What an action packed and fun-filled afternoon we had last week at The Meeting House. The kids are having such a good time and loving playing with and exploring all the new toys and materials that we have out for them during hangout.
Hangout and snack offers our team a lot of opportunities to watch the the children socialize with each other and help them navigate different situations. We are spending a lot of time encouraging the kids to find an activity to join in on and stick with it for a particular amount of time. For some kids, free play is actually the most challenging part of the afternoon as they prefer more structured kinds of activities. We have the chance to encourage them to use their words throughout this part of the afternoon and re-do social moments when needed. Whether it be asking a teacher to help them open their snacks, asking a friend to join a game or activity or having to share materials, we are seeing progress with each child's comfort level. For some, we have to remind them to use a louder voice so everyone can hear what they have to say. Helping them distinguish between their big kid voice, inside voice and outside voice. As the group gets to know each other better, we are seeing that even the quietest child is requiring less encouragement and slowly blossoming while they find their voice.
Today we focused on on the emotions of frustration and anger....feelings that we have all felt at some point in our lives. We started by reading the book Llama Llama Mad At Mama written by Anna Dewdney. As we read the book, we asked the kids to look at the expressions on the faces of the characters and think about how everyone was feeling. At one point, Llama Llama throws a fit because he has had enough of shopping with Mama. The kids couldn't believe that he did that but were able to open up to us about times they have gotten angry and how they cope with this feelings. We talked about how it is normal to feel angry or frustrated but that we have to learn be able to use different strategies instead of throwing a tantrum. Everyone had a chance to participate in the discussion and shared something that makes them feel angry or frustrated. The kids were able to share some great stories about times when they were angry and as a group, we were able to brain storm about different ways they could have handled the situation. By talking about it in this way, the kids are able to recognize that everyone gets angry at times and helps them understand that it is a VERY normal feeling. One of our friends told the group that instead of throwing a fit, Llama Llama should have used his words to tell his Mama how he was feeling.
One of the strategies we talked about today was taking deep breaths or doing a little yoga when you are feeling angry or frustrated. We talked to them about how it is important to calm our bodies down and that sometimes we need help. We sent everyone home with a handout of different breathing exercises you can do at home when they may feel like they are about to "explode". For some kids, I have found using this amazing app Balloonimals can be helpful. I use it in my occupational therapy practice all the time and the kids love it! Kids take a deep belly breath and blow into the microphone of your phone. Once the balloon is done, they shake the phone to form an animal and then get to interact with it.
In art today, each child made their own Calm Down bottles. Using corn syrup, glue, dish soap, hot water and their favorite color glitter, they made their very own bottle that can be used when they are feeling angry or frustrated. We talked to them about how both the shaking of the bottle and the watching of the glitter settling can have a calming effect on their body. They were all so proud of their unique bottles!
We look forward to seeing the kids this week!