September 12 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: Playmaker Magic Helps Heal Horrific Wounds

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.

Danielle Martello

PLAYMAKER MAGIC HELPS HEAL HORRIFIC WOUND

After returning from the Playmakers Child Life training I felt refreshed and rejuvenated as well as inspired and excited to use all of my new tools. I was tested almost immediately with a very difficult case at my hospital. I began working very closely with a set of 6-year-old fraternal twins, “Michael” and “Jess.” The twins were in a horrific car fire and hospitalized for extensive second and third degree burns on their chest, face, legs and hands. To add to such a sad story, this car fire was set by their own mother, in a dual suicide/homicide attempt. Needless to say, being playful did not come to the front of my mind as I set out to do child life interventions with them.

However, I was quickly surprised. This story centers mostly on Michael, the precocious, extremely bright and inquisitive, yet protective older twin. Michael was brought into the hydrotherapy room, or “tank room” daily for burn cleaning and dressing changes. Michael was frequently distressed by the thought of this procedure, as it is long and quite painful. As a child life specialist, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to work closely with him to relieve his pain and anxiety. I applied a variety of different techniques in the tank room to distract Michael and allow him to feel a sense of control while having his dressings changed. I started off by simply using the Ipad as diversion. This is a typical and handy child life tool and in fact, it worked. He remained calm for most of the procedure and was able to engage in a playful activity. However, this activity lacked a key component of “playfulness,” social connection.

Prior to his next treatment I brainstormed some ideas to not only foster joy and divert from pain, but also find a way to connect with Michael, along with having Michael connect to the technicians working with him. Almost immediately I thought of “Magic Ball.” This game was a rousing success, especially in allowing Michael to express his silly side. Because Michael was not able to move from the tank table, he was in total control of my moves. “Magic ball, Magic ball, do the robot!” “Magic ball, Magic ball, do the twist!” “Magic ball, Magic ball, do the silly dance!” These are just some examples of the cheers coming from Michael on the bed. The most significant experience with Michael and the Magic Ball game was “Magic ball, Magic ball, CONGA LINE!” The room instantly turned into a party-like atmosphere. All the staff members, burn technicians, the child life specialist, the child life intern, and the nurses, jumped on the conga line and snaked throughout the tank room and beyond. Michael was sitting up on the bed, his burns exposed, but smiling and laughing non-stop! He was able not only to have some control in this situation, but also to be entertained by the very staff people that before he perceived as the people “who hurt me.” The benefits of this intervention are innumerable and great. Michael actually looked forward to getting his dressings changed from this point on.

In the course of Michael’s treatment I implemented a variety of Playmaker games and activities, including Mad Libs, Hospital Bingo, Question Jenga and Wrecking Ball. All of these proved successful as “getting to know you” types of games and as emotional releases. Michael was able to find more comfort in the hospital experience and all of these Playmaker techniques fostered a stronger and more connected relationship between Michael and me.

I believe that this experience along with all the Playmaker techniques I am using, have essentially transformed my career forever. Not only have I learned about myself and how to remain joyful and engaged even in the saddest of situations, but Michael taught me how to keep positive in the face of adversity. Now I continually look for ways to lighten the atmosphere and teach children to believe in themselves. Using the WONDERFUL manual and toolkit, I have strengthened my practice and deepened my passion for helping children in need. The Life is good Playmakers has been a blessing, and I don’t think I can express exactly how grateful I am for the amazing group of people that have facilitated my growth as a Playmaker!

Danielle Martello, Child Life Specialist
Saint Barnabas Medical Center
Livingston, NJ

September 5 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: Warm Hands

Playmaker Community

FridayFuel

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.

WARM HANDS

I was working with a 4 year old who was very focused on her “boo boo’s”. In the course of regular play, she hit her knee and started crying and clutching her knee. She didn’t hit her knee hard, so I knew it wasn’t serious, but in her mind it was yet another “boo boo”. I introduced “hot hands” but called it “warm hands”since I was concerned the word “hot” might trigger some added stress for her. I asked permission to gently put my hands on her knee and did so after rubbing my hands together. I asked her if she wanted a little more “warm hands” and she said yes. In the process of holding my hands on her knee, I also took some deep breaths to model some deep breathing and calming for her. She visibly calmed down, she stopped crying and she placed her hands in her lap and kept her knee still while I gently placed my hands on the sides and then front and back of her knee. We talked about how she can do this herself to help her boo boo’s feel better. My goal as a child life specialist is to look for ways to empower kids in their own care – whether it’s speaking up for pain medicine,choosing the type of juice they want to drink with medicine, or methods of helping themselves cope with pain even pain from small bumps and boo boo’s. This little girl was very attentive and responded positively to the message that she could do something to help her boo boo feel better. It would have been ideal if a parent had been present to include in the conversation so they could feel empowered to use this simple exercise to promote coping and healing.

