What Do Depression and a Turtle Have To Do with One Another?

The activity I am about to share with you is an activity that was birthed during an art contest I was having with my eight-year-old.  Don’t worry.  Everyone was a winner!  And, my eight-year-old is in possession of the entries.WIN_20171027_14_48_20_Pro

In my work with clients I am often thinking about resources they need for processing EMDR targets.  EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.  It is a form of trauma therapy founded by Francine Shapiro.  As I began to work on my art contest entry I thought about what I might want practice for creating resources in my sessions.  My first one was a bear.  It was a pretty cute bear……. for a non-artist.  Emphasis on non-artist!

During this process I decided to draw a turtle for the heck of it and began to put the shell pattern on my turtle when an idea was hatched.  A turtle shell is pretty heavy and depression is a common experience for my clients.  What if each section of the turtle’s shell was something that was “weighing you down” in the form of depression, grief, anxiety, etc.? 

For each section on the turtle’s shell, write down something that “weighs you down” emotionally or mentally with a fine tipped permanent marker.  After you have written down all the things that feel heavy in your life, or at least what fits on the turtle, reflect on each section.  What does this weighty circumstance feel like?  Color the section according to how that circumstance makes you feel with a colored pencil.  That way you can still see what you wrote through the emotion color. WIN_20171027_15_02_03_Pro

In my office I use this for various therapeutic reasons.  For you, at home, you can use this activity to help your child with emotional awareness and to build their emotional intelligence.  Don’t stop at the completion of the activity.  Have a conversation with your child about what they wrote down and their feelings about that circumstance.  If they need help finding a solution be sure to ask non-leading questions that help them come up with an answer for themselves.

Examples of non-leading questions:

1.    What do you think you should do?

2.    That sounds really hard.  What is like for you?

3.    I didn’t know you felt this way.  Would you tell me more about what is going on?

4.    Is there anything I can do to help?

5.    What would you like to do about this?

If something abusive is revealed in the activity or following conversation then you must take action yourself and not leave your child to resolve the problem on their own.  If they are not being abused, this is a good way to open the conversation to helping your child solve their own problems when they experience strong emotions.  Just like a turtle, the process can be painfully slow.


4 Ways Apple Picking Can Calm Your Child and Strengthen Your Bond


Apple picking is a common tradition in the Saint Louis Metropolitan area.  If you have a child with a sensory processing issue or other challenges that interfere with social activities, you might think twice about going to the orchard.  I would like to encourage you to STOP thinking twice!  Instead, I would like to encourage you to rethink how you engage with the activity, rather than removing it from your favorite activities list.  Braving the crowds with a child who has a sensory deficit, processing disorder, behavioral challenges, or emotional regulation difficulties could sound overwhelmingly stressful, or even a little like a nightmare.  With a few modifications, you could turn a trip to the orchard from a situation that depletes your emotional resources to one that benefits all family members.  How?

The first step to enjoying a trip to the orchard might simply be selecting the right orchard for your family.  A large, crowded, commercial orchard may be too much for your child, or even you, to tolerate.  Selecting a smaller, family-owned orchard may add a little extra time to your commute, but it might be that little extra time that saves your sanity.  Starting an activity on a supportive foundation can go a long way toward ensuring a positive experience for everyone involved.  Selecting the right orchard is the foundation for a positive apple picking experience.


Second, I would like for you to consider rethinking your perspective on what an orchard experience can provide for your children and YOU.  Video game research suggests there are benefits to playing video games, including violent games.  This research surprised me since I see adults and children who struggle to separate fantasy from reality, which often causes interpersonal problems or trouble at school.  Most likely the answer to this challenge is not to eliminate video games from our lives.  Instead, it is likely that we need to balance our use of video games with other activities, such as “old fashioned” apple picking.  An essential ingredient for discerning fantasy from reality is grounding.  Visiting an apple orchard, especially a small one, is exactly that type of activity.  Literally.

