The Water Lily Way

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


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School Counseling Connections: Integrating the Outdoors into your School Counseling Program

 

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I think we can all advocate for kiddo’s needing time outdoors! Truly, we all can benefit from time spent outside and in nature. I may have a bit of Wisconsin spring fever right now, but as the weather continues getting nicer, I am challenging myself to find more and more activities that can be done with children out in the sunshine and fresh air. There are so many ways we can work with student’s outdoors as we would inside our school walls, however outdoor time may actually result in additional benefits for our young ones. For instance…

Exercise, movement, physical activity!
Playing outside provides children with something many children don’t get enough of anymore – exercise. Exercising while having fun is the best kind of exercise! Walk and talks can be exchanged for sitting in chairs with students during individual meetings. Team building activities can be utilized during classroom guidance and small groups. Check out the WLW pinterest to see specific team building exercises to use outdoors.

Stimulation of the Imagination
As expectations for students increase in our schools, our student’s imaginations, creativity and freedom of expression are decreasing. Our children are not discovering and experiencing things on their own, rather they are being shown, taught, and instructed. Likewise, growing up in a society that is so consumed in technology does not help with this challenge. Playing outside helps children develop their imagination, which is something that television, video games, computers, iPods, etc. can’t do. Children tend to feel more comfortable outdoors, which allows them to “invent and create things,” once again stimulating their imagination.

Improves self-confidence and social skills

Outdoor play encourages children to risk. Children try different experiences which they normally wouldn’t and grow to be stronger and more confident individuals as a result. Children feel a sense of safety outdoors, which allows them to feel in control and promotes autonomy. Group activities, games, and sports help children learn how to solve problems with their peers. They learn to work together, compromise and communicate with one another.

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Here are some different ways you can incorporate “the great outdoors” into your school counseling program:

  • Walk and talks: Why always sit in chairs with students? Going outdoors allows for exercise, fresh air and increases alertness. The outdoors brings a sense of calmness, relaxation and safety. Isn’t this what we hope to provide to our students as we build relationships with them? Walking side by side helps diminish any sense of hierarchy.
  • Take the sandtray outside!! Sit in the grass with a child as you talk and play with the sand (really, any game/toy/etc. of your choice could be taken outdoors… 🙂 )
  • Journal time: Students may find calmness in journaling outdoors. Allowing for free time to journal at the beginning or end of time with a student(s) encourages autonomy, creativity and independence.
  • Yoga! There is no better place to practice yoga than out in nature…Take your class or group outdoors and see how the change in environment impacts the student’s practice.
  • Termination: For your last session with a student or group of students, encourage students to find rocks out in the school yard to decorate. With either paint/marker have them write words that describe what they learned from your time together, or what they are taking with them as a result of your time together .
  • Deep breathing/mindfulness with bubbles! Check out the link for a fun and soothing activity using bubbles.
  • Planting a flower/plant/etc. with a student or a group of student’s to increase cohesiveness and support the relationship(s) being built.
  • Sidewalk chalk: Sidewalk chalk can replace all sorts of art therapy activities that are typically done “indoors.”

Examples include:

  1. Encouraging students to write strengths/things they like about themselves(This could be done over the course of a day or two with multiple students/groups. It could be an empowering area that would be on showcase for all students in the school to see, names not included obviously.)
  2. Have students draw how they are feeling and suggest that different colors demonstrate different feelings/emotions.
  3. Free draw!
  4. Hopscotch! Why not play a game while chatting away?!

Now let’s hope for some sunshine and enjoyable spring temps the rest of the week… 🙂 -Jessica

 

 

 

 

 


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Tuesday Thoughts: The Power of Playdoh!

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Happy rainy Tuesday! The perfect day for playdoh! 🙂

Who doesn’t LOVE playdoh?? Kid’s ESPECIALLY love squeezing and smashing this miracle substance in their hands! Playdoh can be used in so many different ways when working with kids. Playdoh encourages children to tap into their unconscious mind as it is used as an art expression. Just as well, when engaging in more of a nondirective style of play with children, play-doh allows children to be in control (something they often don’t experience in their world!). Playdoh can support children in building self-esteem, express their emotions and help them  sharing happenings in their lives. Here are some different activities that incorporate using playdoh when working with your kiddos:

