What’s In Your Bag?

Hi everyone, Happy Sunday! As you’ve probably noticed, the amount of therapeutic activities that I’ve posted have slowed down as of late. This is partly due to the area that I currently work in at the hospital. I haven’t spoken too much on this before, but I’m a child life specialist that is mainly based in the outpatient surgery, lab, and medical imaging. What this means is that my job is very procedure-driven. As in, the majority of the kids I see are there to have one or two procedures and then they go home. Not much time for sitting down, doing an art project, and getting to know you a little better.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t play or do therapeutic activities! It just means that my play is centered around helping the child and family get through the stress point of having a procedure! Additionally, I am often called in when the child is stressed out and staff are all ready to do the procedure. So I need to think fast and use things that I can carry around with me during the work day.

Since health care is moving towards a more outpatient way of doing things, child life specialists are finding themselves more often working in these fast-paced outpatient settings. At the same time, it can sometimes feel like child life specialists are losing their roots, because they have less time to “play” with the patient. (BTW, when I say “play”, I mean “play” in the therapeutic sense of the word 😀 ).

BUT! I would like to say that there are lots of opportunities to use therapeutic play with kids in the outpatient setting, even right in the middle of the procedure! I give you, exhibit A: Rise of the Guardians. In it, there’s a part where Jack Frost’s little sister is scared and Jack Frost tells her “I know, but we’re going to have a little fun instead.” That scene really spoke to me, because I find myself in that situation all the time with my patients. It’s my job to get them to trust me so I can help them and I use play to make things easier and less frightening. Which got me thinking about a new section of blog posts for A Little Playfullness. I’ll be talking about some of my therapeutic play tricks I use during procedures. My hope is that you all might get some new ideas about how to help your patients, your loved ones, or even yourselves cope through a procedure.

Today’s trick is, dun dun da dun! The Light Spinner!!!

Light Spinner 3But wait! You may say. Isn’t that just a toy you get at the carnival? Yes indeed it is, but it’s so much more! This wonderful toy has kept so many kiddos calm that I have a whole stash of them. Which is good, because when it randomly goes flying, it sometimes breaks. Why is it so awesome? Well first, it lights up. Light Spinner 2

Like so. The bright lights can enthrall even adults. (I’m serious, if staff see the toy, they want to play with it themselves!) It also vibrates, which not only grabs the child’s attention, but it can work similar to the Buzzy 4 Shots tool, sending information to the brain about the vibrations instead of the pinch of the needle. And little babies just love the feeling of the vibrations on the skin (and their mouths if they are teething!)

Light Spinner 1

Some of the spinners come with a strap, which is great if you give the toy to a child who may through it. Just keep the strap on your wrist and when they toss the toy away it doesn’t fall!!! Also my favorite type also has the option to push the button all the way down and it will stay on.

The light spinner is definitely something that I don’t go without when I’m working. If you haven’t tried it out already, I definitely recommend it. You can either give it to the child to play with, or you can play simple games, like turning it on or off, asking what colors the child sees, or taping it to make different sounds. I even sometimes pretend my hand is eating the ball on top and turning off the light. The little ones thing that game is funny. What about you? Do you have any tricks you use with the light spinner? Let me know in the comments!

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