Apple picking gets you and your children out of the house and onto uneven surfaces that put natural pressure on your joints as you walk out into the orchard or walk between the rows within the orchard.  Natural pressure on our joints is self-regulating.  It helps our bodies know where they are in space, which slows down body movements.  When our body struggles to know where it is in space it moves in fidgeting patterns as it tries to figure out its spatial orientation.  This is why physical education in schools is so important.  Running, jumping, push-ups, pull-ups, human wheel-barrow races, the bear walk, climbing, and orchard walking all put natural pressure on our joints to send signals to our brain about where we are in space.  Our bodies can then slow down our movements once the information is received by our brains.  Let your child jump off the last step of the wagon, jump up to reach that perfect apple, run down the rows, etc.  It’s great for them!  Smaller orchards reduce the risks associated with a child running the way a child is meant to run. Free.DSC_0021

Another way you can help a child ground themselves through an orchard visit is by encouraging them to notice all that their senses are picking up.  As a therapist who works with a lot of clients who are recovering from traumatic life events, my first step is almost always to complete an activity that brings awareness to what the client is experiencing in the therapy room through their senses.  Integrating mind-body connection is the first step in helping my client’s ground themselves and bring regulation to their bodies before processing traumatic events.  If we are going to regulate our bodies in beneficial, healthy ways we must first know what is going on with them.  Bringing awareness to your surroundings through all five senses is a big step toward this goal.


You can help your child improve their mind-body awareness by asking them questions about what they are experiencing while you are in the orchard.  What does the apple smell like?  If the child says the apple smells like an apple then you can ask if it smells like a sweet apple or a tart apple. 

Other examples of questions you could ask are:

  • What color apple do you want? (then look at all the apple colors and talk about differences)
  • Do you feel how lumpy the ground is?
  • Can you see any fun shapes in the clouds?
  • What does the apple-type you are picking taste like?  (Let’s be honest.  Sampling happens.)
  • Can you hear the wind blowing the trees?

You could also use a statement followed by a question to bring awareness to your activities and encourage your child to engage their senses.  This is particularly helpful with younger children who often need modeling of a behavior as a precursor to learning the targeted behavior.  Here are some examples.

  • I feel hot/cold.  What about you?
  • The sun feels warm on my skin.  What about you?
  • The leaf on this tree is darker than the leaf on that tree.  Do you see it?  I wonder why the leaves are different?
  • The sky has some pretty clouds.  Do you see them?  Can you see any fun shapes in the clouds?


DSC_0048The goal of cultivating sensory awareness is to strengthen the positive experiences of the apple orchard and your attachment relationship with your child.  By creating a strong positive experience with your child you are strengthening their feeling of security.  What we know from the research is that a child who feels securely attached to their primary caregivers is more likely to be resilient in the face of difficulties.  Visiting an apple orchard with intention improves your child’s resilience to the challenges that life brings.

Fourth, the attachment and grounding experience of an apple orchard can continue beyond the orchard as well.  Your apple loot can be turned into family activities that build stronger attachment, interpersonal skills, and further the sensory experience.  For example, you could make an apple pie.  Preparing an apple pie from scratch is a good way to bond with your child through a tradition that focuses on your relationship rather than digital or material possessions.  And, making an apple pie sounds harder that the reality of making it.

DSC_0057Talk about EVERYTHING you are doing.  Notice EVERYTHING you are doing.  You accomplish this through explicitly talking about each step, including noticing how sharp the knife you are peeling the apple with is followed by a safety instruction.  For example:

Wow!  This knife is really sharp.  Sharp knives are for adults only, so I will cut the apples.  Why don’t you stir the apples and sugar with a spoon.DSC_0060

Then, talk about how it feels to stir the apples.  Is it difficult because the apples are an odd shape for stirring?

It is also best to make the dough from scratch for this particular activity.  It is easy!  You mix butter and flour together until it crumbles.  The best way to make a pie crust is to use your hands to rub the butter and flour together, so let your child do this part!  Don’t forget a pinch of salt.  Next, you add ice cold water to the mixture until you get the texture of dough.  You can talk with your child about the feeling of the dough, particularly how stretchy it is as you roll it out and try to place it in the pie plate.


To round out this activity, be sure to talk about how the pie smells while it is baking in the oven. Have a taste test together while sitting around the table sharing your favorite parts of the experience.  The activity will be messy, though it can be cleaned up.  The memories will last forever.