Shannon Joslin, M.S., CCLS,
Child Life Manager
University of Maryland Children’s Hospital
Baltimore, MD

 

August 29 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: An Amazing Power

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.

 

AN AMAZING POWER

I initially joined the Playmakers initiative because I had several children in my care who experienced parental neglect and abuse. These children have since “graduated” and moved onto kindergarten. But I do have many kids in my center who have experienced poverty. Likewise, I have children who are in very difficult custody situations that have a traumatic impact. Not knowing when your next meal will be, or when you will see your mother next… these situations cause anxieties and uncertainties in children that truly inhibit higher functioning.

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When I come in to work on Monday, I have these children in mind. As I open on this day, I feel as if I have this amazing power… I can set the tone. I can get on their level, greet them with a smile, and welcome them into our classroom. I can make my classroom an “o-play-sis”. I try to keep this in mind every Monday morning, even when I’ve had one of those late Sunday nights that we all know. The Playmaker methodology really has reinforced prior teachings about regulating my attitude, my tone, and energy level. In utilizing it, I help these children who may have had awful, topsy-turvy weekends come into a stable, warm and welcoming setting.

 

good news ballAnother way Playmakers has really helped us set the tone on Mondays is through News Ball. I’ve done my damndest to make News Ball a ‘thing’. If I am running circle on Monday (which I usually am), News Ball is happening. I don’t care if it takes up a ridiculous amount of our circle time–it’s important. It helps the kids hash out their weekends. It helps them share how they feel. It gets us all on the same level with one another. I set no limits during News Ball—the children can share happy news, sad news, no news, dreams, wants, wishes… It’s their opportunity to say what’s on their mind. For these children, it might be thechance to celebrate that brief moment they spent with mom or dad, or something they’re really looking forward to. Best of all, they receive the support of their classmates. I feel like News Ball has made Monday morning more predictable for these kids (and therefore safer). It has also made it more enjoyable, more connecting, and more personal.

 

breathe jakeThe last thing I want to mention is breathing. I think one of the best things Playmakers has taught us is how to breathe. We all do it now. Often, when that snake brain comes out, the best cure is some hug breathing and then some actual hugs. We all have different favorites–some of us love the warrior breathing and need it to put away our fists and rage. Others really find the balloon breathing more centering. Whatever the case, Playmakers has given these kids the opportunity to stop, breathe and come to terms with what’s going on.

 

I’m still at the beginning of my journey with Playmakers. I don’t feel that the methodology is as solidly in place in my classroom as I’d like it to be. That said, no matter what activity we may or may not be doing, the ideology of Playmakers is always with me, influencing how I teach and interact with all of my children, including those in need.

Thanks guys. I really do love you all.

Liz Soule,
Teacher,
The Children’s College,
West Barnstable, MA

August 22 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: Cooperative Storytelling

Playmaker Community

PLAYMAKER FUEL: STORIES THAT INSPIRE US

FridayFeul

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.