  •  Expressing Emotions: Have children create a person out of playdoh. Talk about different emotions such as anger, fear, frustration, anxiousness, sadness, etc.  Ask children to think of a time when you felt a certain feeling. For each feeling, have the student place a different color of playdoh on the place in their body where they felt that emotion (ex. placing blue playdoh on the figure’s stomach if the child’s stomach hurts when they were anxious). Once done discussing different emotions, reflect on importance of expressing these emotions and not letting them bottle up inside to a point of where our bodies ache. Talk about healthy ways to express these emotions while at school, home, out with friends, etc.
  • Playdoh Personalities: Have children create an animal that they believe has the same “personality” as their own. After child has created the animal, discuss why they think the animal’s personality is like their personality.
  • Relaxation: Giving kiddo’s playdoh to fidget with can help them relax! Playdoh can also help kids to “open up” and feel more comfortable to talk! Playdoh is something that most kids are familiar with, and can help them feel safe and in control.
  • Anger release: Anger can help children release built up anger. Like the “importance of expressing emotions” activity, you can talk with a child about the significance in expressing emotions in healthy ways. You can encourage the child to say something he/she is angry about and then allow them to “smash” the playdoh as a way to release their anger. It may be beneficial to talk about the difference in “hitting” playdoh versus hitting others so that the child understands appropriate and inappropriate behaviors when expressing emotions. Another activity I found on “Creativity in Therapy” involves taping a target on a wall. The child can then throw the playdog at the target as another way to express and release anger in a healthy manner.
  • Control: Here is a cute activity to teach kids about things we can and can not control using playdoh and a rock. Yes, a rock! Find it on Callie’s School Counseling Website by simply scrolling down to the activity that says Playdoh.
  • Positive Self Talk: Your mind is playdoh! Check it out on Kids Relaxation.
  • Clay sculpture and poem
  • Playdoh stress balls
  • Playdoh printable mats
  • Creativity with Playdoh: This is a fun website that talks about the benefits of using playdoh w/kids & also different materials you can combine with playdoh to get creative with playdoh play. Check it out at Imagination Tree.com

 

 

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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.

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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? 🙂

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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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Team Building Activity: Tower of Cups

I have to give credit to my practicum supervisor for this one (as I am sure I will be doing a lot over the next few months as I continue on in my practicum course).  Every Monday when I am at my site we spend a good chunk of our time in the classrooms. The activity that follows is one we presented to the fifth grade classrooms during the unit, “working together.”  I chose to share this specific team building exercise with you because it is one that I really thought all the kids enjoyed doing! They all participated both during the actual activity, and after the activity when we processed together as a large group. I love activities that reach and engage all students and quite frankly, I think this can be quite the challenge when it comes to teaching curriculum in classrooms. As we all know, there are so many different learners, and students with different needs. From what I observed, this lesson captured them all!

Groups: 5 students per group

Supplies (for each group):

  • 5-7 plastic cups of equal size (no handles)
  • One rubber band (must fit around 1 plastic cup)
  • 5 pieces of sting (around 24 inches)
  • 5 large pieces of paper ( approx. 2 ft x 2ft)

Prep Instructions:

  • Cut 5 pieces of string into long pieces (24 inches) for each group
  • Tie each piece of string to a rubber band (evenly spaced apart) -you will have what looks like a five legged octopus
  • Make one of these octopuses  for every group of 5 students

Here is a picture just to get a visual of how this activity looks! This example only has a four legged octopus, which would work just fine as well! (Unfortunately, I did not have my camera on handy to take a picture of the kiddos when we did this activity!)

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Activity:

  • Have each group circle around each other all throughout the room
  • Place a large piece of paper in the middle of each group’s circle
  • Give each group a stack of 5-7 cups and one 5 legged octopus
  • Scatter the cups (face down) on the paper in the middle of each group’s circle

Directions for Groups:

  • Build a tower of cups by working together! For the first round, have all cups face down on the piece of paper.
  • Team members may not touch cups with their hands, or any other paper of their bodies (even if a cup tips over)
  • Each person must hold on to one of the strings that is attached to the rubber band
  • The group can only use this rubber band octopus to pick up the cups and place them on top of each other (by pulling and releasing the strings on the rubber band to place around the cup)
  • If there are less than 5 people in a team, select a team member to hold more than one string
  • To make more challenging, encourage students to avoid having their hands cross over the large piece of paper.
  • If time permits, try doing several rounds of this activity. Possibly face all the cups upright for the second round. For the third round, have some cups upright and other face down, or on their sides. Experiment! 🙂
  • Another option: Use more cups (approx. 10?) and have the kids work together to build a pyramid (5 for the base, 4 cups for the next row, etc.).

Discussion Questions:

  • How did you complete the task?
  • What needed to be done to complete the task?
  • What did your group struggle with? How was your group successful?
  • Was there a leader in your team? Did your team leader step us as the leader, or, were they elected?
  • Why was it important to work together as a team?
  • What does it mean to work together with others?
  • What skills did you use to make this activity successful?

Have FUN! 🙂