Fabulous Find Friday: Playmakers

For those of you in the New England area, I’m sure you know of the Life is Good clothing company. For those of you that have not heard of Life is Good, they are a clothing company that is focused on sharing optimism and giving back to the community. One of the ways that they give back is through their Playmaker Initiative.

Child Life Specialists are Playmakers! Life is Good defines a playmaker as “someone who provides the power of optimism to children who desperately need it.” Check out their site to learn more about becoming a playmaker; http://content.lifeisgood.com/kidsfoundation/what-we-do/become-a-playmaker/

 

 

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“Just” Playing!

Last summer I visited Lurie Children’s Hospital and had the opportunity to meet with members of their Child Life Staff. One of the people I met was the Director of Children’s Services. When she asked about my volunteering experience, I mentioned that I was completing my practicum and learning a lot about Child Life and working with kids in the hospital setting. I also shared that I was volunteering in a clinic’s waiting room. My responsibilities there included “just playing with the kids.” She immediately called me out on using the word just and encouraged me to not say “just” playing or “just” doing anything else. Because every experience is important.

In the past year, I have reflected on this advice many times. She was so firm against using the word “just.” And she was right, “just” minimizes things. It trivializes experiences. “Just” diminishes the importance of our work. You’re not “just” listening to someone, you are listening to that person. Being in the moment is so crucial, you listening to them could make a world of difference to that person who needs you. You don’t “just” volunteer, you volunteer. And that volunteering is something you should be proud of, it’s important.

I had an experience while volunteering at a Child Advocacy Center that reaffirmed for me the importance of play. One day while I was volunteering, a little boy came into the waiting room with one of his parents. The waiting room of the advocacy center was empty that day and so I spent my time playing with this little boy. We played Jenga, Sorry and other games while he and his parent waited to meet with members of the interdisciplinary staff. I didn’t think that our interaction was unusual. I played with kids in the waiting room all the time and this patient was no different. The way I saw it, I wasn’t providing any sort of specialized support. I was not prepping him for procedures or helping him cope with stress. I played with him to occupy his and my time while we were both in the waiting room.

When his parent was ready to go, the little boy asked that he stay longer so he could keep playing. His parent allowed him to stay a little longer before they needed to leave. As the little boy left, he told me that I was his best friend. We must have very different ideas of what a best friend is because I think of a best friend as someone who has been there for you for years and makes you laugh and have fun. But to that little boy, my playing with him meant I was his friend. I communicated with him through play. By “just” playing, I told him he was safe and loved. By allowing him to “just” choose the games he wanted to play with, I was able to give him back a sense of control. I was not “just” playing, I was playing.

“If children feel safe, they can take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, learn to trust, share their feelings and grow.”

– Alfie Kohn

Fabulous Find Friday: Marshmallow Launchers

This Friday’s Fabulous Find is Marshmallow Launchers. I learned about these at the National Child Life Conference this summer and they are easy to use and super helpful. It is basically a recorder like tool, without the holes, that can be filled with small marshmallows. Through deep breathes, these marshmallows can be shot out to targets. Visit Kelsey Kids to learn more about it!

Their site also includes a section with “Helpful Advice from a Child Life Specialist.” Check out what they have to say:

Benefits of Marshmallow Launcher play:

  • It increases ambulation (as a child moves about the room to pick up marshmallows and gets in and out of bed).
  • It improves respiratory status from pleasurable activity, additional benefit from sucking marshmallow back into tube before exhaling to launch marshmallow.
  • Provides normalization of environment through play.
  • Shows decreased flat effect when pelting a nurse with a marshmallow.
  • Provides aggression release.

Patients that would benefit from Marshmallow Launcher play include:

  • Any patient able to exhale forced air, usually over 5 years old.
  • Any patient spending excessive time in bed due to surgery, chest tubes, pneumonia, or treatment, burns, etc.
  • Any patient who needs an outlet during or after a painful procedure- for example, Marshmallow Launcher play can be used during dressing changes.
  • Any patient needing to release aggression or feelings. (You can encourage patients to create targets that display the objects of their fear, anger, or frustration.)

 

 

Fabulous Find Friday: ACCO

ACCO stands for American Childhood Cancer Organization and they are our Fabulous Find today!

