Creative Resources for Busy Practitioners: Fluffy Slime Recipe #slime #creativeresources

There is no doubt that having a few resources that spark a conversation and interest facilitate engagement when working with children. There are different slime recipes and  types to buy in shops. With lots of experiments, this is my favourite recipe. It is more chunky and together, not liquid at all. It can be a great starter for a session with a child, alternatively, it can be a real treat for the end of session, or a resource to calm and sooth throughout the session…

Ingredients needed:

500 ml of PVA glue

a cup of warm water

cold water

500 ml shaving cream

5 pumps of foaming hand soap

one squirt of baby powder

5 pumps of body lotion

1 teaspoon of borax

Bowl and spoon

Food colouring and sparkling glitter (optional)

Process

Pour the glue in the bowl

Fill each bottle of glue half way with cold water

Mix it until all combined

Put the shaving cream in

Mix it up

Put food colouring in (optional)

Add foaming hand soap, body lotion and baby powder

Mix it all in

In a different cup, add some warm water. Put the borax in and mix up until all the borax is dissolved to create the borax mixture.

Put three teaspoons of the borax mixture into the slime bowl and mix.

It is probably not yet formed but keep on adding the borax mixture until the slime is no longer sticky.

Enjoy! Some ideas with the slime…

To create engaging conversations, put in boxes and add some little creatures in the box. Ask the child to find the little creatures.

Add slime in balloons to create sensory and self-soothing objects. The more robust types of balloons will last longer. By leaving some air and space in the balloon, it creates sounds when playing with it, like pops.

Play with the slime, poke it, make bubbles with it, fold it…express how it feels, describe actions.

Change its textures by adding play foam or loom bands to make it more crunchy. Change the colour or add sparkling glitter to make it different.

Essential Toolkit When Working in Schools as a Psychologist #mentoring #earlycareerpsychologists #support #schools #toolkit

I have recently been in touch with a number of early career psychologists about to embark a journey of working in schools. They were asking advice about top tips and preferred resources. Over the years, I have built resources I use on a regular basis so I thought I would take the time to write down what I could call ‘my essential toolkit’.

Getting to know each other, Being together, Enjoying time together

Time spent ‘being together and enjoying time together’ is valuable when working with children and young people. For some children and adolescents, it can take a few sessions to open up and discuss their feelings and thoughts. Asking what is their favourite activities, interests and hobbies always consist of a first session activity. I tend to use a blank page and draw a mind map of the child’s likes, dislikes, being good at, needing help with. This way the session is co-constructed and not necessarily pre-planned. Children learn that what is on paper is all their ideas, feelings and thoughts. Some formats are available on on-line in the name of ‘All About Me’ or ‘One Page Profile’ for ideas. I personally like better the blank page as it often becomes a cooperative activity where the child draws too.

To promote enjoyment and fun, I have a bag of different tools that have become particularly important in building a relationship with children. These toys are carefully chosen to create a positive reaction and emotion, and encourage dialogue. In many situations, talking about the toys and experience of playing have led to opening a discussion about interests, hobbies, school, home, etc. These tools are also important to help children return to the next session and feel happy knowing they will se you again. My essentials are:

  • A box of scented pens
  • Sensory toys such as winding up toys, slime in balloons (home made) or stress balls, funny glasses, balls, balloons, noisy toys. Bubbles are also a great way to create reactions, fun and teach different strategies. All these toys were purchased from basic dollar shops.
  • A bag of classic Lego, a couple of puzzles, a tin of Spot It and UNO cards
  • A bag of little people with trees and fences (including Lego figurines, Oshis, Shopkins, Inside Out characters, animals). This can help when children want to create their own world. It can also help with teaching specific strategies through role-play. Similarly, puppets are great too for this purpose.
  • Blank pages of paper and little scrapbooks
  • Scrapbooking bits and pieces, with scissors and glue to create a Worry Book for example and any other creation comes up in a session. Ideas can be found different websites, but ideas coming from children themselves tend to be so meaningful.
  • I have also added to this football/soccer/sports cards or games for children with specific interest, as well as snap cards of specific interest such as unicorns, space, etc. and magazines on specific interests. Trump cards are also great.

Cards and Therapeutic Story Telling

St Lukes Innovations has a number of cards for various purposes. Feeling cards such as the Bears are a must and works well with children, particularly when they are finding it tricky to name and identify a feeling. In this instance, I give the child some cards and say ‘choose cards that represent that feeling’. Two Worlds cards are great to explore feelings and thoughts about children living in two homes/two different worlds. For adolescents, Deep Speak, Shadows and Inside Out are great resources to initiate discussions and also to explore deeper thoughts and meanings for feelings and behaviours.