Orchards in Missouri to Consider:

http://thierbachorchards.com/ (smaller version of a commercial orchard and family owned)

http://centennialfarms.biz/ (small family owned orchard without additional activities for kids)

Read Your Child to Emotional Security

How often do you read to your child?  How much do you read each time you read to your child?  Reading has been shown to be the single most predictive variable for success in school……but what if that is a very narrow view of the importance of reading?

 It is true that reading to your child from an early age will help them learn language skills crucial to effective communication.  Those language skills are also the foundation for learning math and science.  Having a child within the deaf community I have witnessed the importance of reading in the development of language first-hand.  What if that was not the most beneficial picture of what reading can provide our children?

 I would like you to take a moment to reflect on the last time you spent reading with your child or children.  Was it hurried because you’ve had a long day and just need the kids to go to bed so you can have your down time or catch up on household chores?  Were you clenching your jaw because you’ve asked your child 20 million time to put on their pajamas, and you know you are speaking clearly, yet they are still half naked trying to have a conversation with you…or doing anything but putting those jammies on?  Did they asked you to read yet another book and you’ve surpassed your threshold for needing your adult time?

Bedtime routines can be exhausting, which includes the ritual of reading to your child.  I would like you to take a moment to consider a new view of reading to your children.  What if reading, as the most important predictor for academic success, does not simply teach your child language skills but also helps your child form secure attachment to their primary caregiver, YOU.  Children who are securely attached to their primary caregivers, often their biological parent(s), typically thrive in school.  They also demonstrate healthier emotional regulation which leads to few problems in school, like being sent to the principal’s office.

How can reading help with emotional regulation?  Well, we know from various research studies that appropriate physical contact, such as snuggles, releases neurotransmitters that reduce cortisol levels and help us relax.  If you snuggle up to read, your presence alone is a stress reducer and natural antianxiety therapy for your child.  At my house, we have a special reading chair, complete with special blankets.  The first blanket is a fleecy warm blanket to feel a little cocooned.  The second blanket is a less comfy, heavier blanket to provide a small amount of “deep” pressure which contributes to a feeling of calm.  This dual blanket system is a similar concept to a weighted blanket without spending the money for such an expensive item.

Another way that reading may help children regulate themselves is the routine of reading before bedtime, or whenever you choose to read.  As you read, the neurotransmitters mentioned above can make you both a little drowsy, or at least very relaxed.  Often what happens is the breath of parent and child synch up.  A calming affect! In my experience, the rhythm of my breathing can put my child to sleep if they have had a stressful day.  The rhythmic sound of your voice can also be soothing.  Having a regularly schedule time where these things happen helps the body anticipate this time and creates a healthy habit for calming our minds and bodies every day.

 Okay.  We have talked about the biological factors that can help your child regulate themselves.  Now, let’s talk about YOUR creative role in the self-regulating process.  First up are your inflection skills.  You’re what skills?  Your inflection skills!  Reading teaches children about emotions when we read with inflection in our voices.  This is not a natural skill for everyone, including me.  Eventually I got the hang of it, and you will too.  Use different voices for characters.  You probably won’t be a Robin Williams.  It’s okay though.  Your child will not care.  Give your characters inflections that represent the emotion the story reports for them.  The best way to achieve this goal is to imagine yourself in the story.  Your child will likely develop an understanding of a broad range of emotions and develop emotional flexibility. 

You need to select a large variety of story lines as well.  Different story lines will further the development of emotional flexibility.  Different story lines will also expose your child to more circumstances than they are likely to experience on their own.  Experience is the best teacher, when you can get it.  The second-best teacher is a story.  Children develop some of their problem-solving skills through reading stories that present various problematic circumstances that require a solution.  Ask your child what they think happens next before you turn the page to teach them how to think of solutions on their own rather than being handed instructions.  Ask your child what the characters are feeling before the story tells them. 

 As they mature, select more complex story lines so your children will continue to be challenged to solve problems.  Make sure you pick story lines that include an interpersonal relationship problem.  It does not have to be a dramatic problem, just a problem that creates an interpersonal relationship decision.  The more problem-solving capacity a child has the less likely they are to be emotionally rattled by the unexpected, such as activity transitions or someone else’s behaviors.  They also become skilled in assessing their environment for non-verbal communication, which also helps with emotional flexibility and regulation.

So…what book are you going to pick up next at the library?

