Baby’s brains are pretty incredible. They are the best learners and they seemingly never stop trying to learn more about the world! Here are some fun facts to celebrate the unsung baby brain! Read to the end to get easy tips on how to support your baby's brain growth.Read More
"Mum! Daddy! Please I really want this! I will play with it all the time. Please, please, please!"
After some consideration you get it. It looks vaguely educational even!
A week later, it’s gathering dust. You search around and find where your child is playing. To your surprise they’re stuck into the stacking cups that you put by the door to donate to charity. They are 9 years old after all! They keep showing an interest in toys that seem far too young for them lately. What is going on? What should I do?Read More
Although I have seen lots of wizards, unicorns and dragons (even dressed as them at times) in the play room, play therapy isn’t just “magic”. The experience for children, parents, teachers alike can be magical but there are logical explanations for how play therapy works. Here are just a few!Read More
After ensuring the physical safety of your child, support their sense of emotional safety at home. This article gives tips for trauma proofing your child and when to seek extra professional help.Read More
I have had the great privilege to have worked in schools in Hong Kong over the last 9 years both as a teacher and as a play therapist. Working in schools can be intense and draining but also fun and inspiring! This is the first year I’ve not been working as part of a school and so I have some time to reflect on my experiences and celebrate the great lessons I’ve learnt from the little ones I’ve been blessed to work with!
1. Always be ready to have fun!
Sometimes I would see the children I taught as little coiled springs just waiting for their moment to spring out and bounce around! The sheer mention of the word “game” and I had at least 80% eyes on me (don’t ask what the other 20% were doing right now)! I think always being ready to have fun is a great way to live life. It brings enthusiasm, optimism and an excitement to the situation and those that are around you.
2. It's ok to cry
It happens! To girls AND boys and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. Tears come and the waves of sadness pass through. It’s always touching to see the natural empathy from school mates from such a young age.
3. Relationships are hard
Teachers far and wide will recognise this one...Often times what the child is complaining about in another child is the very same thing that they do, habitually! For example, the talkative kid tattle-tailing about another for talking! We dislike in others what we dislike in ourselves.
4. Self esteem and mindset are key!
Many bright children are held back by low self belief & emotional difficulties. This realisation was a big motivator for me retraining as a play therapist. Children with better positive support networks thrive. I have seen rapid rates of learning when a child is motivated and their needs are met.
5. "Get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart."
Ok I learnt that particular line off Carole King but it does play in my head when I walk through the school gates and see their shining faces and giggles. Whenever I go to meet colleagues or friends and often strangers I try to channel that child like beam on to them! Works a charm ;) TRY IT!
6. Forgive quickly
Arguments can be dramatic at Primary school. Often I see the adults intervening and fretting. I’ve also seen children distraught that a classmate broke their favourite ruler/pencil case/watch etc. But what I also see is quick forgiveness. Like every teacher, I’ve had my moments which were far less than “Miss Honey” shall we say. When I make a mistake, I apologise to the child. I’m always so touched at how quickly they find space in their heart to forgive me. Makes me want to cry a little..
7. Sometimes you're just in the wrong environment
Change of class, teacher, subject can make the child appear completely different. Not to mention changes in their home life. Children don't have much control over their environment but we as adults do. As care takers let's try and optimise the environment so the child can shine. And for ourselves. Recognise when the environment, relationship isn't supporting your growth, and take brave steps.
8. Play deprivation makes you unhappy, unproductive & less successful in relationships FULL STOP.
9. You have to have some struggle for meaningful long lasting learning.
The things we adults do for children, the child does NOT learn. That’s when we make it too easy. Children are little scientists and naturally make hundreds of experiments each day. They love to discover new things themselves! And so do I and I guess so do you too. The thing is with “struggle” is that it requires time to think, to experiment, to get annoyed and frustrated and then finally breakthrough. I learnt that it’s important to allow myself more time and not wish my troubles away or avoid them. The children I worked with inspire me to keep present in the journey.
So those are my top 9 lessons from 9 years of working in a school! There are plenty more and I’m sure you have your own. Let me know in the comments what’s your favourite thing that a child has taught you!