I have developed a therapeutic story telling little library and love it! My role being in assessments in previous years did not lead me to focus so much on this type of resources before, so I am enjoying finding stories and would love to write some one day! My favourites are:

  • My Huge Bag of Worries (worries and anxieties). After reading the book, I ask the child to draw their own bag of worries and we then discuss each of them with strategies that could help making them go/fly away (as in the story)
  • The box set When I am feeling (anger, sadness, scared, happy, love, lonely)
  • Hey Warrior (anxieties): Children tend to really like this book as it scientifically explains how the brain deals with anxieties. I have used this with adolescents too, just to explain terms and the brain’s actions. It is a little long, particularly for younger children, the story is best interactively delivered.
  • The Invisible String (parental separation)
  • Volcano in my Tummy (anger) for individual and group sessions and with stories in the book
  • Monsters Inside (mindfulness, calming tools)
  • Margot Sunderland has a series of books on various issues: Ruby The Rubbish Bin, The Wobbly House, The Day the Sea Went Out and Never Came Back, for example.

Personal Construct and Self-Image tools

Rick Beaver in Educational Psychology Casework provides a number of particularly helpful tools that I have used time after time in sessions with children and adolescents such as school situations, drawings, salmon lines. Based on these ideas, I also have a series of cards of school situations collected from various sources which are explored in sessions with children.

Draw your current school and then your ideal school tends to be an activity that works well to get to know where the difficulties at school may be, particularly when engagement and participation is a difficulty.

The series of the Blobs, a number of Blob characters placed in different situations such as the classroom, on a tree, in the playground, in different types of homes and worlds, is also an activity where children and adolescents tend to respond well to and where feelings of their self-concept and personal construct can be explored.

Some questionnaires such as the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires (SDQ) and BG-Steem can also help explore self-esteem and help scaffold a conversation.

Group Work

In schools, psychologists are often required to contribute to developing groups aiming to support the development of specific socio-emotional skills. When looking at these resources, it is best to look into the evidence behind these programmes. However, in schools, purchasing expensive programmes and needing to attend training to become an accredited ‘trainer’ can act as a barrier to providing support to children. Having some guide books (which are often based on evidence-based practices) can help design some much needed support in a more immediate way. The following resources provide a good start:

  • Socially Speaking (social skills)
  • Friendship Kids, Friendly Classrooms
  • Zones of Regulation (self-regulation)
  • Cool Connections with Cognitive-behavioural therapy (Resilience, self-esteem)

Parenting support

The Science of Parenting/What every parent needs to know from Margot Sunderland explores a number of relevant themes affecting parents such sleep, tantrums, love to name only a few.

Parents are often finding behaviour management tricky. Tools, such as the ABC, based on a functional behaviour analysis helps gathering evidence around patterns of behaviour and helps open the discussion about more problem behaviours.

A Solution-oriented meeting format where ‘what’s ok’ is explored together with exceptions can also give a sense of empowerment to parents in helping them to realise there are many aspects of their role they are fulfilling well. It can also give an outline and format as to what needs to change, providing a tool to manage and initiate change.

Working in schools provide a number of advantages and can make a difference for many children and young people who would not normally have the opportunity to access special attention and support.

***The author of this text has no relationship with authors/resources mentioned and no financial gain in promoting any of these resources.***

Essential Readings and Guide Books

Ajmal, Y. & Rees, I. (2004). Solutions in Schools. BT Press: London.

Beaver, R. (2003). Educational Psychology Casework: A Practice Guide. Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London & Philadelphia.

Cefai, C. (2008). Promoting Resilience in the classroom. Jessica Kingsley Publishers; London& Philadelphia.

Geddes, H. (2006). Attachment in the Classroom. Worth Publishing.

Rosoman, C. (2008). Therapy To Go. Jessica Kingsley: London&Philadelphia

Seiler, L. (2008). Cool Connections with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Jessica Kingsley: London&Philadelphia

Stallard, P. (2005). Think Good, Feel Good. John Wiley & Sons, LTD: Chichester

Thielking, M. & Terjesan, M. (2017). Handbook of Australian School Psychology. Springer.

Treisman, K. (2017). A Therapeutic Treasurebox for Working with Children and Adolescents with Developmental Trauma.

Sunderland, M. (2007). The Science of Parenting. DK: London.

