July 18 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: Seeing the Difference Play Makes

Playmaker Community

PLAYMAKER FUEL: STORIES THAT INSPIRE US
All of the stories featured here have been composed by members of the Playmaker Community working directly with children. They have been submitted as part of the process for Playmaker Certification, enabling Playmakers to reflect on what they’ve applied and to share their growing wisdom on what works. We call these stories “Fuel” because they fuel our inspiration and drive to make a daily difference in the lives of children.

SEEING THE DIFFERENCE PLAY MAKES

All heartLeaving a Playmaker training in 2011, I was opened to a world of people who thought like I did. It was better than I could imagine! Playmakers has a vision! It has a network and a philosophy that I want to be! So driving back from DC to rural PA, where I teach and live, I was able to dream of how I would use the training and games and FUN in more of what I do. I saw the CONNECTION piece as the heartbeat to what I wanted in my school.

I am the school counselor for grades K-2. I am hands-on and developmental as best as possible…but again, I felt the gauntlet dropped at Playmakers. Make my lessons more FUN (and physically active), bring more CONNECTIONS, bring more GAME ON, and bring more laughter. My wheels were turning on my car and in my brain and in my heart.

Professionally, I shared the Playmakers movie clip with my staff…there wasn’t a dry eye in the staff room. I made a publisher’s newspaper of games for connections in the classroom, and gave it to my staff. And then I got to work!!! I incorporated stretches (lion’s breath and smell the flowers and bubble blowing) as start-ups for my entering the rooms. I did A Cool Breeze Blows in the classes (first and second grade) at the start of the year for getting to know each other. (They loved the game so much that teachers used it –after I modeled for reward games!) Every character education lesson I tried to match with a game or physical movement of some sort to help the bodies remember the lesson and have some fun.

ShooFlyI brought in the music. The kids LOVED Shoo Fly!!! I used the dots as floor mats for my social skills groups so we could respect each other’s spot! I made sure that we did the Good Morning Meetings…and Hellos each group meeting. I wasn’t allowed to skip…because my kids (most of my population is on the spectrum) would never forgive me. And as one little heart told me, “Miss B, you can’t change Good Morning Meetings in the schedule. I will not be able to say Hello to my friends.” Could it be better stated???!!!

My social skills group went from 20 kids the first year to 65 the 2nd!!! Parents and teachers saw the difference it was making. Now we have 3 people teaching the components of the class!!! My students are making connections where they were alone on the playgrounds before. I see them finding, seeking each other out. I get phone calls of thanks from parents who were in tears on how to help their elementary students.

jackie yogaPlay works! Our schedule for 30-45 minutes twice a week is: Good Morning Meetings (with Playmakers dots), Yoga stretches (based on suggestions from the Playmakers handbook and ABC Yoga cards), follow the rope lines (Playmakers’ bag) to the snacks, story and concept time on the parachute or under J (Playmakers’ bag), game to remember (from handbook or other sources), and a remember me paper for parents to know and review. The kids know it, love it, and count on our routine. I’ve also incorporated the 4 concept in our counting for Yoga or morning songs or play. They know shake, shake, shake, shake and down.

So I’ll sum up this classroom experience with love, love, love, love, it ALL. I am a better educator because I am a Playmaker. I feel connected to a bigger picture that is actively working to heal the world’s most valuable resource …our kids J Bless you and your mission!!!

Andrea Buchanan, K-2 School Counselor
Waynesburg Central Elementary School
Waynesburg, PA

 

July 11 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: A Playmaker in South Africa

Playmaker Community

PLAYMAKER FUEL: STORIES THAT INSPIRE US
All of the stories featured here have been composed by members of the Playmaker Community working directly with children. They have been submitted as part of the process for Playmaker Certification, enabling Playmakers to reflect on what they’ve applied and to share their growing wisdom on what works. We call these stories “Fuel” because they fuel our inspiration and drive to make a daily difference in the lives of children.

 

Carrie Legeyt

 

A PLAYMAKER IN SOUTH AFRICA

I was in South Africa this past January, traveling with my college as an alumna. Our goal was to go into a township area and work with the teachers in the early childhood centers. The early childhood centers are hoping to strengthen themselves through teacher education and providing a certification process for the centers. Ahead of time, I always had an idea about what I thought poverty would look like. However, I had no idea what I was in for until I was actually in the heart of it. I was told that 80% of the population I encountered had AIDS. Many of these children did not have access to medical care. I also heard stories about traumatic home lives. The children lived with domestic violence and physical/sexual/emotional abuse, and without access to mental health, appropriate clothing resources, and nutrition. As I drove through this community, it became clear to me that a majority of the children were living the life of the mouse exposed to the cat hair as described at our Playmaker training.

