Oh the things I have made in my office for regulation! Okay, in all honesty it hasn’t always been...the cleanest of things. Have I been out of my window of tolerance? Yes. Have I also learned some tips and tricks to make these things a bit neater? Also yes. Do kids always have fun? Most definitely!
Here is a list of the things I like to make with young people for regulation:
Calm Down Jars
These are the beautiful jars with swirly glitter that gets all excited when you shake it. They are amazing for mindfulness and are oh so soothing to look at.
If you have the book Moody Cow Meditates they would call it a “Moody Cow Mind Jar”. The book talks about the glitter swirling around as upset thoughts and as we watch the glitter settle our thoughts settle too. Katie from the blog Preschool Inspiration goes over 6 ways to make these jars on her blog HERE!
My favorite tips are VOSS water bottles seem to be the best for being plastic and a smooth exterior (some water bottles can be pretty bumpy). You can also super glue the lid on if you are worried that the top may come off. Also, the glitter will get everywhere. Have a lot of paper towels.
I like to use warm water to help mix with the glue and it usually with settle a lot slower the fist couple of times you shake it and get quicker/less thick later on.
Want to use a more environmentally friendly form of glitter? Check out Bio-Glitter!
My favorite part of Play Therapy trainings are the trainings that put the mini playdough containers on the tables as an invitation to play. It is just the best. It make sense that young people also love to regulate emotions and feel in control by squishing, squeezing, rolling and creating!
One of the hardest things about making playdough in office is the cooking aspect. This recipe HERE is great. You need a mixing bowl and the only measuring materials you will need is the one cup and one tablespoon. You also will need flour, salt, cream of tartar, oil, and liquid food coloring. For the boiling water make sure you have a glass measuring cup and pop it in the microwave.
You may need some extra thought and prep of how to get to the microwave and back, which might require permissions about a break room, parking the child in the waiting room with their parent, or a number of different other options. With creativity it can be done.
Then you mix, color, and play!
For holding you can put it in a plastic bag or the plastic disposable condiment containers you can buy at the store in the disposable Tupperware aisle.
Then, the child can take the playdough home and regulates away!
Or as I call them, balloons filled with rice, beans, or sand. Or nearly anything else like that. The cool thing about offering different materials is that you can get a different sensory experience from each.
Kids love these things and over the course of therapy I might make many, many, many stress balls with one child. For this activity you need your “filler” - which is rice, beans, sand, etc., a funnel, and some balloons!
I like to ask children if they want to be the “holder” or the “pourer”. The holder sounds pretty boring so they most likely will want to be the pourer. This is good news because if you are the “holder” you get to make sure the child stops putting the filler in the funnel before it overflows all over the floor and carpet. Ask me how I know.
After the balloon gets good and full you tie it up and there you have your stress ball. Some of my best tips for this is double ballooning. Once you tie up the end cut the bottom off a second balloon. Putting it over the tie of the first balloon creates a second layer of balloon goodness. This will prevent the stress ball (more than just one layer) from breaking and spilling all over the inside of the car, the dining room, or their bedroom. Again, ask me how I know.
The last tip with this is informed consent. Let the parent know about the activity, what is inside, and that it miiiiight come open. For this reason I have gravitated more towards rice and beans (easier to clean up) than sand (very hard to clean up).
I Spy Jars
These are so fun but do take some prep work on your part. For these jars I have dyed rice. That might sound super complicated - there are instructions for how to do it with kool aid HERE! The bonus is it smells good and I have done the mixing part over a client cancellation hour. The drying part takes a bit longer so if you are doing it at the office you need to make sure you have somewhere to put it.
To make the jars you could use water bottles (with more rice) but I saved glass spice jars to make the I Spy Jars with. Less rice, smaller to transport, all positives.
For this activity you have the child pick what color of rice they want in their jar. You can make this into a traditional I Spy, but I like to use a calming word for the jars. For this you also need letter beads, like these HERE. The child picks a calming word or affirmation, selects the needed letters and pops them in the jar.
THEN they need to find all the letters, in order, to complete the hunt! Oh, and they are also reminded of their calming word in an effort to shift cognitions. Fantastic bonus!
So there you have it, my top 4 calming crafts I love to make in my office!
My one last tip is that there are a bit of odd materials you may need for these activities that you may not want in your general play stash. Flour, beans, and definitely food coloring. I have a little bin that I keep up higher with all of these materials. Currently I have them stored in a stockroom and out of my office.
Now what about you? What sorts of regulation crafts are your favorite? Let me know below!
Looking for more resources for regulation? Check out my training on Keep Calm and Regulate On: Play Therapy and the Neuroscience of Emotional Regulation!
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I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC, RPT-S, and EMDR Consultant. I help other therapists grow in their passions as play therapists, trauma therapists,and child and adolescent therapists.