Zandt, F. & Barrett, S. (2017). Creative Ways to Help Children Manage BIG Feelings. Jessica Kingsley: London

 

 

 

Creative resources for busy practitioners when working with children #creativeresources #children #therapeuticsupport

My role in Australia is quite different from my experience in the UK when working as an educational and child psychologist. Seeing children over a longer period of time has been great, but also brought some challenges. I had to rethink my ways of working and incorporate a number of new creative resources and ideas into my professional practice. It has been great to research and trial these. I present here my top five, the resources I feel have been particularly engaging for the children.

  1. A box of Lego: My box of classic Lego has been absolutely wonderful in engaging children who find socialisation and talking a little more tricky. Knowing I had a box of Lego, many came willingly to see me. We have some great play moments with the Lego, either exploring different pieces, talking about a new design, or thinking about what they built and why. I also enjoyed seeing what different children do with Lego, build from the booklet, invent a new pattern, talk whilst building vs being silent, build something significantly close to their current state of mind. In all situations, Lego has given us a great resource for discussion and relationship building.
  2. A bag of little people and animals: I put a bag of little people and animals together. I included lots of different interesting characters like Oshis, Shopkins, Superheroes and characters from different stories and television programs. I included Inside Out characters. I find children really like these and will use them when needing to express particular emotions. I also included trees, gates, flowers, etc. With these, children can create a world, their world. Together with the Lego, children can build a house, put people in it, play and talk. Again this is has triggered some interesting conversations.
  3. Blob tree and other blob pictures: I laminated the different pictures of the Blob and carry them around with me. It is a great resource to get to know a child’s view of the world with the possibility of knowing what they think of others’  perceptions of the world by prompting how others feel like and would be like on the picture.
  4. School and home situation pictures: I laminated a number of school and home situation pictures that I carry with me. Again these are great to get an insight into a child’s views of that particular environment. I found some pictures from ‘Where is my peg’ which is a resource supporting children going to school. It is also easy to find pictures on clipart, or even attempt to draw pictures.
  5. A poster session: As a first session, I most of the time use a blank page asking the child to talk about their likes, dislikes, strengths, difficulties and where they feel they need help. It is often a very accurate picture of their life and what parents talked about. During the poster session, I just draw bubbles of all their ideas and create a poster like a mind map. In this conversation, I use different techniques such as scaling, competency profiling, eliciting aspirations, thinking about next steps and goals. I draw with scented pens so that the children and I have something something exciting to talk about which helps building the relationship. Children also draw and put their stamp on the poster. I have also done this with children who are moving on. I call it a transition poster where I include a sentence such as ‘good luck in your new adventures’ and sign it. We talk about all their strengths, positives and skills needed in transition. If they want to, I encourage the children to ask their friends and teachers to sign the back. This aims to offer some closure and support in transition.

 

10 Winter School Holiday Activities at a Low Cost #winteractivities #whattodowithchildren #parentsupport

School holidays in the Winter always tend to be a little tricky. What to do with the children? How to keep peace? How to entertain them?

In consultations, parents often talk about this time of the year being difficult as the children tend to do too much ‘device time’. Parents also explain this time of the year as expensive and stressful, needing to be busy to entertain the children to avoid conflicts. Families who are migrating and arrive in a new house with not much may also relate to the need to find activities with not much and at a low cost. In this frame of mind, here are described a number of simple and low cost activities to help families think about activities during the Winter school holidays (In Australia, this does not include Christmas, a novelty to me!). Winter holidays tend to be more difficult because of the weather,  but with a little bit of imagination, it can be done…you just to wrap up warm! and for the rainy days, think a little more creatively!

