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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Product Review: No Temper Treasure Island

No-Temper Treasure Island

I have been busy playing this game with my kiddos this week. I bought this game from a Marco Products catalog over 5 years ago.  It continues to be one of my go to games to play with kids in counseling. It is a favorite for many of my kids.  It is designed to be an anger management game, but it also addresses coping skills for other issues as well. 

The goal of the game is to collect the most treasure by the end of the game.  This is a nice change from the traditional model of whomever reaches the end first wins.  It creates a new level of competitiveness and strategy.  The kids also enjoy pretending they are getting rich as they play.
Each color of card has a different topic. The red cards are related to empathy, the green cards for impulsivity/locus of control, gold is anger control, white is role play, and blue cards are coping skills.  It incorporates many cognitive behavioral (CBT) concepts within the game, which makes this a top pick for me!  I always look for ways to slip CBT in without getting boring or too difficult.

This game helps children with body awareness, motivation, identifying anxieties, as well as identifying thoughts.  There are cards with systematic relaxation techniques, exercise ideas, and basic coping mechanisms.  It has so many cards that you can play it over and over and learn new skills with the same child.  Not only that, but it was quite affordable at just over $15. 

I am not getting paid one red cent for my review.  I'm just reviewing this product because I like it!

Friday, February 16, 2018

I Spy Bottles to go in Coping Skill Boxes

Making I spy bottles is fun, fun, fun! The kids have loved dying the rice, choosing their trinkets to go inside, and to stare at their bottles to find each object.  I started by having each child hold a baggy with rice in it.  I poured about 1T of white vinegar and a small squirt of food coloring to the rice.  They would then squish the rice around until it was fully colored.  Then we poured it out onto paper towels to dry. After it was completely dry, we mixed the colors together. *Note, I discovered the hard way: don’t mix the rice until it is fully dry otherwise it turns and ugly brown color.

At a later session, I had the kids choose trinkets to go inside their bottles.  I used small water bottles with the wrapper removed.  You can certainly go with a large bottle, but it will take more supplies and not fit so nicely in the coping skill box. I had sequins, beads, brads, rubber bands, paper clips, and googly eyes.  You can really use anything that is small enough to fit in the bottle.  I enjoy giving them choices.  If you better at planning, you can make a list of items that they put in the bottle so that they will know what they are searching for. 

After they filled their bottles I used superglue to attach the lid to the bottle.  I have in the past had kids dump the contents at home, which the parents didn’t enjoy too much! Many of the kids have come back and talked about how they used their bottles to calm down when upset. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Play Dough as a Coping Skill and to Process Emotions

Children process emotions in many ways, but usually best through play.  It takes time to develop an emotional vocabulary and to mature to the point to use it.  In the meantime, play can help facilitate processing emotions and communicating with caregivers.  Before children can adequately communicate feelings, they need to calm down strong emotions.  Play dough is a great tool for this! Let’s explore some options:

 Squeezing.  I encourage children to squeeze the play dough so that it oozes out of their fingers.  They typically enjoy this activity because it if fun, but it also is a sudden release of energy.  Anger builds up as energy that needs to be released to help calm down.  There are many options for letting out emotional energy, such as exercise, squeezing a pillow, stress ball, etc.; however, play dough is fun!  I also like the tactile aspect of using play dough.  Multi sensory play incorporates using grounding techniques in calming down.

Smashing.  Similar to squeezing, it is another way to let out strong emotions.  They can either create things and then smash them or just smash balls of play dough. 

Feelings Faces.  Kids who lack an emotional vocabulary can use play dough to communicate feelings.  They can use pieces of play dough to form feelings faces, they can squish a ball of play dough and carve out facial expressions, or they can use cookie cutters to stamp out feelings faces.  A friend of mine was selling some super cute emoji cookie cutters from Pampered Chef that I couldn’t pass up.  They are a hit with the kids!  They also stack up and click together to make storage easy.

Cutting with Scissors. Have you every cut play dough with scissors?  If not, you are missing out!  There is something strangely gratifying about it. I have found the children who have a history of trauma are especially intrigued by it. I’m not sure why, but they seem to love it.

