October 31 2014

The Incredible Moment

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.

THE INCREDIBLE MOMENT

I’ve had many incredible moments since introducing playmaker strategies. The most incredible moment took time and was a life changer for one particular little boy and his family. Let’s call him Ben…Ben was almost three and pretty much a one-syllable communicator, the biggest concern for us was how sad this little boy was all the time. Ben cried a lot, kept to himself, played alone and very rarely participated in circle or group.

After my two day training and receiving the most amazing fun filled duffle bag, I was eager to start implementing these new activities in my classroom. As I pulled out the parachute, we started exploring the colors, how the parachute felt and what noises it made. Ben occasionally peeked over from dramatic play. After introducing the parachute, we did basic movements: up and down, shakes, tent etc. Ben still just did his own thing, even with encouragement to join. Weeks went on and we had been playing shoo fly, imagination adventures, snowball freeze, and partner dances to Playmaker music but Ben still just looked on. I could tell he was curious.

A couple months passed and one day Ben approached us and said “par-chue”.

OH MY GOSH DID HE JUST COMMUNICATE WITH TWO SYLLABLES? DID HE JUST SUGGEST AN ACTIVITY THAT WAS NOT OUT?! FORGET THE MESS, DROP YOUR TOYS…WE’RE GOING TO PLAY PARACHUUUUUUTTTTTEEEE!!!!

Obviously my coworkers and I were super excited. This was the first time Ben had willingly wanted to participate in something. And he smirked. Now remember when I say, this little boy was always very sad and never smiled! We started off with shoo fly, which he did the motions of walking around in a circle. Then we did parachute shakes and added the pompoms and there was laughter, from non-other than BEN!! He had a huge smile on his face and was laughing with pure joy!! We were ecstatic and we were beside ourselves. This had never happened before.

This incredible moment made me step back for a moment and shed a tear.

This moment was only the beginning! From this day on, we observed changes in Ben’s behavior. He began to parallel play, he became more confident, more verbal and happy!! Happiness was now an emotion that Ben was experiencing at school and we got to be so lucky to experience it with him.

So thank you, Life is Good Playmakers for providing us with the tools to create an oplaysis!
Play On!!

Lauren DeGregorio, Pre-school Teacher
The Children’s Workshop
Bourne, MA

October 24 2014

What Will The Magic Ball Be Today?

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.

WHAT WILL THE MAGIC BALL BE TODAY?

A few weeks ago, I was out at one of our centers and a teacher working with a student named Alex (not his real name) let me know that he was scared, out of control, and kicking. I explained to the teacher to be patient with him. Alex is currently living in a shelter with his mother. He has lived in many different places since he was born. All the people in the shelter are adults who have used drugs. His mother is young, has minimal parenting skills and is a recovering drug addict. Even though Alex is now 2, she continues to give him a bottle and speaks very little to him.

All of this means that Alex struggles on a day-to-day basis with social-emotional issues and communication.

This is why I decided to work with Alex using “Magic Ball.” I explained that the ball is magic because he can make it be whatever he wants it to be. He decided that he wanted it to be a hug and a kiss. Afterward, I explained to the teacher that sometimes Alex just needs a hug from someone who cares about him and whom he can trust.

Recently I stopped by the center and the teacher explained that now when Alex gets upset, she tells him to go and get the Magic Ball and asks him “What will the magic ball be today?” Alex will then explain his emotion using the ball. In addition, because transitions can be a problem for him, I worked with him and his teacher on some cool down activities to help with the many transitions throughout the day. There are other good signs as well. He is starting to share with friends and is no longer using a bottle. His mother has enrolled in some parenting classes and is now looking for a place of her own.

Dorothy Jones
Admin- Camp and Family Services Director
Plaza de la Raza Child Development Services
Pico Rivera, CA

October 17 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: L is for Lucas

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.

L IS FOR LUCAS

After attending a Playmaker 202 training in April, I was very anxious to get back and use as many Playmaker tools and approaches as I could before the end of our school year.  As a class, we began doing a few new things a week, and a few favorites began to be requested regularly. Parachute games became a fast favorite!

One of my boys was extremely withdrawn and had very low self-esteem. During parachute games, this boy was not only finally participating in something, but actually smiling about it too!  I continued with parachute play on a regular basis, and began adding more academics in to see what I could get away with!  I desperately wanted this boy to leave my class entering into kindergarten with some self worth and confidence.

