bring it to a rolling boil. Boil for 10-12 minutes or until your beans soften. Strain. Set aside.

2. In a large skillet, saute sweet potato and apple in 1T olive oil.

3. In a medium sized bowl, create your dressing. Mix together honey, salt, balsamic vinegar, and rosemary.

4. Next, in a large bowl, mix together cooked green beans, apple, and sweet potato. Then poor on dressing and toss.

5. Finally, mix in sunflower seeds (and raisins) and chill in the refrigerator. Eat cold.

balasamic


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Noticing our Kindness: Individual/Group Mindfulness Activity

I was inspired by this activity after looking over some exercises in a book I borrowed from one of my professors. The book is titled, “Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids” by Eline Snel. It’s a small book with simple mindfulness practices for children. I pulled this idea from the chapter titled “It’s Good to Be Kind.” The activity is intended to help children notice their kindness and unkindness. The author suggests having children put a bracelet on their right wrist, which symbolizes their kindness towards others and themselves. Whenever they observe themselves being “thoughtless, unkind or genuinely unpleasant,” they should move their bracelet to their other wrist. This then makes a child become more aware of their acts of unkindness. Others do not interfere with this process by pointing out what the child did or should have done, but rather school counselors/teachers/parents allow the child to recognize their behavior on their own.

bracelet

Seems so simple, but powerful…I will keep you updated on my process with this as I am going to expand on this next week when I meet with one of my third grade girls individually. She is having a difficult time making and keeping friends, often times because of her struggle to be kind and respectful towards other students and classmates. My thinking is that we will create a “friendship bracelet” together. We will talk more about being kind to others, and then I will encourage her to use her friendship bracelet throughout the week as the author of “Sitting Like a Frog” proposed in her book. I will of course challenge myself to do the same, because we can all work on being kinder to ourselves, right? 🙂

bracelet 2

With that said, take time to recognize your kindness as we come to the end of the week. How were you kind to others this week, and most importantly, how were you kind to yourself?  ::Be well:: -Jessica


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Blogs, Resources, Websites & More…

Hi All,
Here’s a list of some of my favorite blogs, websites, and resources. I’ll be updating these frequently, so stay tuned… Enjoy. 🙂  -Jessica
School Counseling Blogs
School Counseling Websites
Comprehensive School Counseling Programs: Program Development, Implementation, Evaluation, etc.
Mindfulness
Play Therapy
Counseling and Such
Mental Health
Nutrition & Physical Wellness


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Monday Mindfulness: 5 reasons why I’ve come to love yoga & all of it’s benefits…

Monday Mindfulness

yoga

1.)    Improved flexibility, yes. Improved strength, YES!!!!!! I think a lot of people have the assumption that yoga is solely for stretching purposes, for stress relief, or for relaxation. While it is definitely all of these things, I think what people don’t realize is how much yoga can increase strength! I can’t say that I always push myself hard enough when I’m exercising that my body shakes! Yet, I find myself shaking at some point during EVERY yoga class I attend. Yes, yoga improves flexibility. Yes, yoga is relaxing, it reduces stress, and it’s great for increased flexibility. However, when you are holding warrior 1/2 or crow pose for minutes, or flowing through your sun salutations and doing numerous chaturanga’s in 10 minutes, strength is the word that comes to my mind… Holding yoga postures lengthen and strengthen our muscles.

2.)    There are racquetball courts next to us? I’ve probably been practicing yoga for 5 or 6 years, but I’ve been attending classes regularly in the past year, and I can tell a difference when it comes to reflecting on my increased self-awareness, focus and mindfulness. I practice yoga at a ymca, and the yoga room is literally between a racquet ball court and the cycle studio. You might be thinking, “How can that be peaceful?” The truth is, I forget all about it! As the class wraps us and the instructor instructs us to “bring back our awareness,” I am immediately reminded of what is actually around me, and what I was able to block out for one hour. Not only am I able to forget about the things going on around me, I’m able to leave whatever I may have going on for me at the door. Yoga teaches us to quiet the mind.

3.)    Importance of breath. A key component to practicing yoga is breath. This is not something that came easy to me when I first began. It is not often that we focus on our breath, and I think this is why I first struggled with this. I am beginning to now understand the importance in focusing on my breath to get me through a pose. Not only that, but concentrating on my breathing encourages me to be more in the present moment and bring all of my awareness to my mat. While we may leave our “yoga practice” on our mats at the end of a class, our yoga skills stay with us each day…Yoga teaches us to focus on our breathing which brings us to the present, and also has health benefits such as reducing stress and anxiety.

4.)    Options for being challenged. I think most yogi’s would agree with me on this one, EVERY yoga class is DIFFERENT! There are SO many options as far as styles of yoga practice (hatha, ashtanga, bikram, hot yoga, vinyasa, the list goes on and on). And that’s just talking the different types of yoga classes. Instructors are all different and unique. And even if you go to the same instructor all the time, there so many variations for formatting yoga classes. With that said, the chance of getting bored with yoga is very unlikely, and the change of you being challenged (mentally/physically) each time you practice yoga, you know the answer… 😉 Yoga challenges the body and mind. There are different yoga class styles for everyone.