  1. A walk in the woods: Imagine characters (imaginary ones as well as animals) living in the woods, talk about animal life, describe what you see, touch and smell. Imagine stories about characters how they must live and what they do such as fairies, Smurfs, etc. Play a game of scout hide out. This game is great! Walking along a path, start counting at 10 closing your eyes, children hide, at 0, you open your eyes (not allowed to move) and name people you see by name. If you can’t recognise them, they are safe. People not named are safe and all come back to the path. You then all walk along again and start counting at 9 without letting anyone know. Surprised, children must hide. And then the game goes on until everyone is out, or until 1 player is left, and a winner established. Collect leaves and seasonal flowers to make a special vegetation scrapbook, research plants, or make special art work with finds.
  2. Walk on the beach: Collect pebbles and seashells for a special project for the house or as a gift. This could be an art project, decorations for the bathroom, filling plant pots (make sure you wash the sea objects first as the salt may kill the plants). Some ideas here: seashells tied on a cord as a light switch (with little drilled holes), bracelets with seashells, candles wrapped around with a ribbon with seashells or pebbles glued on the ribbon. There are some amazing ideas on Pinterest for these special projects. Talk about the sea life, the lighthouses, the geography (where you are, what you can see). Take photographs and collect these in a special holiday book.
  3. Play board games: Board games can be purchased at a very low cost from a second hand/’Opp’ shops. Board games are great to support turn taking, respecting rules, accepting not doing so well, and creating a strategy to win. Children absolutely love this special time. Initially, it may be tricky as everyone is not at the same stage in being able to play the game but with time and patience, children tend to accept rules and engage with the game. It may be best to start playing games with simpler games such as cards. If children find some games too long, or depending on the developmental age, then some games that are much more interactive are a good start such as ‘Hungry Hippos’, ‘Operation’, or ‘Guess Who’. Over time, introduce more complex games. If you have a fire in the house, board games in front of the fire is a treat for everyone.
  4. Story Telling: Encourage children (and adults!) to switch off all devices. Sit together and initiate a story telling time. This can be that everyone tells a story at one’s turn. It could also be through games. Someone starts the beginning of a story and then the next person must carry it on, and so on. You may want to have some rules such as everyone must speak for 30 seconds, or must speak about two ideas. This helps moving the story on. You could also draw out of a hat some words or ideas that each player must introduce in their story line. Alternatively, encourage children to write a story about something they experience during the holidays or a story they invent. To stimulate story writing, you can encourage children to choose visuals/props such as characters, little people, newspaper article/debates, superhero characters, story cubes, or themes they pick out of a hat. You can ask children to draw special idea cards or write key words/simple sentences for the hat too.
  5. Talent Show: Create an event in the house saying that there will be a Talent Show on the last weekend of the holidays. Ask the children to take the time to plan and prepare a show of their choice. This could be anything to showcase any of their talents: humour, magic, singing, writing, dancing, etc. You can do some research or find some books in the ‘Opp Shop’. Ensure that they have time to think, prepare and practise during the holidays. Hopefully they will be very busy organising their show during their days off. Allow time for problem-solving and discussion.
  6. Building dens: Encourage the children to build dens with blankets, cushions, pegs, cardboard boxes, etc. Encourage them to problem-solve with little support. Support tends to work better of the children are supported lots initially and then support is withdrawn gradually. Children can then be encouraged to play in their dens with ‘little people’, playing and imagining stories.
  7. Special picnics: Create an event where the family choose a special place to have a picnic. Yes, this can be dependent of the weather, but a special picnic can be anywhere…in the living room, on the decking, in a tent, in the garden, in a park, in the woods, on the beach. Children can help you choose food and prepare it with you. On colder days, a soup in a flask can be great to try.
  8. Special Art Projects: Art projects can include choosing photographs for the house, making an art piece for children’s bedroom, or scrapbooking about a specific topic: a special holiday, family album, ‘my special strengths’ and aspirations’ book’. A vision and aspirations board, scrapbooking, slime, inventing a video game through drawing or writing a cartoon story are other ideas. Dollar/Pound shops have lots of creative special objects you can buy at a very low cost. For around $15, you can have a great assemble of lots of arty objects. Shopping and time spent doing the projects can last you a couple of days!
  9. Cooking: Cooking is an amazing self-help skill to learn. Encourage children to assist you with cooking. This will help their self-confidence in the kitchen. You can spend time think about recipes. It will also help them to choose ingredients, taste food and eventually want to make it themselves. On a rainy and cold day, cooking their favourites is a great motivator. Making your own pizza or pasta such as choosing your own toppings, or making cake/biscuits can help promote self-help skills and togetherness. Ensure rules are put in place such as ‘a cooking, washing up’ rule. Making and writing a recipe book is also a great way to get the children involved in learning about their family recipes.
  10. Obstacles course: Set an obstacle course in the garden, in the woods, on the beach, in a park, or even in the house, balls, with plastic cones, ropes, or whatever is there already. Just set a course, ask the children to follow as a trial and then get trials running. Ensure your obstacle course include all physical development skills such as throwing, jumping, hoping, running, climbing and other challenges. Have a competition or encourage best personal scores. Encourage the children to reflect on their skills: how can they improve their scores, what works well, how they feel when going around the course. Ensure you prepare bottles of water and a snack as it helps them stay there longer and sustain their energy levels. You can also include a couple of thinking challenges in the mix to break up physical activities and promote those skills too.

 

Yes, there may be time with devices and special movies. Yes, some special activities that cost more money such as a cinema trip, a bounce in a soft play area, a museum visit or a special outing, may be planned, but with all of the above, hopefully this will not be a regular occasion. Holidays are also there to enable children to catch up with their sleep, play and be able to develop their own interests and self-identity. Ensure children have plenty of time to develop skills for unstructured play. This will support imagination, creativity and self-help skills, all very important life skills.