I spent one week in and out of various classrooms. I met hundreds of children and many loving teachers. The sense of community was heartwarming, and at the same time the risk factors the children were facing were heartbreaking.

One of the last classrooms I visited stands out above them all. It was an infant/toddler classroom in the heart of the township. Three buildings were close to the small shack where the daycare was located. The other buildings were home to an adult special needs facility and also a preschool. Before going into the classroom I was told that the children do not receive any stimulation throughout the day. One teacher comes into the classroom periodically and spends her time and energy trying to feed each individual child. I learned that eating is a learned behavior, and many children refuse to consume food because they do not receive much at home. I was also told that the lead teacher was undergoing chemotherapy as well as dealing with diabetes.

When I walked in, the teacher greeted me in their Xhosa language. The children stared up at me. I sat at first on the floor with the children. They were hesitant to walk up to me, and they appeared very withdrawn. I saw several small stuffed animals scattered, and I quickly learned that the children fought over possession of these limited toys. After several minutes I asked the teacher for permission to play some games. I brought a large blanket with me, a donation from one of my peers, and I used this blanket as a makeshift parachute. The up and down motion instantly brought a smile to the teacher’s face, and the children quickly engaged. The room went from a dark and dreary atmosphere to a space that was elated with smiles. We practiced moving the parachute in different motions. We used the playfulness practice of three motions and the fourth being to stop. The children immediately caught on.

I spent three hours with the children, three hours that are among my most favorite memories in all my time working with children. It illustrated to me that the power of play is universal and it doesn’t matter what language you speak. Here I was, in the middle of a poor township in South Africa, bringing pure joy not only to the children, but to myself as well. It was truly an unforgettable experience.

 

Carrie Legeyt
Child Life Specialist/ABA Therapist
Centerville, MA

June 27 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: My Favorite Day

Playmaker Community

FridayFeul

PLAYMAKER FUEL: STORIES THAT INSPIRE US
All of the stories featured here have been composed by members of the Playmaker Community working directly with children. They have been submitted as part of the process for Playmaker Certification, enabling Playmakers to reflect on what they’ve applied and to share their growing wisdom on what works. We call these stories “Fuel” because they fuel our inspiration and drive to make a daily difference in the lives of children.

MY FAVORITE DAY

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Thursday has become my favorite day of the week. Why? Because every Thursday afternoon at 2:30 I meet with a Kindergarten Playfulness Group. Born out of the Playmaker 101 training and developed through Playmaker 202, this group consists of eight kids, two from each Kindergarten class in my school, who have been through or are going through trauma, neglect, abuse, and more. When I first put this group together in October, people said I was crazy.  “You want THAT combination of children all together?!” These kids are seen as the greatest behavioral challenges in our Kindergarten. (Labeling the kids, rather than getting to the root of the behavior, is one of many things I hoped to reverse.) But this group has become my favorite part of the week, and the students’ favorite part too.

 

The group includes two boys who were recently left by their mothers, to whom they felt very attached. One of these two was adopted and had his name completely changed by his new mom, the other is in a foster home with a family that doesn’t speak the same language he does. Others in the group are routinely abused by others in the family or are neglected by those who are supposed to care for them. All of them have displayed lack of self-control, extreme impulsivity, personal space issues, and other negative and disruptive behaviors. One boy has been known to take off his shirt on the bus and start swinging it around. Three have been prone to regular meltdowns, often several times a day, that involve screaming, throwing things, and a need to evacuate the classroom. A couple just look scared of their own shadows and often sit doing nothing.

 

For about thirty minutes each group session, we play games right out of the Playmaker manual, often starting with a game of Newsball while they finish the snack that they’d started on in the classroom before I picked them up. From Smooshy Rides to Wrecking Ball to a hybrid game that combines Blast Off and Bicycle, these kids have found joy, safety, love, and connection through this group. My little friends look forward to this meeting every week, and on the rare occasion that I’m not available at the normal time, I do my best to find an alternate time. They still have their issues, but every one of these kids has gotten better at so many aspects of their lives. To top it all off, they have an adult that they have a very real connection with and whom they feel safe to be with. As a result, if they’re having a rough day, they know that I will still love them and gently help them find their way. Meltdowns are less frequent, going from several times a day to maybe once a week, the kids are feeling safe, and their classmates now feel safe around them.

