The Magic of Camp

Hi everyone! This week has been super exhausting for me but in a very good way. I got to work at an Arthritis Camp as a child life specialist and it was lots of fun. This is my 3rd year at the camp and every time I go there are new adventures.

Some of you might be wondering “Why camp?” And my answer is “Why not?” Camp is a wonderful place where kids and teens learn more about themselves and others in a very unique environment. Away from their family and home they grow up a bit more by challenging themselves. This could be by climbing a rock wall, stretching their creativity, problem solving with fellow campers, or even spending the night away from home for the first time. For example, I faced my fear of heights at camp this year!

Camp is great for everyone, but one of the best types of camp is for kids who all share a similar experience, like the kids who go to medical specific camps. At our arthritis camp, all the kids have some sort of rheumatologic disease. It is so awesome to see the kids compare notes about what it’s like having arthritis, how they deal with the side effects of their medications, and best of all, encouraging them to advocate for themselves.

This year the theme was magic so I came up with a few educational games that had a magic theme, which I will share in future posts so stay tuned! I also got to sit with both the oldest and the youngest campers and did some medical play with them. They all asked really great questions about how the medical equipment worked. And I also spent lots of time working with campers individually on techniques to help manage their pain from arthritis flare ups. We talked about the 3 different ways to relieve pain: physically, psychologically, and with pharmaceuticals. The nurses were very happy about this because it meant the campers weren’t just asking for meds all the time.

I absolutely love working at camp. I see so much love and support shared by all the campers and it makes a huge impact in everyone’s lives. Everyone I asked said they wanted to come back again next year. Some of them even said that they were on the waiting list last year and I know there were kids on the waiting list this year so there is definitely a need for this camp! I wish that we could do another week so more kids could come! If you have the chance to either go to camp or send a child to camp definitely do it!!!

Have you or anyone you know gone to a medical camp? What was it like? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! I’ll be waiting!

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The Time Is Now: Thoughts on ACLP’s Conference

Hi friends, I am super excited to share with you all A Little Playfullness’ first video blog! It’s all about my fun adventure to ACLP’s annual conference last weekend. I had a great time learning from so many people, networking with other colleagues, and presenting with my coworkers! One of my favorite things was the opening remarks from ACLP’s president, Eileen Clark, who emphasized that our time is now! Plus the video has a special appearance from my friend and coworker Aleida, who I’m working on some fun child life projects with. Stay tuned for that! But until then, here is the video! Enjoy!

Shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day

I’m not going to lie, St. Patrick’s Day is definitely one of my favorite spring holidays. Growing up in a family from “up north” who observes the Lenten season, St. Patrick’s Day was always something to look forward to because it meant we got to have a big party at the church, eat sweets, and drink Irish Coffee (for the record, Irish Coffee to us kids meant taking a very sweet and creamy coffee or hot chocolate and covering it in whipped cream. No alcohol was necessary or desired). Now that I live in a different part of the country, I’ve realized that St. Patrick’s Day is not as popular in all parts of the country, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun and celebrate (and maybe teach my coworkers the awesomeness of Irish Coffee, the kid-version of course!) So in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to share with you a fun and yet simple shamrock craft.

Shamrock Instructions

I want to start by saying that I got this craft idea from ModernMami and I slightly adapted it. You can see the full instructions as well as a printable template here. She created cool patterns with washi tape, but I didn’t have any tape. Instead I had a plethora of scrapbooking paper, so I went with that instead. It made the craft a bit quicker to complete, but that was good because sometimes attention spans can be short. I got a few different choices of green paper of varying color and patterns.

Shamrock

Once I picked my colors, I cut the out and glued the shamrock together. Ta da! Finished product! I recommend that you stick to glue sticks in order to keep the dry time short, but regular glue works too. The end result is a simple yet colorful shamrock. You can hang it on a door, wall, bed, even an IV pole if you punch a hole and put a string through it! Sometimes simple is best! Try it out and let me know how it went!