5.)    Encourages overall health and wellness –for life. Yoga is not just about exercising, it’s about living a healthy life style. The breathing and meditation that is encouraged during yoga practice is something we can incorporate into our everyday lives. The peace and tranquility we can achieve when we quiet our minds, allow us to be still in an often times crazy world. Yoga helps us decrease our stress, and allows us time for ourselves. Yes, that’s right, YOU time.  Yoga is a lifelong gift that increases health and wellness.

It’s time for bed yogi’s. Have a great Tuesday. -Jessica

 


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The language of children -the language of play

My Passion for Play

hands

Earlier this fall I was introduced to play therapy in one of my graduate classes. I really didn’t know what to think about it at first, but had some similar thoughts to what I believe a lot of people have when they hear the term “play therapy.” How can playing with children be effective? Is anything really getting accomplished? How can play HELP a child?

As I began reading about play therapy, I became more and more attracted to the approach. I began experimenting with play therapy with children in an after school program. I can’t express how “appropriate” play therapy seemed from day one of working with these kiddos. I am still working with these children today on a weekly basis, and engaging with them through play therapy. To say the least, it didn’t take me long until I realized the significance and value in connecting with children through their form of communication. I think as adults, we often times forget that our little ones are still developing, physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially.

For the adult, the natural form of communication is verbalization, whereas for children, their natural form of communication is play and activity. It is difficult for young children to express how they feel because developmentally they lack the cognitive and verbal ability to express what and how they are feeling and experiencing in life. It is not that children do not want to express their thoughts and emotions, but rather that they do not have the vocabulary to do so. Children are typically not able to fully engage in abstract reasoning and thinking until around age 11/12. Play allows children to express and learn about their emotions and thoughts. Play is a way children can learn about themselves, how to resolve conflicts, control their emotions, communicate their feelings and much, much more. Ultimately, play is a child’s language.

Here is just a brief overview of play therapy. The resources I obtained this information from is listed below. I also included a picture of what my play therapy tote currently looks like. Many play therapist have their own “play room” to work with children in, however as a soon to be school counselor I feel it will be more beneficial to have a mobile tote full of toys and materials for my future play experiences with students. As always, please feel free to e-mail or comment with any other questions you may have. J

Play Therapy Provides:

  • A place and time for a child to organize their thoughts and experiences
  • A place for a child to project feelings through self-chosen toys that may be too threatening for the child to express verbally
  • Feelings of acceptance
  • A safe and comfortable place for a child to risk
  • An experience where the child feels in control, and thus more secure
  • A space where a child can test limits, gain insight about behavior, learn consequences and explore alternatives
  • Access to a child’s unconscious thoughts and feelings that they are unaware of
  • Stress inoculation (allows children to play out events they may be anxious/stressed about & helps them become more comfortable with what is to come)
  • Encouragement and competence
  • A sense of connectedness to others; attachment formation

Children Learn:

  • Their feelings are acceptable
  • To be more open in expressing their feelings; instead of being controlled by their feelings
  • To be creative and resourceful in confronting problems
  • Self-control (feelings, emotions, thoughts)
  • Self-exploration/self-discovery
  • To make their own choices, and to be responsible for those choices
  • Social and problem solving skills
  • Assertiveness
  • Empathy
  • Perspective taking

Representation of Toys- Materials chosen and used in play therapy facilitate a wide range of emotional and creative expression by children. Here are what five different categories of toys can represent in play therapy.

Family/Nurturing: Provide opportunities for children to build relationships with the counselor, encourages exploration of family relationships and allows children to project experiences that happen in their lives. (Ex. dolls, puppets, play kitchen appliances, baby bottles)

Scary-Allows children to confront and work through their fears. (Ex. “fierce” animal figures or puppets, possibly trucks, cars or ambulances for some children dependent upon their experiences)

Aggressive-Provide opportunities for children to express anger and aggression and also to learn about and practice self-control. (Ex. play guns, swords, knives)

Expressive-Encourage children to express their feelings, thoughts, emotions, and creativity. (Ex. markers, glue, play dough, paint, feathers)

Pretend/Fantasy-Help children in experiencing different behaviors, attitudes and roles. (Ex. Doctor’s kit, blocks, building materials, costumes, jewelry, masks)

playtote

(Dry erase board, books, stationary, construction paper, markers, crayons, foamy balls, bubbles, glue, scissors, play dough, tea set, cars, soldiers, straws, stickers, dinosaurs, dominos, trucks, glitter, crazy foam, pom poms, toy gun)

*My “play tote” is still evolving! I would to gather more materials for the nurturing and fantasy categories. I hope to get puppets, dolls, dress clothes and masks in the near future. 🙂

 “Toys are used like words by children, and play is their language.”

-Have a wonderful weekend. Jessica

Resources:

Play Therapy Basics & Beyond by Terry Kottman

Foundations of Play Therapy by Charles E. Schaefer

Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship by Garry L. Landreth