5 Ways to Help Your Child Understand Personal Space Boundaries

WIN_20170605_22_20_37_ProIf you have a school-aged child, there is a good chance your child has already read the book “Personal Space Camp” by Julia Cook.  Stories are a wonderful way to educate children about behaviors, character traits, and skills we would like them to learn.  Children often need the addition of hands-on or experiential activities to solidify the message the book communicates.  To help address the topic of personal space I have compiled several activities that present the same message in diverse ways.  The best foundation for teaching personal space is to start with a story like the one by Julia Cook.  Reading is also an activity that helps calm children down and can assist them in regaining self-regulation.  Many of my activities will connect to the story of the “Personal Space Camp” book as well.

First, I start with an activity that develops the concept of space.  Before you get started you will need to select a filler item.  Typically, I use rice since you can buy it in larger quantities at the dollar store at a lower cost.  You could also use beads, beans, cheerios, poly beads (stuffed animal filling), poms, or whatever inexpensive item comes to mind.  If you want inexpensive yet creative options just browse the dollar store and see what catches your eye.

Next, I select a variety of containers that are the same and different.  Initially, I prefer to use nesting dolls.  You can purchase an unpainted set rather inexpensively and after you complete the activity you can let your child(ren) pick one that represents them and decorate it.  Wait until the end of the activity to decorate them though.  Also look for other items that are the same and different such as boxes.  I usually use some unpainted wooden boxes I picked up at a craft store though you could likely find less expensive options if you shopped around.  I like to use unmarked items to drive the point home about personal space without distractions.  If the items look the same on the outside the size characteristic is isolated.  Full attention is on the topic you are addressing, which is often difficult for kids with personal space struggles.

After I have selected my filler objects, I begin by asking the child(ren) to describe what they notice about the nesting dolls.  Be okay with the silence and give them a few minutes to pick them up and observe them.  If they do not draw the conclusion themselves, I point out that the dolls all have the same shape and basically look the same on the outside.  I point out that we all have bodies that basically look the same too.  We all have one head, two arms, too legs, a torso, etc. If you have children with medical situations where this is not true you will probably want to avoid this part of the exercise.  Next, I ask them to guess how much rice they think each nesting doll will hold.  Only fill the bottom half of the nesting doll with rice.  Then, I have them look at the nesting dolls filled with rice and ask them to tell me which they think holds more.  If you have several cups the same size, then pour the rice from each doll into a corresponding cup.  It is best if the cup is transparent though it does not have to be the case for this activity to be successful.  Ask them to mark the rice level on the outside if the cup if not transparent.  Do not separate the doll from its rice cup. Talk with your child about how each of the dolls takes up a different amount of space.  Each of us needs a certain amount of space for our bodies.  We also need a certain amount of space for our bodies to be comfortable and everyone’s need for personal space is different just like some people like fruit snacks but others like chips.  Connecting personal space to something more tangible helps bring grounding to this complex topic.

Repeat most of the activity with the nesting dolls with other containers, such as the boxes mentioned above.  Get creative with your containers if you can and your child is grasping the concept.  The goal is to increase the complexity of the teaching with each container exercise if you can.  If your child gains a significant understanding of this concept then slowly move toward items that are not identical in anyway and talk about the difference in the space these items take up.


The second activity requires hula hoops.  You can purchase two sizes of hula hoops at the dollar store.  If you have multiple children or can invite friends over, this activity works best.  Have one child select a hula hoop, then ask them how it feels to be in the hula hoop.  Add additional children to the hula hoop and continue to ask how it feels to be in the hula hoop.  Stop once you have reached the maximum capacity of the hula hoop. Ask the children to walk around.  Repeat with the second hula hoop.  Talk about how you can fit fewer people into the smaller hula hoop before it becomes uncomfortable.  This is where the lesson can get a little confusing depending on the age of your child.  Talk with the children about how people with a smaller personal space bubble can fit more people into their personal space before becoming uncomfortable, but those with a larger personal space become uncomfortable with fewer people in their personal space.  The fact that the hula hoops are the opposite size to the concept you are teaching is what can make the lesson a bit confusing for younger children.  Skip this if your child is not ready.  Instead, talk with younger children about being cramped and uncomfortable when too many people are close to you and that how many people make someone uncomfortable is different.  They should always ask someone if they are uncomfortable. 

