I have mentioned that I am an art therapist/teacher and that I love all things clay. I teach pottery as often as possible and do my own work when I can get to the studio. Working with your hands can be calming, centering and focusing. We do a lot of tactile play at home too.
Just the other morning my three year old beat me downstairs and had already gotten out the Citrus Fresh scented Aroma Dough we had made! She loves it. I keep the Stress Away scented kind in my purse to hand to her when she needs something to squeeze and be entertained with in different places! (think shopping carts while waiting in checkout lines!) Play dough can also be integrated into learning for preschoolers- make snake letters or shapes out of it, or draw or write in it. Discuss and sculpt body parts and faces too. Working in different modalities solidifies and encourages learning. Tactile play and homemade play dough got kicked up a notch when essential oils found their way into it!
Making homemade playdough is relatively easy and if you do the kind where you cook it on the stove it lasts so long! Here is the recipe that I use and that lots of other sites claim to love too:
Play Dough Recipe:
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoon cream of tartar (find it in the spice section)
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water
Mix first 4 ingredients in a pan. Add water and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes. Dough will become difficult to stir and form a “clump”. Remove from stove and knead for 5 minutes–add food coloring if so desired during kneading process. Play dough will keep for a long time stored in a covered plastic container or plastic sandwich bag. I took this write up from another site. You’ll see on her site she suggests adding cinnamon to the dough for a multi-sensory experience.
I couldn’t resist going one step further and I split the dough four ways and added four different colors and four different scents to it. When we had a playdate each of the kids got to each enjoy different scents and trade and share and decide which was their favorite! Some oils that worked well in the Play Dough and can translate to smooth and calm play time:
Citrus Fresh (in the old kit),
R.C. (in the new kit),
You can use different scents at different times depending on the effect you are looking for! Peppermint would be a great one for during homework breaks to boost alertness! And Stress Away is great for mommies and kids during those homework breaks!
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So, as I said before, I have my master's degree in art therapy. A lot of people I have met in recent "Mom" years don't necessarily know that. Even more people don't know what that is. Art therapy is a specific therapeutic modality in mental health and behavioral health where a trained therapist introduces different art forms and materials as a way to encourage clients to work toward a specific goal. The thing about this field is that it is WAY diverse. Art therapists work with Veterans, children on the Autism Spectrum, people in substance abuse programs, patients in mental hospitals and pretty much any one who could benefit from this technique for growth and therapy. Art therapists also work in a lot of different settings and, as a result of the title not being "mainstream," a lot of different roles. I used to integrate art therapy into my job in behavioral health when I worked in people's homes and I integrated it into my role as a Therapist in a school I used to work at full time. These days I am working part time as an art instructor and utilizing my art therapy training in a small school program that serves kids with behavioral needs or who are on the Autism spectrum. School is not in session right now, but I couldn't resist sharing one of our last projects we did this year. I am in love with them. They inspire me to take risks as an artist and as an art instructor.
I am sure some of the support staff in the class thought I was pushing it when I said our final project was going to be a self-portrait! I kind of thought I was a little nuts to try it! And yet, try it and SUCCEED we did! Whenever I do projects like this when I want to empower kids to make original art, I try to give them a blanace between structured guidelines and individual choices.
The best option is to START with a structured guideline. I had the kids use a pre-cut tracer shape for the outline of their heads (of which they could choose from three sizes and shapes. Then I walked them step by step through drawing each feature on their faces- we used colored pencils so that they didn't have erasers at their disposal. GASP! Drawing without an eraser?!?! Blasphemy! Well, not, actually, really good training to use mistakes and not get bent out of shape over them. Try it. Let your mistakes stick around and turn them into character. That's life isn't it?! Or maybe you have a big ole Life Eraser I am not aware of?
The support staff were great at helping the kids look into the mirror or talk a little about what their features looked like. Some kids wanted to fantasize about being a superhero or having a beard. We went with it! You probably can't tell from these pictures who doesn't have ability to hold a conversation with you or who can barely keep their butt in a seat during class. But look at their art! It amazes me every time.
I am an eat, play, work at home Mom- a part time new-mom's support facilitator- full time dreamer of clay- an all the time thinker- a trained art therapist- and a home biz empower-er who never has enough minutes in the day, clay in my hands or ideas in my brain to create all the things! Also: I am mildly invested in our families health using nature's tools! Just kidding. That's my passion and message for others: Your life is essential. Take back your health!
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