  COOPERATIVE STORYTELLING As a child life specialist who works in same day surgery, one of my main goals when working with a child is to help them prepare mentally and emotionally for their upcoming surgery. I have a short amount of time to build rapport with a child, help them find ways to relax in a stressful environment and ultimately help them process new information about surgery in a developmentally appropriate way. This goal can be challenging to achieve when a child walks into the hospital filled with fear, stress, and anxiety. I often walk into a room where a child is clinging to her parent, face buried in that parents chest, completely withdrawn from the situation. One such child, we will call her Sarah, came to our surgery center on dental sedation day. Her story was a familiar one. She was 5, and had visited the dentist office to complete her dental work. Things went downhill quickly as Sarah’s anxiety rose and the sights and sounds of the dentist office overwhelmed her. She refused to let the dentist into her mouth and struggled with all her might to get out of the dentist chair. It was determined that she was a good candidate for dental sedation. The day came, and as her father carried her into the surgery center, I could tell that Sarah’s past experience at the dental office was affecting her. She was trembling and clinging to her father. Her downcast eyes told me she was suspicious of everyone. The family settled into the pre-op area and I introduced myself and what I do as a child life specialist. As I explained my role, Sarah’s parents gave me a look of doubt as if to say, “you can go ahead and try, but this is going to be a bad day.” Sarah was in her father’s lap, holding tightly to him and using him as a human shield to the rest of the world. I got down on her level, lowered my voice, and said, “Hi, Sarah. I’m Bel. I play with kids here, and help make things easier. It looks like you are feeling scared right now. That’s ok. I want you to know that you can play in the hospital too.” I brought over a basket of toys and began to play, so Sarah could still be with her dad. My hope was that watching me play would help her body relax and help her open up. I could see her eyes watching, but her distress increased as the nurse measured her vitals. I knew that I needed to connect in some way with Sarah, and my usual ways were not working for her. I had to take a step back and think hard about what I was missing. My mind turned to my training with the LIG Playmakers and what makes a playful interaction meaningful. What elements of play did Sarah need the most? Internal control and social interaction. If I could foster those, maybe the rest would fall into place. I grabbed my window markers and headed back to Sarah. Enclosing our pre-op area is a large glass wall. I sat next to the wall, pulled out the markers and began to draw grass and several stems. I queried out loud about what kinds of flowers might go well in my garden. First I asked Sarah’s mom. She told me to draw a daisy. Then I asked her dad. He told me to draw a rose. Then I asked Sarah. She popped her head up and said, “a yellow one.” I drew her a yellow flower. Then, I asked if she like to draw. Sarah lit up and I handed her a marker. She slid off her dad’s lap and found a spot next to me in front of the window. I told her that she was welcome to help me finish my flower garden. We sat silently adding flowers to the stems I had drawn. I knew I had made a connection and given Sarah some control, but talking about surgery in a way that would keep Sarah from withdrawing again was another hurdle. As we cooperatively drew flowers I knew I needed to stick with what was working. I asked Sarah if she had ever drawn a story. She said she had not, but that she would like to. We drew a princess together and the story began: Once upon a time there was a princess. She lived in a big castle with a big flower garden in front. One day she woke up and realized that she had a sore tooth. She visited the dentist and he said that the tooth needed to be fixed. She felt really nervous about getting her tooth fixed because she had never done it before. During the story, Sarah was able to contribute both to the drawings, and to the details of the story (e.g. “her hair should be long like Rapunzel” and “I am going to draw her sore tooth in her mouth”). The day came that she needed to go get her tooth fixed. She went to the hospital and learned that she would be asleep when the dentist fixed her sore tooth so that she would not feel him fixing it. She didn’t know how she would go to sleep, but her fairy godmother came and told her that the dentist uses air medicine to help kids go to sleep. This medicine was sleeping medicine. At this point, Sarah was so involved in the details of the pictures she began to inquire how the princess would get the air medicine and how she could draw it. I helped her draw the princess laying down wearing an anesthesia mask. The princess gave the king and queen a kiss and went to the dentist room where she went to sleep with the medicine. When the dentist was done, he stopped giving her the air medicine and she woke up in her princess bed. Her tooth was shiny and looked like new. The royal hospital nurse took her to the king and queen and they all hugged and went back to the castle. Sarah had actively engaged in a cooperative storytelling activity that prepared her for her dental sedation. I was able to provide more concrete preparation and give Sarah choices about her own induction that would help her cope with both separation from her parents and falling asleep with anesthesia. As the time came for Sarah to go to the operating room, she confidently stood up, grabbed a distraction toy, and took my hand. We walked to the OR together and she successfully coped with her dental sedation. Calling on the skills I learned as a LIG Playmaker helped me connect with Sarah in a way that was meaningful to her. The cooperative storytelling helped Sarah gain internal control of her emotions, connected her socially with me, helped her actively engage in her own pre-op preparation and brought joyful relaxation to a situation that was overwhelming to her.   Belinda Thayn, Certified Child Life Specialist Castelview Hospital Price, UT

August 15 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: You Are Safe Here

Playmaker Community

PLAYMAKER FUEL: STORIES THAT INSPIRE US

FridayFeul

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.