 

I am not sure what’s going to happen with this group next year, whether I’ll meet with the same group in first grade, or have a new kindergarten group, or even do both. Much depends on my schedule. But whenever one of these rough-around-the-edges kids smiles excitedly and gives me a massive hug as I pass through the cafeteria or the hall, I know that I have made a real difference in their lives.

 

Aaron Clark, Music Teacher
Crocker Elementary School
Fitchburg, MA

June 13 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: Basketball Breathing Is Born

Playmaker Community

FridayFeul

PLAYMAKER FUEL: STORIES THAT INSPIRE US
All of the stories featured here have been composed by members of the Playmaker Community working directly with children. They have been submitted as part of the process for Playmaker Certification, enabling Playmakers to reflect on what they’ve applied and to share their growing wisdom on what works. We call these stories “Fuel” because they fuel our inspiration and drive to make a daily difference in the lives of children.

BASKETBALL BREATHING
I work in an early elementary setting, a school that goes from K1 through 2nd grade.There is a second grade student in my school (let’s call him Guy) who has very high anxiety and who has difficulty transitioning back to school work after preferred times (like choice time or recess) are over. In order to support him and help him be successful with these transitions, I pick Guy up 5 minutes before recess is over. He and I play a quick game together, and then we do some calming activities (breathing, yoga, etc) to help him regulate his energy and anxiety level so he is ready to return to class. Guy wasn’t loving the breathing techniques, but he was doing them begrudgingly because I told him it was really important to help him calm down. I told him we could do it however he wants, that I wanted it to be fun for him. The next day Guy came in and told me he thought of a new kind of breathing he wanted to teach me. He showed me “Basketball Breathing,” which goes like this: start with your hands on your belly. While you take a deep breath in, push your arms out to make a big basketball hoop. While you slowly let the breath out, sweep your arms up and shoot an imaginary basket. He was SO proud that he thought of a new kind of breathing, and he now looks forward to doing the breathing exercises at the end of our recess time together. He has also taught a number of other teachers at the school how to do Basketball Breathing, and they have started using it with other students and giving him credit for having invented it. Guy is way more invested in our time now and is super proud that he created something lots of people are using in our school! This is just one of a whole bunch of stories I could tell about how the Playmaker approach is making a difference in my work with students

Thank you, Playmakers!

Abbie Taube, Special Education and ELL Interventionist
Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School, Roxbury, MA

June 5 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: He’s The Man!

Playmaker Community

FridayFeul

PLAYMAKER FUEL: STORIES THAT INSPIRE US
All of the stories featured here have been composed by members of the Playmaker Community working directly with children. They have been submitted as part of the process for Playmaker Certification, enabling Playmakers to reflect on what they’ve applied and to share their growing wisdom on what works. We call these stories “Fuel” because they fuel our inspiration and drive to make a daily difference in the lives of children.

FRIDAY FUEL: He's The Man

HE’S THE MAN!

Recently I had a 10 year-old male patient, “Luis,” visit me in the pediatric emergency department. He was coming to be seen for chronic headaches. The doctors had a concern for meningitis and needed to do a lumbar puncture procedure (inserting a needle into the lower part of the back in between vertebrae to collect spinal fluid) to rule it out. Luis had this procedure done a year ago while under sedation. Today he would only receive a medication to make him a little drowsy. Through the power of play and building rapport, Luis and I discussed a coping plan to help him get through the procedure successfully. He disclosed his love for music and decided to listen to a song on Youtube with deep breathing during the pokes. His first song of choice was “The Man” by Aloe Blacc. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

As Luis lay curled in a ball on the bed, he began to hum to the song. The resident was surprised by how well Luis was handling the situation. As the needle was inserted, Luis took a deep breath and with a smile on his face stated “I’m the Man” followed with (in a high-pitch toned) “O man O man there is a needle going through my back right now this is so crazy next time I hope I am asleep.” Luis was able to take this very difficult experience and create playfulness. Through joyfulness, he smiled with a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment as he was facing a fear; utilizing social connection he cooperated with the medical team to create a positive memorable experience for everyone in the room with his giggling; combining active engagement and internal control he exhibited an enthusiastic sense of worth, knowing he could accomplish this procedure awake while understanding if it ever needed to be done in the future he had a choice to receive a sedative.

Proud to be a Playmaker!