Characters. Sometimes I will form little people out of play dough and encourage kids to act out situations with them.  It can be helpful to process frustrations about a situation, fears, or anything that is causing strong emotions.  Consider this example: A child comes in and says, “Tommy made me so mad that I want to punch him!”  I could give him a couple of play dough figures (or he could create them) and ask him to act out what happened.  He could then role play with the figures to demonstrate the situation. It would also give me the opportunity to help them process not only what happened, but to ask what he thinks would solve the situation, discuss what he did say or do, what he could have said or done, etc.  It opens the door for dialogue.

Creative Play.  Most children enjoy being creative, building and designing things.  As they play I look for themes in what they are doing.  I usually will watch for a while and then ask questions and I pick up on themes.  Sometimes you will see a child venting anger through play.  Or sometimes you may hear a cry for help.  They will often act out issues that are heavy on their hearts, such as feeling rejected and desiring friends, or fear of being hurt.  Many times they will act as a superhero overcoming difficult situations.  There is usually something to be learned by quietly watching a child play.

I hope these tips are helpful.  I am a strong believer in helping children learn many ways to cope.  Play dough has been good to me.  It is one tool that can be used in many ways.  This is not a comprehensive list, but a few ideas that I have used in my counseling room.  

Friday, February 9, 2018

Coping Skill Toolbox

Last fall I helped the kids I work with make coping skill boxes.  They were able to decorate them and either take them home or to their classroom to help them if they started to feel out of control.  I talked to their teachers and parents about how to implement the skills and which skills would be useful in various settings.  Some of the kids took home some of their items and left some at school, especially those that may have caused issues in the classroom. 

The kids really seemed to enjoy decorating their boxes and discussing how they would use their boxes and where they would keep them.  The main point that I stressed during the session was discussing how to implement skills and ways to remember skills.  While their hands were busy decorating, they were happy to chat about their week and process emotions. 

It is always enjoyable to see how different personalities come out with the activities.  Some wrote their name on the box and then were ready to move on to another activity.  Others meticulously painted for the entire session.  The important thing to remember is to roll with it.  When I insist that they do things a certain way or spend a certain amount of time on a project, they usually shut down on me.  Several of them opted for Legos after their box was complete.  

Monday, February 5, 2018

Using Feelings Candy Land

 I created this video to show how I use Feelings Candy Land in sessions. I view games in counseling as simple tools to help children open up about their feelings. Many times they do not know what they are feeling or how to communicate the feelings they have. The game helps this process along by having them identify times they felt the various feelings. Sometimes it may take a while for them to think of a time that they experienced that feeling. It normalizes verbalizing their feelings and helps them to be familiar with using I Statements to discuss their feelings.

I find that children are generally comfortable talking when in a play format, but will clam up if it is eye to eye conversation. Keeping the focus on the game allows them to explore their feelings without feeling put on the spot. I encourage children to continue using I statements when discussing feelings with others. And the more we play Feelings Candy Land the more they do use I statements!

When playing this game, I generally go with the flow of the child. If they are guarded, I give guarded response. If they are more open, I give open responses. I want them to feel comfortable with the game, not pressured to say anything in particular. If I have a child who continues to be guarded over time, I will give responses related to what I feel they need to talk about. Such as “I felt sad when my grandma died.” The key is to not be obvious and throw those responses out sparingly.

I also try to read body language to tell if a child is ready to open up and talk or if they are uncomfortable and want to continue in the game. Waiting a few seconds before taking your turn can give them an opportunity to elaborate. If they don’t, it’s good to continue on. I try to make a mental note of important things said during the game so that we can revisit them later. I also keep them in mind for choosing the game for the next session. It is not uncommon for a child to complain of being picked on. I will usually choose a game related to bullying for the next session.

Some of the older kids then I see love Feelings Candy Land, but most of them prefer UNO. I use the same concept with UNO, but just use the colors represented in UNO, red, yellow, blue, and green. I think it works just as well. I hope you enjoy the video!

To view my original post about Feelings Candy Land, click here:

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