I saw a product while watching The Toy Box called Emoti Dolls. They are plush dolls whose facial features can be changed to show different emotions. The company website says “One Doll, Infinite Emotions.”
Check out the website for Emotiplush Therapy Dolls.
Looks like a fun doll, but also – what a learning tool! There are kiddos who struggle to understand emotions and struggle to recognize emotions by facial expressions. This doll seems like it would be a great tool to practice recognizing emotions in others!
Every therapist has been there… we get children who sometimes do not want to be in our office and do not want to talk to us. Better yet, we get a child who wants to play with all of our toys, but won’t answer questions or engage at all. One effective strategy I have found is ignoring, but there’s a method to it. With some kiddos, you can just ignore and remove toys, and they’ll eventually start talking to you because they want your attention. But I have had some STUBBORN kiddos, who will just sit and stare at the wall.
One strategy I’ve used in that scenario is to ignore, but have a grand time playing (without them) with whatever toy they’ve chosen. Here’s an example:
I had a kiddo who did NOT want to tell me about his day (it had been a bad day). He had chosen to build something with K’Nex pieces and we had already started building. He refused to answer my question, so I scooted the pieces away from him and reminded him that if he wanted to play, he needed to talk to me and answer my question. I then began building something else with the K’Nex pieces… while talking to myself about what I was going to build and (pretending that I was) having a blast! At first, he ignored me, but after a minute or two I saw him start to peek at what I was doing out of the corner of his eye. After a few minutes, I reminded him that he was welcome to build with me as soon as he answered my question. Initially, he still refused to talk, so I continued playing, but after a few more minutes, he caved and said he was ready to talk. I repeated the initial question and once he answered, I showed appreciation and we began building together again. Were his answer super elaborate? No. Did he pretend he was miserable the whole time? Absolutely. But he participated and we were able to make some progress.
This won’t work with all kids. I had a 9 year old sit in my office for almost 30 minutes once and refuse to talk or even look at me. It happens. Despite my effort to engage by showing empathy, normalizing, changing the subject, and having him express his thoughts and feelings non-verbally (drawing or writing), he still refused to engage. It happens. However, the more tools/strategies we have to draw a kiddo out, the more likely we are to find one that works with a particular child… because they’re all so different and what works for one may not work for the other.
Accepting consequences seems to be fairly difficult for most children I work with. Let’s face it, no one LIKES consequences, whether it’s a time-out, having to do an extra chore, or losing money. One fun way to practice accepting consequences is by playing the game Chutes and Ladders. Even better? I have a shorter version of the game in my office that shows pictures of children doing something they (probably) shouldn’t at the top, then shows a consequence at the bottom.
When I play this game with children, I pre-teach that they will practice the steps to accepting consequences each time they land on a chute. They then practice saying “ok” and using a calming strategy to stay calm. I provide praise and corrective feedback, if necessary. I also discuss with children the benefits of staying calm when receiving a consequence.
Little boys like to play rough (most of them, anyways). Let them play together outside and games involving zombies and superheroes are common, where they’re running at each other and pretending to shoot weapons at each other. Let them play with action figures and, unlike girls who sometimes “play house,” boys will often “fight” with the toys or engage in other aggressive play. Some blame tv and video games; I don’t really care what causes it, I just want to work on it!
Little boys seem to love Legos and really seem to enjoy building robots out of Legos. Of course, once the Legos are built, it’s typical for them to want to “fight” or “race.” So instead, I practice with them more prosocial interactions. This includes having our robots play nicely together, having the robots “high five” and “hug,” and also engaging in appropriate conversation between robot characters. Then we get to role-play those same skills, and discuss using them in the real world. It’s one of my favorite activities to use with kiddos who are having a hard time with boundaries and keeping their hands to themselves.