You can also talk about some of the behaviors they might see if someone’s personal space bubble has been invaded: cranky, trying to play by themselves, not wanting to share, etc.  I also have the kids sit in the hula hoops and point out how the children often do not fit in the smaller hula hoop and it becomes uncomfortable to try to fold themselves into it.  Additionally, you can address how easy it is to invade someone else’s personal when they do not fit into the smaller hoop.

The third activity is to blow bubbles.  Teaching self-regulation, an important skill for successfully navigating personal space, is often taught through activities that require step-by-step instructions.  Step-by-step directions naturally require self-regulation and the incentive is having fun.  That said, I typically have children make the bubbles we are going to use and find several random household items to blow bubbles with, such as cutting off the end of a water bottle, a kitchen funnel, straws of varying sizes (make sure they are old enough they will not drink the soap!), small paper cups with a hole in the bottom, etc.  The sky is the limit!  Blow bubbles and ask your child to notice the varied sizes of the bubbles.  Ask them to think about how much space each bubble takes up.  Explain that the bigger the bubble, the more space it represents a person needs between themselves and their friends unless they ask and receive permission to enter their space.  Then, blow a bubble for each kid and ask them to tell you to stop when the bubble represents their personal space.  Make sure they understand that the larger the bubble the fewer people they want to be close to them.  If you want to get fancy you could add a little food coloring to the bubble mix.  I use the bubble mix recipe from the 365 Days of Science book by Usborne though I am sure you could search for one online.  Homemade bubbles work better for this activity due to the consistency of the bubbles.

WIN_20170605_22_20_37_ProFourth, I blow up balloons.  Ask each kid to blow up their balloon until it represents their personal space, just like the bubble activity.  Inevitably there is one child who claims they do not care how close people get to them.  Balloons are a wonderful way to illustrate that everyone has a personal space bubble even if it is very small.  Show the children an empty, never been filled balloon.  Talk to them about the importance of breathing and how important it is for us to have air in our lungs.  Ask them what happens if we do not have air in our lungs, then talk about how we cannot stay alive without at least some air.  We suffocate without air.  Personal space is just like having air in our lungs.  Without at least a small amount of personal space we are smothered or suffocated.  Even if it is only a little bit of personal space, we need some space to be comfortable and stay healthy.  This illustration combats ideas that not having personal space means you are stronger and promotes healthy self-care during formative years.  The earlier we learn healthy self-care the more natural it will be to practice self-care throughout our lives.

Fifth, I have book that includes a copy of an empty fish bowl.  I am sure you could find a fish bowl template on Pinterest to make this activity work.  Each child needs two fish bowls.  For fish, you can use goldfish crackers or Swedish fish.  You could also use whatever you have on hand, like raisins or skittles.  Count out 20 fish.  Ask the child to put one fish in one of the bowls and all the other fish in the other bowl.  Depending on the age of your child, it is also important to emphasis they may not each the fish until you tell them it is okay.  Ask them which fish bowl is the most comfortable.  Ask the child to create a bowl that represents what makes them feel comfortable.  How many fish are in their bowl?  What happens if you take a fish out of the bowl?  What happens if you add one more fish than what the child states is comfortable?  What happens if there are no other fish in their bowl?


After all these activities, I ask the kids to make a t-shirt logo or placemat that helps other people understand their personal space.

