Unicorn Boat Race? Challenge Accepted!

Continuing on our topic of camp from last week, I wanted to share another activity that we did. This one was called “Unicorn Boat Races” and it was put on by the staff that ran the camp. All of us were wondering what in the world the activity entailed (all we knew was it took place at the pool). Finally the afternoon came and we discovered that it was not only a boat race, but a competition to build a boat that would float from one side of the pool to the other. Sounds easy, right? Of course there’s a catch. (It wouldn’t be camp without a catch, of course!) the boat must hold one counselor during its trip across the pool!

Don’t give up!

I will admit that there were a few campers who thought it might be a good idea to put me in one of the boats, but since I didn’t have a swim suit, I was not one of the chosen few. My Child Life Practicum student on the other hand was chosen as a… tribute, as some of the campers said. She gamely got in the boat and did her best to get it from one end of the pool to the other.

Stroke! Stroke!

The kids all had lots of fun creating their boats and got very creativity. They each got a bunch of large sheets of cardboard, scissors, and duct tape. Plus some markers for decorating. And that was it! I really liked how it encouraged team building, but I will say that it was hard to keep everyone involved the whole time because the teams are so large (10-14 people in a group). If you want to replicate this activity, I would limit the groups to 6-8 people each. I also liked the idea of having the campers create the boats and then the counselors ride in them. It gets both campers and counselors involved and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to see if you can sink your counselor! Plus it takes away chances of campers getting overly competitive in the actual race and instead turns it into a silly race where everyone can laugh.

Have you ever done an activity like this before? What was it like? Would you do it again? Share your story in the comments below!


Taking Journaling To The Next Level

Today I wanted to share with you one of the activities I did with campers at the medical camp I work with. We wanted one of the activities to result in something the campers could take home with them, and I had gotten a really great idea at the National Child Life Conference earlier this year: journals. But not just any journals, I was taking three different ideas and putting them all together. I call them “6-Word Memoir Smash Journals”.

Ta Da! My 6-Word Smash Book

Okay, so maybe that is a bit of a mouthful and we really just called them Smash Books for fun, but I will say they are a bit different from the Smash Books talked about at conference if you were at that session on activities for teens.

What you will need is a blank journal and a writing instrument. I will note that it is more fun with many different colored writing instruments, but it’s not essential. I explained to the campers that we would be creating a journal that tells a little bit about themselves, maybe about their camp experience, maybe about their experience getting diagnosed, or something else about them. The first thing I did after each camper got their journals was tell them they had to write a title. But their title had some guidelines. It could only be 6 words long and the goal was for it to describe their life. This was taken from the 6 Word Memoir project, which is super cool. You can find more information here: https://www.sixwordmemoirs.com

As a side note, I wasn’t super strict on the 6 words only rule, especially with the younger kids. Adapt this as you see fit. But while it seems hard to come up with something that is exactly 6 words long, it also forces people to get really creative. It was very cool to see some of the things the campers came up with.

After they had created their titles, I had them pick a page and answer the following writing prompts:

If you could have any magical power, what would it be? Draw or write your answer.

Draw or write one thing that always makes you smile.

While I could have chosen any prompt, the theme of camp was magic, so that explains the first prompt. hThe second one was to get them thinking about what makes them happy and recognizing that they can bring happiness into their lives by their choices.

The third part of the activity was smashing the books together. I got this idea also at the Child Life Conference. The presenter had explained how she had a journal where kids of the same diagnosis would write their story or maybe a letter to kids who got the book in the future. It was kind of like a living book that helped connect kids of the same diagnosis, even when they hadn’t ever met face to face. For my activity I told the campers to pass around their books to each other and write notes to each other. It was awesome to see the campers passing around their books and writing little notes to each other. Even the counselors got in on the fun and many of the kids told me it was really meaningful to them.

I really liked this activity and highly recommend it with a large groom of kids. The biggest thing to be aware of is what the difference in the group is. For this activity I did it with kids and teens from 6 years to 17 years. The biggest issue was that the younger kids got done much quicker than the older teens. This meant we had to keep the younger ones entertained while we waited for the older ones to finish. But otherwise everyone gave the activity a thumbs up.

Have you ever done a therapeutic journaling activity. What have you found that works? Leave a comment below!

Friday Fun: First Time Bubbles

I saw this picture and I had to laugh because it’s so true! I often use bubbles as distraction for infants and there are quite a few of them that have never seen bubbles before. I get a wide range of reactions when I introduce bubbles for the first time, some kids like it, so kids can’t understand it, and once in awhile someone cries. But the most common reaction is this kid’s example. What about you? Do you have any funny bubble stories?

27 Funny Snapchats From the Creatively Quick Witted


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!

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.


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!