What is play therapy? Who is it for and what does a play therapist do?Read More
Three simple ways to help your anxious child at home and in the moment. These little tips are wonderful for working alongside a child who is undergoing play therapy or a child who is going through a very stressful time right now and who needs some support handling their feelings of anxiety. Seeing anxiety in our children is very anxiety provoking in itself! These tricks can help us caretakers cope too. Be sure to practice good self care!Read More
When a child is experiencing anxiety, they are stuck in a state of “readiness”. Their bodies are getting ready for action. Their heart rate and breathing rate increases and there is surge in stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Their nervous system switches into Sympathetic nervous system which is reactive and prioritises fight or flight. Blood supply rushes to the legs and arms ready to run or fight. When anxiety is persistent children become stuck and will need extra help from caring adults in their life. Seeing your child suffer from anxiety is anxiety provoking in the parents often! A play therapist can help your child move through the anxiety and learnt to self regulate the strong sensations experienced with anxiety.Read More
Perhaps you only just heard of Play Therapy or you’ve never quite understood why it’s beneficial for children who are struggling? In honour of National Play Therapy week in the USA, here are quick 6 key surprising features of play & creative arts therapy that many don’t know about!
Play Therapy tackles deep emotions, the brain, the nervous system, self awareness and relationship difficulties in ways you might not expect or have thought about before!
When was the last time you played (just for you)? Play is one of our innate drives and number one ways to learn. Research shows that play is good for our physical, emotional and mental health yet it's often put at the bottom of the priorities list. Why is this? In this post I will tell you my theory on it and tell you about my new free offering (time limited). First,
Think of the dance floor at a wedding. We've all been there...Read More
So who really is Bing Bong? What does he represent? And what really happened to him (sob!)?
The official line is that he's an imaginary friend, but he can most certainly mean different things to different people. Here is a unique fan theory. He didn't die. (Or maybe he did but he was reborn!) He's gone underground working as a play therapist! At the end of this post I'll share something that was left behind from him in my play room. The evidence!
Keep the tissues handy as you revisit the emotional memory of Bing Bong's story. But first, why on Earth does he work as a play therapist?Read More
Inside Out. The 2 Oscar nominations are certainly justified. There hasn't been such a brave, emotionally intelligent, creative and science based Kid's film before. Let's face it, it is a film just as much for adults. From a play therapist point of view I want to quickly highlight some of the reasons why it is so important to honour this film with the Oscar awards. Here are the top 7 reasons why I love it SO MUCH (from my play therapist geeky mind...)
It's relatable, sincere and it highlights a lot of truth bombs that those in play therapy have known to be true for a long time. Read on to find out the most poignant lessons to share from my play therapy perspective.
N.B. I am not in any way affiliated with Pixar. This comes from my playful heart!Read More
Buddy the Elf has said many great quotes. But as a play therapist this one is my favourite...
"There's room for everyone on the nice list."
Has your child been put on the naughty list? Have you been put on someone's "list" before? It's time to stop labelling and start trying to understand and empathise more. Read about the best gift you can give this Christmas and learn about my free gift to you at the bottom of the page. Merry Christmas! XRead More
Understanding your child's play & What to do when it gets a little scary!
In honour of Halloween, I thought I'd touch on that common occurrence of when play goes a little...well...dark!
I suspect most parents have been in the situation when they're playing seemingly "nicely" with their child and then bam, "Barney's head gets sliced off and rolls into a massive bone crunching machine"! This is then often followed by a sinister little laugh. Creepy!
Perhaps you said "are you sure that's what happens next?" Or maybe you tried to rescue the grim tale "but then McQueen comes and blocks the blade and they all talk it out before becoming best friends,right?" Maybe you said nothing and just let your mouth hang open as you slowly edge away in a mild panic that your son is going to turn into some sort of psychopath!Read More
Find out what happened to me after I allowed myself to play everyday as part of the 31 day #PlayfulMay challenge.
The thing about play is that it's so expansive and you never know where it's going to lead you.
Back in May when I first agreed to play every day as part of #PlayfulMay initiative by The Clear Sky foundation, I had no idea that I would learn quite so much and have such a great time. Never mind lead me to fulfill one of my childhood dreams; to write for a magazine!
I learnt that even though I'm a play therapist and I advocate play for children and their parents, I too had resistance around it some days.