Saturday Toy Shopping – Doctor Barbie

So we probably can agree that there is a Barbie doll for every career, or pretty close to every career. If anyone watches the Barbie Life In The Dream House show, they actually mention Barbie’s many careers. Therefore, Barbie should have been a doctor at some point, right? Of course, but she looks a bit different from when she was a doctor in the 90’s. While at Walmart I found a “Baby Doctor Barbie”. I found it interesting how Barbie is a specialty doctor, it made me wonder if there is a generic Barbie Doctor you can get. I do remember owning a “Dentist Barbie” complete with dentist chair and sound effects. While this may seem silly to have Barbie in so many roles, it really emphasizes how important it is for kids to engage in role play. My dentist Barbie not only was fun to play with, it helped me process my own experiences at the dentist office and also allowed me to entertain the idea of going into dentistry myself. I did in fact got through a phase where I wanted to be a dentist. Thanks to my Barbie doll, my doctor kit, various other toys and a vivid imagination, I engaged in lots of free play where I could be anything I wanted to be.

Re-designing The “Hospital PJs”

I wanted to share with you a super cool therapeutic activity idea for the kids. Everyone knows the infamous outfit that patients must often wear in the hospital. While the typical hospital gown does come in multiple sizes and patterns for pediatric patients, there is still much left to be desired. I have to admit that I’ve met multiple small children who have voiced their discontent over having to trade their favorite Batman or Elsa PJs for the unfamiliar fabric and shape of the pediatric gowns. Since one way that we help kids overcome their disappointment is to give a little bit of control back to them, this activity is a great example. In fact, Starlight Children’s Foundation just recently had a competition where everyone was invited to  design a gown. While the submission deadline is over, the voting for final design that will be created and distributed to hospitals around the country will happen soon. So I highly encourage everyone to go vote. You can check out more information here: https://www.starlight.org/

I decided to get a little creative and make my own design. I used my computer’s Paint 3D program for fun and here is the finished product:

Hospital Gown

It was really hard to come up with a theme because there was so much to choose from! f you would like to do this yourself or do it as an activity with patients, you can create your own template, or right now you can download the template used by the Starlight Children’s Foundation. I like that there is a front and back on the Starlight Children’s Foundation template. Try it out and see what you find!

Saturday Toy Shopping

Hi friends! So in honor of Child Life Month, I thought it would be fun to do a new weekly feature. It’s called “Saturday Toy Shopping” and each Saturday I will feature a cool toy that is great for Child Life.

The first toy I wanted to share is what my nurses lovingly refer to as “Mr. Monkey”. We know all it’s songs by heart because it is so popular and easy to use. It makes noise, it lights up, there are buttons, and I can magically make the monkey dance… or at least that’s what some 2 year olds might believe. It also comes in one piece and makes it easy to disinfect. My nurses will often grab it even before they call me to help with a toddler. And sometimes that’s all the child really needs in order to be happily occupied during a blood draw. I have two of them on my unit only, there are probably at least 6 of them floating around the hospital.

Have you ever used this toy? What did you think? Do you have a go-to musical light up toy you like to use with toddlers? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Child Life Month!

It’s March, which means it’s time to celebrate Child Life Month! So if you know a child life specialist, let her or him know how much you appreciate them. And if you are a child life specialist, assistant, student, or in any other way are associated with the field, pat yourself on the back, because you rock!!!Time for your check up!

At our hospital we kicked off Child Life Month with a huge a Teddy Bear Clinic! We invited a bunch of different departments to participate and we had quite the event! Each child got a teddy bear and took them on a trip to the hospital. Every teddy was checked in and assessed, where the kids diagnosed what was wrong with the teddy. Then the kids decided where the teddy needed to go to get better. The teddy and the child could visit radiology, the lab, surgery, recovery, physical therapy, and respiratory therapy just to name a few. It was really cool to see the different choices kids made about how to treat their teddy bears. Some kids wanted to try everything while others chose to say no to some of the different activities. This is so important because kids don’t get many choices while in the hospital. So to be able to say “no” is very therapeutic.

Not only is choice important for these kids, but the teddy bears will also serve as a way to validate that they were in the hospital. The kids are able to view the hospital as not just a scary place but also something that they overcame. For example, above is pictured a teddy in a nurses outfit. I got this teddy when I had surgery as a child. My teddy got surgery just like me and it definitely holds a special place in my heart, even many years later. In the other picture is Clifford, who was given to me when I was in the hospital as a teen. As you can see, even a teen can be impacted by a stuffed animal! So thank you to everyone who has ever donated a stuffed animal!

Have you ever participated in a Teddy Bear Clinic? What did you think? Interested in hosting your own clinic and have questions? Write a comment below!