15 Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer


  1. Homemade play dough dyed with Jell-O packets (off brand or dollar store).
  2. Homemade stress balls using homemade play dough (cooled) & balloons.
  3. Hula hoop obstacle (like a tire obstacle) using different sized hula hoops.
  4. Assign everyone a different colored object (marble, bead, pom, etc.). Whenever you hear one of your kids fill someone’s emotional bucket with kindness, put the appropriate color in a jar designated for them.  Have a special activity planned for whoever fills their jar first.  Make it harder to earn throughout the summer to inspire creativity.
  5. Dye rice assorted colors using food coloring and water. Use Inside Out as your inspiration and talk about the different feelings we might have when spending so much time together.  Ask them to decide which feeling they are ready to work on and give them a baggie (or small container from the dollar store) with that color rice as a reminder.
  6. Shaving cream art using poster paint dripped onto shaving cream. Run a toothpick, fork, kabob stick (the wooden ones, not a sharp metal one) though the paint.  Lay paper over the paint and gently tap, then remove and scrape off the shaving cream with a straight edged item/tool (like a spackle knife).
  7. Make homemade bubbles and dye them different colors.
  8. Grow an avocado or other food item that is passed its prime instead of throwing it out.
  9. Go to a fruit orchard in Augusta or Marthasville instead of a huge commercial operation. The kids can have more freedom to run and play safely, without hypervigilance. (Centennial Farms; Theirbach)  In Marthasville there is a family owned pizza parlor where the kids can sign the wall.
  10. Ride the Katy Trail and make up a story as you ride.  Each person must contribute a new piece of the storyline.
  11. Zoo scavenger hunt.  Rarely are all the animals out on the same day, so they must try to find one they did not see the previous visit.
  12. Backyard obstacle course using items from the pool: jump over pool noodles, bean bag toss into diving rings, who can shoot their water gun the furthers, toss water splasher balls into beach buckets, and partner to move a beach ball a set distance without using hands or feet (they really have to talk to each other and problem solve this one).
  13. Roll the Dice. Assign each number an action, then roll the dice.  They must do the action associated with that number until the one who rolled the dice says stop.  Up the challenge by adding more dice.
  14. Left, Right, Center Shuffle. Circle = forward. Star = backward.  They must move in the direction rolled.  Start with one dice and add one dice at a time to up the challenge.
  15. Have your child select a white flower and select a dye that matches the emotion they struggle with most.  Every time they feel that emotion they put a drop of dye in the water. Talk about how the flower did not change at first but over time the dye overtook the flower, a drop at a time.

4 Activities to Help Your Child Talk about Their Anxiety

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Anxiety is a common experience for children, yet they often do not have the words they need to talk about it.  Activities that provide tactile and visual input can help children process their emotions.  Here are four activities that will take your child(ren) through a series of steps to help them understand their anxiety, know what to do about it, and be motivated to persevere in overcoming their worries.

These activities can all be found in their original format in two books.  The first book is What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner, Ph.D.  The second book is Creative Coping Skills for Children: Emotional Support through Arts and Crafts Activities by Bonnie Thomas.  The versions of these activities outlined below are modifications based on my real-life implementations.  Conceptually these activities address the same targets, though the versions below apply my experience to improve their practical effectiveness.  To learn more about the original formats of these activities, please obtain a copy of the books listed above.  If you would like to purchase either book, they can be found on amazon.com.

The Story of the Tomato Plant:

First, I ask the child if they remember ever growing something.  After we talk about their experience (or lack of), I transition into asking them if they have ever grown a tomato plant.  Next, I take the child through the story of growing a tomato plant and have them draw each stage of its growth.  We talk about the need for nutritious soil, water, light, attention, etc.  The child draws each stage of growing the plant: the shoot that peeks through the soil, the stalk that grows, the flowering plant, the fruit bearing plant, etc.  Talk about what type of tomato they grew.  Was it a cherry tomato, Roma tomato, or a big, softball-sized tomato?  At the end, I talk about how one little tomato seed, when nurtured, produces an overwhelming amount of fruit, and even invades areas of our life that it shouldn’t.  The example in the book listed above is that they end up making tomato ice cream and tomato cookies to use up all the fruit their one tomato plant produced.  You can come up with your own unconventional uses for tomatoes to make the dramatic effect relevant to your life.  I explain to the child that planting a seed of worry is much like planting a tomato plant.  A small amount of worry can grow so big it invades areas of our life, including places it is not helpful.  Anxiety can help keep us safe if we are in a dangerous situation, though anxiety about everything is hurts us.

Worry Pizza:

After completing the tomato plant story, it is time to identify the child’s specific worries.  I use the worry pizza for this step.  I help the child identify four things: “I worry a lot about this…”, “Sometimes I worry about this…”, “I worry a little about this….”, and “I never worry about this….”.  It is important for children to see that even when they are worried there are things in their life they can feel secure about.  They can have worries and feel safe at the same time.  Recognizing what they can feel secure about begins to chip away at their worry. 