Rachel Decker, Certified Child Life Specialist
Baystate Children’s Hospital, Springfield, MA

May 9 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: Rockin’ Our Yoga Poses

Playmaker Community

 

FridayFeul

PLAYMAKER FUEL: STORIES THAT INSPIRE US
All of the stories featured here have been composed by members of the Playmaker Community working directly with children. They have been submitted as part of the process for Playmaker Certification, enabling Playmakers to reflect on what they’ve applied and to share their growing wisdom on what works. We call these stories “Fuel” because they fuel our inspiration and drive to make a daily difference in the lives of children.

ROCKIN’ OUR YOGA POSES
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I was fortunate to get to take the Playmaker Yoga Advanced Training in August 2013. I had been excited about taking it ever since I first saw it pop up in my inbox months before. Personally, yoga is something I enjoy myself, and I use it to recharge after a long day with the kids I care for. I work in a mixed ages family child care setting, and had been struggling with ways to incorporate something into my program that could appeal and work for everyone, without excluding children. At the time, I had a LOT of toddlers, and they were still learning to develop internal control.

I took the training in Quincy, MA, and went in with an open mind, looking for ways to make yoga appeal to everyone. It was at this training that I really took a step back and reevaluated how I was presenting yoga in my program. At that point, I was doing what I wanted to do, when I deemed it appropriate. The training taught me to really look at my kiddos, and see where they were at. I also learned to include them in the selection of poses and duration of the practice. Sometimes, our practice lasts four minutes; sometimes, I have to move snack back because we’re on a roll and can take 20-25 minutes to finish our practice.

I have really taken the information gained at that advanced training to heart. Sometimes, I don’t have enough faith in my kiddos, and I forget that they can teach me lessons far greater than any I could teach them. By giving them the power to express their thoughts and opinions about yoga, I am really giving them so much more. By honoring their choices to do Dancer instead of Warrior pose, I am showing them that their words have power and that I will honor them by not backing down or changing the rules when I ask them to do one thing, but then unilaterally decide to do something else.

Since incorporating a more carefully thought out and child-centered yoga practice since September 2013, I’ve seen my kids use some of their yoga tools, like breathing, to calm their bodies and refocus themselves before they get to a point where they can’t pull back. I’ve also noticed my kids being more aware of their own feelings and those of their friends and making efforts to talk things out instead of hitting, yelling, or escalating their behaviors. I can’t with certainty say that this change is just attributable to yoga, but I believe that by giving the kids an outlet and a way to use their bodies peacefully, they began to subconsciously change how they approach situations. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Frederick Douglass: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I have included some photos of my kiddos rocking their yoga poses!

Bridget Barden – Certified Playmaker and Lead Preschool Teacher, Shunk Child Care, Portland, ME

April 25 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: Hand Over Your Heart for Newsball

Playmaker Community

FridayFeul

PLAYMAKER FUEL: STORIES THAT INSPIRE US
All of the stories featured here have been composed by members of the Playmaker Community working directly with children. They have been submitted as part of the process for Playmaker Certification, enabling Playmakers to reflect on what they’ve applied and to share their growing wisdom on what works. We call these stories “Fuel” because they fuel our inspiration and drive to make a daily difference in the lives of children.

 

Hand Over Your Heart for Newsball

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I work in a state funded preschool where the majority of my students come from Spanish-speaking homes. I attended the Playmaker 101 last April, where I learned the wonderful Newsball activity. This school year I wanted to implement Newsball, so after the first few weeks of school, I introduced it. Initially, it was a challenge for my students to grasp the concept underlying this activity. They needed prompting as to what they were going to share (e.g. “Did you get new shoes?”; “What did you have for lunch?”). Then, after one student shared, the other fifteen simply repeated what their peers shared!

Needless to say, I was a bit frustrated, but we kept up Newsball regularly and finally, after Winter Break, the lights went on! Students were understanding the connection between how they wanted the group to receive their news (“Thumbs down because my brother is sick”; “Hand over the heart. I gave my mom a big hug!”). They were also grasping the concept of sharing something important to them! Now, we are all sharing news, responding to our friends’ news and speaking up, speaking out and enhancing our English!

Incorporating Newsball has been such a rewarding experience for me as an Early Childhood Educator. My patience and persistence has paid off, and I hope I am assisting a group of young people to learn to be comfortable speaking in large groups, share their feelings and have a sympathetic ear for others!

Thank you, Playmakers!