I learned about ACCO at the Child Life Conference this past summer. They not only work to create awareness about childhood cancer, encourage research and offer support, but they also provide education resources to parents/teacher/doctors and can provide resources for you!

To find their free educational resources, visit http://www.acco.org/books/ and scroll down to the section under Books for Parents. You will see “Professionals and Educators: Request a Desk Set of Our Informational Resources” This  desk set includes a medical play kit, books for patients and their families, general education books about cancer and more. I highly recommend you check out the ACCO!

 

Julia is coming to Sesame Street

Meet Julia! Julia has autism and she is the newest Muppet on Sesame Street.

Julia was introduced to better prepare children when they meet playmates and friends who have autism. In March 2014, it was believed that about 1 in 68 children have autism spectrum disorder. By bringing Julia to Sesame Street, the writers aren’t teaching children everything there is to learn about autism but they are exposing children to a Muppet with autism. As Child Life Specialists, we know the importance of preparation and education. What a great form of preparation for children preparing to enter school, or even any environment in which they will meet other children. 60 Minutes has a great article about Julia and the show which you can find here.

Sesame Street is a great show for kids. What are some of you favorite kids shows and why?

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Fabulous Find Friday: Playopolis Toys

Today’s Fabulous Find Friday is Playopolis Toys!

If you are already working in the field, you probably already know about Playopolis. If you’re not, great! I’m glad I can share this toy company with you.

If the name sounds familiar, Playopolis makes the ever popular light spinners that are so great at distraction. If you’re not looking to buy toys right now, you might be wondering how this fabulous find can help you. Even if you’re not in the hospital right now, checking out the toys on this site gives you great insight into what kinds of toys are out there. Think about what the toy might be used for and what population you could give it to. Then when you do enter the hospital, you will be somewhat familiar with the toys.

Fabulous Find Friday: Little Patient

A friend recently suggested the Little Patient for Fabulous Find Fridays and I think it is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!

When she told me about the Little Patient, her exact words were “You can get a boy, a girl, or both, and they are dressed in little hospital gowns. Their tummies unzip to reveal many organs that are velcroed into place, so they are easy to take out, play with, and replace.” It was her favorite Christmas gift this year!

As you can probably see from the image above, the Little Patient comes with all the major organs. It would be a great teaching tool for children to learn about what’s inside our bodies. It is a plush toy, so it might be hard to incorporate into Child Life Practice at the hospital. But, the Little Patient would be great to give as a gift to help a child or in a setting that doesn’t have as strict infection control rules.

The Little Patient is available online here

National Play Therapy Week

This week is National Play Therapy Week ! Play Therapy and Child Life go hand in hand because both recognize that play is the language that children use to communicate. Check out this short video below to learn more about the importance of play therapy.

 

I would encourage you to check out the Association for Play Therapy to learn more about play therapy and finding a play therapist near you. They also have a great page about play therapy and its importance that you can find here.

Responding to the Call: Children’s Disaster Services

I am super excited to share with you that this past weekend, I completed my training to become a Child Disaster Services (CDS) volunteer. What does this mean? When the Red Cross responds to a disaster, they typically set up a shelter. When Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) responds, they set up a day care in the shelter to help the children begin the healing process after the trauma of the disaster.

So what does this day care look like? I don’t want to spoil the awesome training for you, but I will say that it is a typical set up. There is an arts and crafts section, a quiet section with books and stuffed toys, a dramatic play area to allow for role play, and cars/trucks/other toys. One crucial difference is that the items are specifically selected to help the children express themselves and hopefully to begin the healing process. In the pile of cars/trucks, there are emergency vehicles similar to the ones that the children might have seen. There is paint so that the children can express what they have seen if they want to. The selected books often have meaning behind their cute titles and adorable characters. If possible, CDS volunteers try to set up water play or rice for sensory play.

Why is this important for children after trauma? Play is the language of children! It’s how they process the world around them and how they communicate to others about their experiences. After a disaster, parents have a lot to think about. They often have to figure out where the family will live, find a way to replace what was lost, fill out paperwork for a variety of organizations that will help….if they fill out the correct form in the right way. Children’s Disaster Services provides the parents with some time to take care of themselves and they provide the children with a safe place to begin to express themselves.

Check out their site to learn more and find a training near you: http://www.brethren.org/cds/