YOU ARE SAFE HERE

One little girl this year had seen her mother get abused by her father in the months prior to starting preschool. The first couple of months transition to coming into the classroom was met with many tears and not wanting to let mom go out the door. And unlike most of the kiddos that would whine or cry for a few moments as parents left, then be fine minutes later and go play, this little girl would sit at the window tears, running down her face for 30 minutes to an hour every day. I often would bring her things to help her try to play and get her mind off things. She would draw pictures, read books, do puzzles, but somehow end up back near the window in tears. I said one day “It is okay, you are safe here.” She rubbed her tears and said “I know I’m safe, but my mom ain’t safe. What if my dad comes back he gets her.” So this was my challenge…

From my very first Playmaker training, Wrecking ball has been my favorite game.  I always loved Legos as a kid. I would play the game in small groups usually once a week or so in previous years. But there are so many other games the kids ask for so wrecking ball had been put aside the beginning of this year, until it can back with a twist.

PrincessI found the things this little girl loved included pretend play, princesses and building towers.  What came of that was in the beginning her very own version of Wrecking Ball.  The first time I played it with a small group including her, she didn’t want to build at all, just watch from afar, across the room by the window.  However, I could see it spiked her interest as she began stepping closer to us and further from the window. The second, third and fourth times she wanted to build her own tower in her own space so no one could knock it over. But by the 5th time she was building her tower with the rest of the kids. The added part to her special Wrecking Ball was that when she was done she balanced a figurine of Rapunzel on the top. She would say a little speech as if she were Rapunzel’s mom, “No it’s not safe, you will get hurt, don’t go down there.” Then switch and be Rapunzel “Yes it is Mom, I can do it, I’m okay. I will be careful.” She would get Rapunzel off the tower, then with the groups she would help knock down the tower, then clean up and sort with the group (in her time).

I was so glad to see her participate in an activity and not seem so fixated by going to the window.  Wrecking Ball was not a game we played every week, let alone everyday, but after I found out it helped her connect with the group, we played it at least 3 times a week. Most days now she gives mom a hug and kiss and she still goes to the window to wave, but then she is able to get on with her day. She sometimes asks for the game now and I give her a stack of cups and she begins building for as long as she needs. She draws pictures of her towers and the princess at the top. Then she knocks the tower over and dances around hand in hand with the little princess figurine or a friend if she choices a friend to help her build.

I know that my life is better with Playmakers. I have made friends and look forward to trainings and boosters. They really do give me a boost of energy, to keep JOY in my life. Because “You can’t give what you don’t have.”

Ginger Fowler, Lead Teacher
Amherst Community Childcare
Amherst, MA

August 1 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: The Night Sadness Stopped

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.

THE NIGHT THE SADNESS STOPPED

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Last year one of our young mothers was diagnosed with lung cancer and received the grim news that she had very little time left to live.  She had a child 18 months old as well as a 2 ½ year old. Our center mobilized to raise money for her young family and had a very successful pasta dinner and family celebration. I pulled out the parachute during the evening and brought many family members to the fun.  We danced around with the parachute and played throughout the night.  We played shoo fly and simply let the children and adults explore the parachute.  For a moment in time we all forgot that we were going to be missing a family member in the near future.  The freedom of movement in a large gymnasium coupled with music really made for a joyful experience.  I can honestly say there were smiles and giggles all around and it was difficult to tell the children from the adults as we played.

Aunts and Uncles, cousins and siblings all gathered around to play, share smiles,
to be joyful and to celebrate life on that day. Everyone was actively engaged in our play. Some family members still reminisce about that fun-filled night, the night the sadness stopped if even for just a few short hours. We gave children and adults the chance to leave well wishes and hopes and dreams for the young mother on a quilt. That quilt became her prayer shawl that ended up welcoming her into her life in heaven just one short week following our celebration night. Since then, I have had the chance to spend some time with the children who lost their mother, and even though they were very young last year, they still chatter about the gym, the parachute and the dress their mother was wearing that night. I am sure most of their memories are influenced by the photos of the night, but no one could ever tell them how they felt that night. They know.  The love that filled the gym that night is still felt by those young children today!

Kitty Larochelle, Center Director
The Growing Years Early Childhood Center
Manchester, NH

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