Monica Shackelford
Preschool Teacher
Conejo Valley Neighborhood for LearningThousand Oaks, CA

April 11 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: A Playful Journey Begins with Baby Steps

Playmaker Community

FridayFeul

PLAYMAKER FUEL: STORIES THAT INSPIRE US
All of the stories featured here have been composed by members of the Playmaker Community working directly with children. They have been submitted as part of the process for Playmaker Certification, enabling Playmakers to reflect on what they’ve applied and to share their growing wisdom on what works. We call these stories “Fuel” because they fuel our inspiration and drive to make a daily difference in the lives of children.

A PLAYFUL JOURNEY BEGINS WITH BABY STEPS
One of the biggest things that I’ve taken away from the Playmaker trainings and philosophy is that ALL activities can be playful! I was a bit overwhelmed after the 2-day trainings. I am an occupational therapist in a school with preschool – 5th grade students. I’m used to working with one to two students at a time, but I wanted to challenge myself to do more whole-class movement activities with the preschool class. Some of our students have some intense behavior challenges, and I was a bit nervous to bring out something like a parachute! So…I didn’t do anything right away following the training with the wonderful bag of fun from the training. But, I did start simple. This made things so much more comfortable, manageable, and FUN for me! These are some of the baby steps I’ve taken so far…

After our playfulness plan, and our walk with another Playmaker at the training, I decided to set an intention for each day while waiting for my coffee to brew. Coffee is something that I never miss, so I thought it would be a perfect way to build in a new routine. This wasn’t always a “play” intention. I focused on something that I wanted to be more thoughtful about that day. Being more “in the moment”, saying only positive things (at times I have a negative work environment between teachers/staff at my school), complimenting 5 people, spending time with my own kids just “playing” on a day that I had a million things to do, and more. This has been somewhat successful. I am good for a while, then I may forget for the week. I think I’ll stick my Life is good sticker on my coffee container to help remind myself!

 

Breathing! I LOVE the breathing activities that the Playmakers taught me. I already did a lot of deep breathing with kids that I work with. Many of my students have sensory processing issues and have trouble calming their bodies. The breathing activities that Playmakers demonstrated were fantastic! The visuals really make it much more manageable for kids… and adults! The bubble wand/flower, hug, and balloon breathing are my favorites. I incorporate the breathing with a program of Self Regulation that I use as an OT called the Alert Program. It teaches kids that their bodies are like a car engine. Sometimes they run on high (active, hyper, excited), sometime on low (sleepy, sluggish, slow), sometimes just right (ready to learn, awake, aware). I teach the kids ways to recognize their “engine level” and to learn activities that help to increase or decrease their “engine levels” so they are ready to learn. The breathing methods have become a great part of those lessons. I have not only observed the teachers and assistants adding these activities into the kids’ day, but I’ve also seen one of the kids independently smell flowers and blow bubbles during circle time (which is a tough time for him). Love it!

 

I recently participated with Lisa Pease and 5 other Playmakers at the Spaulding Youth Center for a New Hampshire Foster Care and Adoption Celebration. We led families in parachute games and crazy ball fun with the “Tower of Power.” It was fun to do parachute shakes, up and under, and washing machine with a GIANT parachute. I was sore the next day from all of the lifting and pulling! It was great to see other playmakers in action. I think we all learned a little that day and had fun too. It was remarkable to see how such a simple set up, like the Tower of Power, could lead to SO many activities with balls, and it was nice to hear other parents say, “I could do this at home.” One parent talked about using a laundry basket and creating a game at home with her kids. I love the idea that you don’t have to have a lot of equipment or fancy things to play a variety of great games. The fun isn’t in the equipment, or even the game, but in the approach. Bingo!

I just finished up my 2nd coaching call with Emily Margolis. She was a great person to talk to about what’s working, what’s challenging, and just to get feedback. She has so many good ideas to add to the things I’m already doing. I am grateful for all of your support. Playmakers really has brought nothing but more joy into my life. The fever is spreading through our district with more and more teachers going to trainings and using the Playmaker approach in the classrooms. I’ve enjoyed all of the NH Community Boosters and had the chance to make it down to Boston on a couple of occasions. I even had the opportunity to bring my nephew to “Dinner with a Patriot” at Gillette Stadium! Wow! I’m looking forward to many more trainings, joyages, and FUN.

Proud to call myself a Playmaker!
Amy Niezrecki

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This photo was taken at the NH Foster Care Day. “Through a Playmaker’s Eyes” 

April 3 2014

NOW PLAYING: Yvonne Steadman

Playmaker Community

YvonneSteadman

YVONNE STEADMAN is a remarkable teacher and Playmaker who works at Ellis Mendell Elementary in Roxbury, a neighborhood in Boston, MA. A co-worker describes Yvonne as “caring, kind, enthusiastic and playful. Knowing the challenges so many of her students face coming from unstable households, she makes it a point when her students arrive at school each day to create an environment of stability, fun and unconditional love. She does this by establishing daily routines, using transitioning music, and playing a variety of games.”