As a class, we worked our way up to treasure cave, and decided to use letters instead of sight words. I made sure he was fully engaged in the game, and I asked him to go under to find the letter L. I knew this boy was confident, as it was the first letter of his name.  He came out from under that parachute holding the L so proud, with a look on his face that I had been dying to see!

This boy not only participated in most activities for the remainder of the year, he was actively engaged on most days, which was something I hadn’t seen for the better part of two school years.  I think about this boy every single day, hoping someone is drawing that smile out of him, he needs love and joy in his life more than anyone I have ever known.

Liz Giza, Teacher,
Claremont Head Start,
Claremont, NH

October 10 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: From a Ruckus to a Rap Song

Playmaker Community

FridayFuelPLAYMAKER 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.

FROM A RUCKUS TO A RAP SONG

During one of my summer camp enrichment programs called Candy Making, Chocolate Baking and Desserts Galore, I had a little boy Reggie (not his real name) who created a bit of a ruckus during our classes. He arrived late everyday so it was tough for him to get comfortable and feel confident. Instead of sneaking in quietly, my young friend would come in loud and ready to capture the attention of all of his friends. This could be a real challenge in a class of 21 students.

One day he came in, sat down and began banging on the table while I was just beginning to explain the next activity to the children. He kept looking at me and yelling, banging and laughing. I put down my ingredients, sat down with the children and said, “I see that my friend Reggie wants to bang, have a little rap band and sing before cooking. Let’s all join in and make a lot of noise.” He looked right up at me with a confused look on his face, smiled and said, “Really?”  I answered yes. The children all joined in, and we tapped that table while I made up some fun cooking songs. Then I asked them all to stop and we went on and completed the task at hand. Later on Reggie started up again, so I said “Okay, I think Reggie needs more singing and banging.”

After that day he did not interrupt again. He was a good helper to his peers and the class went on with me interrupting every now and then to dance, sing or bang. The children loved this and even started making up words for me to sing about cooking. Reggie and I made a really special connection because he received what he needed from me at that moment allowing him to feel good about himself and to be very confident in his actions. I felt so great knowing that I let him know that he is important, that I did want to hear him voice his needs, and that he does matter.

Nancy Rotatori, Preschool Teacher
Beginning Years Family Network
Sutton, MA

October 3 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: Why I Do What I Do

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.

WHY I DO WHAT I DO

Kindergarten is one of my favorite ages.  So many of my children come to me with degrees of trauma ranging from severe to mild all in the same classroom situation. After I attended my first Playmaker training, I decided that I would run my classes with the assumption that all my children had undergone severe trauma at some point. The interesting thing is that these techniques work with all children in this age group since they are just learning the routines of a school setting. (I guess you could call entering kindergarten traumatic).  Five-year-olds were just meant to play!

My classes love parachute.  I usually do a three-week unit and was getting sick of the plain old mushroom tent kind of activities.  I introduced the Playmaker washing machine activity and now it’s a favorite. I give each child the option of going into the washing machine. If one does not want to, I ask the child what he or she would like to do to help, like adding in the soap or counting the cycle. I put a mat on the gym floor and off we go. Each child tells a story about how they got dirty. I most often hear a playground activity involving mud!  We add in pretend soap, then they get a good washing!  Kids are using their bodies, listening to others stories, and practicing important skills in processing sensory input and taking turns. And laughing, of course.

This year I had one child who was much larger than her peers. She did not like to participate, and I had to coax her into every activity. It was my understanding that she was being bullied due to her size in kindergarten. Seeing the hesitation on her face during PE but her avid watching told me she wanted to move. At first she wanted to be the soap helper, but once she saw how much fun the other kids were having, she mustered her courage and got in. The pure joy on her face as that parachute flapped around her was a sight to behold.  She entered on her terms, when she was ready, when she felt safe. I was proud to be able to offer her an activity she found fun!  Her Ed Tech told me later that Physical Education had become her favorite time of the week!  Gradually her movement increased, she joined in during free dance time and we discovered she had quite a skill for hip hop!  That’s why I do what I do.

Tracey Peck-Moad, Ed Tech III, Gross Motor Development
Robert P. T. Coffin Elementary School
Brunswick, ME

 

September 26 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: Erica’s Breakthrough

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.

