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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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