Saturday, May 2, 2015

Let's Jenga!

I use Jenga a lot in sessions for kids with ADHD or other diagnoses that include symptoms surrounding impulse-control or concentration and focus issues. The object of the game is to act slowly and to concentrate in order not to knock the tower down and it gets taller and more unstable. 

 The other day, one of supervisors gave me a fun idea that I had not thought of before to add even more therapeutic value to the game: writing questions onto the Jenga blocks and having the client answer the question on the blocks he or she pulls. The questions can be general for any client or can be specific to certain disorders or clients. In googling Jenga, I found that this is a technique that many are already using. What a fun way to get younger clients to open up and share a little more in session!

Monday, December 29, 2014

DBT House

I have been looking for new activities to use with depressed children and adolescents and came across this activity in an MFT Facebook group that I am a part of.

This "DBT House" (DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) is a mindfulness activity.  It helps children to recognize their strengths, ways of coping, support system, values, and so forth.  After doing some more research on how to create a DBT House and finding instructions at Kim's Counseling Corner, I created my own template for those children who don't wish to draw their own house.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Blowing Bubbles to Practice Deep Breathing

To help younger kids learn deep breathing skills: 

 I hand them a bottle of bubbles and coach them through breathing in deeply through their nose and then blowing out slowly through their mouth, just hard enough to release bubbles from the bubble wand. I ask them to imagine that the bubbles are all of their anger, sadness, and/or fear being released from inside their bodies.  I allow them to keep the bubbles for their coping skills box and remind them to use the bubbles (and other items in the box) when they are feeling angry, sad, scared, etc.

The kids I have practiced this with so far have responded well to it.  Of course, little kids love bubble blowing, but the hands-on activity really helps them to understand and practice deep breathing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Therapeutic Value of Play Dough

Working with children, I am seeing how many parents hate Play Dough!  Oftentimes I suggest using Play Dough as a coping skill and my little client will tell me, “My mom doesn’t let me play with Play Dough!”  The caregivers’ reasons range from hating the mess to hating the smell.  What the parent doesn’t usually understand is the therapeutic value that Play Dough can have.  A parent cannot always be convinced that Play Dough’s therapeutic value is enough for him/her to start allowing it in their home, but I still continue to use it in the therapy office.  

Play therapy is used with children as a means to communicate, increase understanding, resolve issues, and so forth.  Playdough can be a great tool for releasing aggression, telling a story,     redirecting and distracting, building self-esteem, and so forth.  I found great articles outlining the therapeutic uses of playdough here and here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


The word "mandala" is Sanskrit for "whole world" or "healing circle".  They were originally used in Eastern religions as symbols in protection and healing rituals, as well as for aids in meditation.  In the current Western world, mandalas are popular among psychologists, as coloring or painting them can be comforting and rhythmic and aid with relaxation and stress relief. 

You can google "mandala coloring pages" and find many different designs to print out and give to your client to color or paint.  This can be used as a mindfulness, stress-relief, or other therapeutic activity.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Stop, Calm Down, Go!

This Anger Control Stoplight serves as a visual aid to remind children to think before acting when they are angry.  I print it out on cardstock and then cut it out and allow my clients to color it, using the appropriate colors (red, yellow, and green), as we discuss what each color means.  I also write down clues for what each light means and have the client glue the clue next to the correct light.  We then put it somewhere where the client will see it often, especially when angry.  I have had clients paste theirs onto their coping skills boxes or journals.  Hanging on the fridge or on a bedroom wall are also recommended.  

As an activity, you could also play "Red Light, Green Light" (the old game we all know and love from our childhood!), which helps children practice listening/following directions and impulse control.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Feelings Charades

My coworker and I created this game together.  It's a group activity that requires at least 4 participants.  This activity is helpful in helping children learn to identify and express different emotions.  

How to make:   
Print out a picture of a football field on green paper, cut it out, and paste it onto cardstock.  You may choose to laminate it.  Print out several little footballs, cut them into squares - - or you can use stickers and stick them onto little squares of paper- and write a different emotion on the back of each one (happy, sad, frustrated, bored, tired, excited, scared, etc.).  The difficulty of the emotions you use will depend upon the age of your client, of course. 

How to play:
  • Divide into two even teams and assign one end zone on the football field to each team.
  • Spread the footballs out all over the field.
  • One member of the team chooses a football, flips it over, and acts out the emotion on the back.  The members of his/her team have to guess the emotion within 30 seconds.  If they guess correctly, they get a "touchdown" and place the football in their goal.  If they guess incorrectly, they place the football back down on the field.
  • The next team chooses a football and does the same thing.  This continues back and forth until every football has been chosen.
  • The team with the most footballs in their goal at the end wins.

Ideas for modifications:
  • The football field can be substituted with a soccer field or basketball court, depending upon the interest of your clients.

For Girls:  A "My Little Pony" theme.  You can print and cut out a rainbow and two clouds and paste the rainbow on cardstock with one cloud on each end of the rainbow.  Print pictures of ponies and cut into squares (or use pony stickers on small squares of cardstock)and spread out over the rainbow.  Each team is assigned a cloud, and when an emotion is correctly guessed, the pony with that emotion goes onto the team's cloud.