ERICA’S BREAKTHROUGH

One Playmaker activity that has a clear, positive impact on the children in my care is “News Ball.”  I introduced this game in my classroom of six children, all with various special needs, including one little girl whom we’ll call Erica, with needs in the area of speech and language. Erica is currently living in a foster home for the first time. Her language was very limited as she was kept in her bedroom and had very little human contact prior to being in this foster home.

Erica was only making small amounts of progress with her speech, but after playing “News Ball” for about three weeks she made some greater gains with her speech. On the third week we played this game at our circle time, Erica whispered in my ear that she had some news to tell us. I was so excited because this was the first time she showed a clear desire to actively participate. I asked her what she wanted to tell us and she said, “I saw a baby,” when she went shopping with her foster mom.

For the next couple of times that we played “News Ball” Erica would speak about shopping and by May and the end of our school year, she was speaking in brief, complete sentences.

It was so wonderful seeing Erica evolve into a happier little girl while improving her speech at the same time.  Although she shied away from large group activities that were noisy, she was slowly developing her self-confidence and was happily part of our classroom community.

Laurie Ziegler, Lead Teacher
South Shore Early Education
Plymouth, MA

September 19 2014

FRIDAY FUEL: Their Game, Their Joy

Playmaker Community

FridayFuelPLAYMAKER 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.

THEIR GAME, THEIR JOY

I am writing to tell you all about my love for the soft, squishy, fuzzy yarn balls. They are one of my most favorite tools from the Playmaker Bag. I think I have used these more than any other item in the bag because they are so open-ended and can become so many things in our Head Start classroom. We sort them, count them, line them up. We juggle them, roll them and even, dare I say it … THROW THEM INSIDE! These wonderful and colorful little balls are the ONLY things that our children can throw inside without a negative consequence.

We have clearly defined the safety rules, including being kind, gentle and friendly (these are our three classroom rules) while using the balls. We have let the children know that when a game of “Inside/Outside Crazy Balls” begins they can play or take a role in the game that feels safe and comfy to them. Not everyone likes to throw or try to catch. Some children like to help hold the curtain, which is the barrier between the two sides of our playing field. Some children decide they want to help collect balls when the game stops or when a ball gets away from the playing area. Some children prefer to watch all the wild action from a safe and quiet area across the room where it isn’t as loud or busy. The children know the game is for THEM.

We begin the game by letting the children choose a side of the curtain. The balls are dumped all over the floor and when the music begins the ball-throwing does as well. The goal is simple: get all the balls to the other side of the curtain. That’s all – nothing too competitive that anyone is made to feel sad if they “lose,” but just enough of a challenge that everyone has to work hard to meet the goal. When the music stops, everyone freezes. Play resumes when the music resumes. The game continues until all or most of the balls have found their way to one side of the curtain.

Just as everyone has a part in the game, everyone has a part in cleanup too. The balls live in a basket, so the curtain holders take the basket around and collect all the balls as the children gather them from all corners of the room. We end our game time with a little quiet breathing while lying on the floor looking at the “stars” or “clouds” or whatever happens to be on our ceiling/sky.

When my co-teacher and I first initiated this game, the children were astounded by the fact that we were letting them throw balls in the classroom. We had to assure them that it would be okay and encourage them to participate. So many of our children live in homes where throwing anything indoors is off limits. In fact, most things are off limits because their families have so little that the fear of breaking something is too great. They also live lives full of “no you can’t do that” “stop doing that” “be quiet” and even sometimes “go away.” It is so wonderful to watch these children take control of our classroom and learn to express themselves so happily. Some children use the game as a way to release anxiety, anger, sadness and even joy. They begin to understand that they have control over their bodies and actions and that they can be responsible for those actions. They have so much fun, even the children who decide to watch from a distance, because they are helping to create this experience for themselves and each other. One of their favorite parts of the game is that they are allowed to throw the balls at the teachers! Again, the only rules are to be kind, gentle and friendly.

Reflecting on this game personally, I know that since we started playing it in our class I have been able to let go of some of my own fears of breaking things or letting the class get out of control. The children have really risen above our expectations and made this game – their game – so successful.

Serena Walker,
Head Start Teacher-Advocate,
Biddeford, ME

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.

Oplaysis

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