I have turned the worry pizza into a craft project, which allows the activity to be scaled up or down depending on the developmental age of the child completing the task.  If your child cannot read or write, you can talk about the headings and simply glue the pieces on the pizza to help the child visually see their worries and coping skills.  If your child can write, you can have them write on the pieces before adhering them to the pizza.  The directions are as follows:

1.  Cut a circle out of construction paper that is approximately the same color as pizza dough. Use as much of the piece of construction paper as you can.  Divide the “pizza” into four sections as if you cut the “pizza” into four slices.

2. Cut a piece of construction paper that represents crust on a pizza. On this “crust” write the following four headings for the “slices” of pizza: “I worry a lot about this…”, “Sometimes I worry about this…”, “I worry a little about this…”, and “I never worry about this…”.

3. Use a 1” circular hole punch on red or dark pink construction paper to make “peperoni”. Ask the child to write each of their responses to the first three “crust” headings (I worry a lot about this, Sometimes I worry about this, and I worry a little about this) on a separate circle and have them top their “pizza” with their “pepperoni” in the appropriate category.  Each individual worry should have its own “peperoni” circle.  The pepperoni can overlap if needed.

4. Use a 1” square hole punch on yellow and white paper to create cheese for the sections: I worry a lot about this, Sometimes I worry about this, and I worry a little about this. On each piece of “cheese” the child can write the coping skills that they would use for each section of the “pizza” and glue them to their “pizza” in the appropriate section.  The “cheese” will be glued over the “peperoni”.  If a child I am working with has difficulty identifying coping skills, or needs ideas for coping skills to try, I have a copy of a coping skills bingo game and let the child look through the accompanying cards for ideas.

5. For the fourth section (I never worry about this), use a 1” hole punch to cut construction paper in colors that represent fruit you would find on a dessert pizza. For example, peach for peaches, red for cherry, blue for blueberry, and a light tan or off-white for apple.  Have the child write the things they do not worry about on their “fruit” pieces and glue them in the never worry section.  Use slightly diluted white poster paint to drizzle over the “fruit” to represent the icing used for dessert pizza.  You could even use brown 1” squares to make a chocolate dessert pizza.

This activity allows children to cognitively explore their worry while physically engaging with the topic (tactile learning).  They can hang their “pizza” up where they can easily view it to remind themselves of the things they do not worry about and coping skills to use when they do worry.  The “dessert pizza” section reminds them that in the midst of their worry there is security.  I refer to this as the sweetness in the storm.

Wish Fairy:

A wish fairy allows children to dream, which helps them with multiple skills. First, wishing helps them identify what they want.  The discrepancy between what they want and what is happening can cause anxiety or worry in children.  Second, wishing develops creativity, a crucial component to learning how to solve problems effectively.  Third, wishing engenders hope and can balance out their worries.  To make a wish fairy:

1.  Use an old-fashioned clothes pin for the fairy’s body. Have the child decorate their fairy’s body.

2. Make the fairy’s wings. I found a pattern I like on Pinterest by searching for fairy wings.  Have the child decorate their fairy’s wings, then ask them to write the things they wish for on the wings.  Another way to construct wings is to have the child trace their hands and come up with one wish per finger/thumb.  Cut out the handprints and glue them to the fairy’s body as if they were wings.

3. Allow the child the option to use embroidery thread, or other similar thread, for hair.

After the fairy is completed, talk to the child about how the fairy gives flight to their wishes.  This engenders hope that they can conquer their worry.

Butterfly Instructions:

Butterflies are a symbol of new beginnings.  It is important to tie this activity back to the worry pizza’s coping skills, especially if the child wrote down any new coping skills they want to try.  My butterfly activity is unique because it is used to encourage the use of coping skills as part of the new beginnings message.

1.  Use an old-fashioned clothes pin as the body of the butterfly. Let the child decorate it.

2. I use a specific butterfly wing pattern I found on Pinterest for the butterfly wings since it allows me to give instructions to keep particular sections white so they can write in those sections at a later date.

3. Have the child decorate the outline of the wing and leave the inside white or at least able to be written on at a later time.

4. Glue the wings onto the clothes pin body.

5. If the child accidentally cuts off the antennae of a pattern you can glue on pipe cleaners instead.

Tell the child that butterflies represent new beginning, so every time they successfully use one of their coping skills from their worry pizza you would like them to write it on a section of the butterfly’s wings.  That way the butterfly can help give their new, good choices wings to fly (and grow).