Yvonne is also known for her masterful classroom management skills. Her co-workers have seen her quietly redirect students or explain to them the consequences of their actions in clear and respectful ways, then welcome them back to the group. She believes that students should have fun and express their joy.  She also helps them become independent learners, both academically and socially. For example, students often work quietly in groups at their tables and know that if questions arise, they should first ask a friend within their group before seeking answers from their teacher.

Yvonne was born in Jamaica, and her childhood was difficult. She lost her mother at an early age and was separated from her siblings. Yet she was able to maintain a positive and hopeful attitude. She never focuses on what she didn’t have as a child. Instead, she recalls the importance of the love and structure she had in her younger years. She received her United States citizenship while teaching at the ELC. Because of the bonds of love and family she creates, her class arranged to meet her at the courthouse to join in her celebration. The judge who swore her in was so impressed by this show of support that she allowed pictures to be taken, something rarely done.

Yvonne is a proud Jamaican-American and a truly gifted, caring Playmaker. As her nominator wrote, “Yvonne is a joyous “Playmaker” because she enthusiastically makes sure that her students are safe, connected and empowered every day!”

Have a story to share about your work or the work of a special co-worker who exemplifies what it means to be a Playmaker? Send it to info@ligplaymakers.org

 

March 28 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: Toilet Paper Fun

Playmaker Community

FridayFeul

PLAYMAKER FUEL: STORIES THAT INSPIRE US
All of the stories featured here have been composed by members of the Playmaker Community working directly with children. They have been submitted as part of the process for Playmaker Certification, enabling Playmakers to reflect on what they’ve applied and to share their growing wisdom on what works. We call these stories “Fuel” because they fuel our inspiration and drive to make a daily difference in the lives of children.

TOILET PAPER FUN
Melissa Lambert is a Clinical Manager at The Village for Families and Children. She has been a Life is good Playmaker since 2009.

Melissa Lambert 1 copyI am accompanying this story with a photo recently taken when I was running a Life is good Playmakers group for our Survivors unit in the Extended Day Treatment Program (EDT). At the Village for Families and Children, we have five groups divided by age and development. Survivors consist of mostly nine and ten year-old children, most of whom live in the inner city. The children attend EDT five days per week for three hours per day for a duration of six months. Each week we run at least one LIG Playmaker session for one or more of our groups. One particular child, Sean (not his real name), was enrolled in EDT for about two months before this photo was taken and had been struggling significantly with feelings of depression and anxiety. Sean is living in poverty and his mother is also battling depression and not always emotionally available for her child. The week prior to running this play group, the child’s cat had been beaten to death by people in his surrounding neighborhood and it was an extremely traumatic loss for him.

During this time, Sean lost interest in any group activities and would isolate himself in the corner of the room. There was a period of three days when he walked out of the building multiple times in an effort to walk home. Each time I followed him out of the building to make sure he remained safe. On the day of Multi-Family Group, his mother was unable to attend, and when nobody was looking, Sean walked out of the building towards the main road. I noticed him walking and ran towards him, but he continued to walk closer to the traffic stream. I had to use a therapeutic hold to keep him safe from the oncoming traffic.  After several days of providing support to this child, he became angry towards me for all that he was trying to cope with. In the past, the Life is good Playmakers group was always an occasion that increased his energy and got him actively engaged in the group. However, now he lacked the motivation to even want to try and join the group in its activities.

Things changed after I collaborated with two Child Development Specialists on creating a plan that would allow the group to have control over the staff by initiating a toilet paper contest. The kids worked in groups of three and chose the staff that they wanted to be covered in toilet paper. Sean immediately wanted to wrap me up. It was the first time in a week he got out of his seat to participate in the group. He began to smile after spinning me in a roll. From that moment on, he joined in on a game of “Cool Breeze Blows” followed by “Squirrels and Nuts.” Currently, Sean continues to have some ups and downs, but since that day his participation in the group has increased.

It was invaluable to witness how Sean’s level of safety and connection with staff and peers increased through a simple game. Life is good Playmakers has significantly impacted our therapeutic program for children, families and staff as evidenced by the connections we have built with these children and breakthroughs with children like Sean. Despite all of the crisis situations we see, the moments of joy and smiles from the children make it all worth it.

Play on!
Melissa