Play doesn't have to have a purpose except for feeling the experience in the moment. You never know where it's going to lead you, that's not the point. Stuff just happens!
I'm delighted that #PlayfulMay was not only rewarding for me in and of itself, it also seemed to inspire others. Old friends surfaced and were enthused to start talking about play and self care. I had no idea the experiment would lead me to connect better with not only my friends but also strangers across the world.
LaKay from The Perpetual You magazine spotted my blog and my experience resonated so she decided to make the whole next issue about play! I am so honoured to be a part of it and share my thoughts on how you can step up your play game in my piece "Steal your own show". Don't miss the tips for how to give yourself a play reset. It starts on Page 55 of this October issue.
There's loads of goodies inside this issue and I'm psyched to share. There's also a giveaway of colouring packs yay!
I would love one of the Full Cup readers to win! To be in with a chance...
1. Click to read and subscribe to The Perpetual You magazine.
2. Click on my Instagram post and comment "I'm in"
I hope you enjoy more play today (& everyday! :P)
Have you ever been playing around, messing about or just switching off somehow and then something unexpected and wonderful happens? Something that you couldn't predict but was a happy accident because of something seemingly random you did. Share your play serendipity in the comments below. Your comment may just lift someone and inspire them to indulge in more play today.
How travel helps you understand your child (whether that's your inner or outer child!)
This is not your typical travel anecdote.
I cringe to say it but I guess you could say I'm a "well traveled" person. I come from a long line of Irish folk with itchy feet. I've lived in Hong Kong now for over 8 years so most of my trips tend to be around Asia. Not this summer. This summer I was thrown into the alien yet somewhat familiar culture of America!Read More
Dangers of playing as an adult. Warning: Serious side effects!
I first got hit with a serious play bug at the end of April when my friend, and fellow play therapist, Sophia proposed the #PlayfulMay challenge. Playing at least once each day throughout May. If you've ever wondered what kind of psychological processes can be triggered by play (as a child or an adult), read on.Read More
What is play?
At first glance the question seems straight forward. And then you try to answer it… As a play therapist, I was quite appalled at myself when I struggled to answer this simple question (on a filial play coaching training course I attended recently). I was trying to answer in a way that was inclusive of adult experiences too and I got all stuttery and confused.Read More
At first it was fascinating and cute watching him explore on the iPad with his chubby little fingers and eyes full of wonder. But now, long gone are the days of the old "out of sight out of mind" tactics for managing screen time.Read More
First, a note from the last day of Christmas.
There’s always something a little sad about the last day of Christmas isn’t there? I always seem to put off the taking down of decorations and packing up until the very last moment of the day. I hope you had a great Christmas filled with quality family time, comforting food, joy and cheer! Although, I am aware that for some of you it was not like that. Christmas and other family gatherings can act like a pressure cooker for relationships and old deep seated hurts and negative beliefs. Anyone for seconds of Christmas (why-do-you-keep-pushing-my-buttons) pudding? Anyone?!
The traditions and rituals we do during the Christmas period are so familiar and often what we look forward to most. Yet, they have the power to highlight the great changes in our lives. Such as, “He’s no longer here anymore”, “She always used to put the star on the tree”, “The family will never be the same again”, “We used to spend more time together”, and “Look how our family has grown.”. That’s some bittersweet leftovers my friends! And what do we do with these? Wine? No, wait. Must. Keep. New Year resolutions…
A thought came to me when I was doing a spot of recycling with my Christmas cards. In true Play Therapy style, I was struck with a metaphor.
Inspired by my mother’s friend, I was not going to waste my Christmas cards! You don’t have to either. Cut off the front cover of the cards and cut into handy little gift labels for next year. Crafty, thrifty, a smidge sentimental and of course green!
I think I enjoyed this just a bit too much. Why? To me, it’s about transforming the old and creating something new. Taking the best bits and paying it forward as part of a gift to someone else in the future. Some things stay with us and some things we let go. So many possible metaphors but they were just mine. Perhaps something to try with some little helping hands? The only pre-requisites are Christmas cards and the ability to use scissors.
Here’s to 2015!
* Please note I will address why metaphor is so important in Play Therapy in a future post. Hold tight and keep warm!