The Water Lily Way

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


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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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Monday Mindfulness: Bye, bye Little Monster. Hello, Positive Self-Talk!

Hello all! I hope you had an enjoyable weekend, and are ready to tackle another Monday. 🙂 I am at my practicum site on Monday, and decided to share a little card I began making for some of the students I see individually. One thing I have noticed since being at my elementary school since February is that we have a lot of students with low levels of confidence and self-esteem. While this may not come surprising to some, it still shocks me every Monday when I am at my site and talking with my kids. I suppose I assumed I would encounter more self-esteem related struggles when I eventually entered into a middle and high school during my internship next year. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

A lot of the kiddo’s I have been talking with individually, originally were connected with me because of either behavioral or academic related issues (or so I was told). After spending time with a few of these students, I’ve come to see that their self-talk is very negative and their self confidence is extremely low. How are children suppose to succeed in school when their brains are telling them one thing, and yet they are being challenged beyond belief to perform academically? How is that happening to our little ones at such a young age? What can we do as school counselors, teachers, parents and friends to promote positive self-talk, and increase self-esteem in our youth? Self-talk effects SO many aspects of our daily life: our mental wellness, our ability to cope and handle stress, our immune systems and physical health, our confidence, self-esteem, work habits and relationships. Self-talk. Is. Powerful.

There are millions of resources for school counselors, teachers and parents to use to help increase positive self-talk in our youth. As I continue to explore different activities, I will, of course, share them with you on the blog (this is an area of passion for me!). For now, here is a little card I have been giving to some of my students. While they decorate around the card (we paste them on construction paper -I believe decorating helps make it “their own”) we discuss the “little monster” that feeds them negative thoughts. By externalizing the self-talk, it takes the blame off the child and any extra frustration that may have been connected with the self-talk being “their fault.” Talking points can include things such as:

-What does the monster say?

-How does the monster impact you at school? Home? With friends?

-How can we stop the monster?

-What are some of your strengths? What do you enjoy? What makes you feel good about yourself?

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Feel free to let me know what you think, as always. 🙂

One final thought for your “Mindfulness Monday”…

Remember: “Your thoughts only have as much power as you give them.”

Be well,

Jessica 🙂

 

 


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“Bee Breathing” -A Deep Breathing Exercise for Kids

Hi Friends!

I hope your week is off to a great start. Just wanted to share a fun resource with you that I was able to try out with some kiddos at my practicum site today. Before I say much more, if you haven’t tried deep breathing or relaxation exercises with your children or students, don’t let any nervousness you may have to do so hold you back! All of the kids I have tried deep breathing with respond SO well to it. It amazes me! Maybe it has something to do with how fast paced our society is, especially our schools! There are so many responsibilities and expectations in our classrooms today, there often is not time for just “being & breathing.”

Anyways, my cool tool for you! If you check out the website, “www.kidsrelaxation.com” a screen should pop up offering a free subscription for a chapter from the book “Deep Breathing for Kids.” I have not looked into this book yet, however I plan to do so! The free chapter will be sent to you via email, and it has some great breathing exercises for kids. For instance, one activity is “bee breathing.” In this activity children (or a child if you do this individually as I did) practices inhaling and exhaling. During the exhale you encourage the children to make a “buzzzz” sound as they breathe out. I have the Bee Breathing activity listed below, but definietely check out the website for more  mindfulness fun with children! Have a great week! 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

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Bee Breathing

1) Let’s get in a comfortable position to practice bee breathing. Imagine that you are sitting on a leaf or a flower petal. Sit straight and allow the leaf petal to support you.

2) Breath in, allowing the air to just gently come in through your nose, filling up your lungs.

3) As you breathe out, buzz like a bee. see how far your bee is going to fly before sitting down and resting again. Buzz. Buzz. Buzz

4) On the next breath, see if your bee can fly with a loud, strong buzz.

5) On the next breath, see if your bee can fly with a soft buzz.

6) Does it feel different with a strong or soft buzz? How does your buzz feel?

Ideas for use: After breathing practice, draw a picture of a bumblebee and the leaf or flower that you were “sitting” on in your imagination. This picture can be used as a relaxation practice reminder. When you see the picture, practice being like a bee and practice bee breath!

 


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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.

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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!

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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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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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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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The language of children -the language of play

My Passion for Play

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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)

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(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