Create Calm with Playful Breathing Exercises

Posted by on Jan 19, 2013

Create Calm with Playful Breathing Exercises

Pinwheels in the Playroom! All children can benefit from relaxing through deep breathing, but this especially holds true for children who are experiencing the anxiety, stress, and anger that often comes with homelessness. When children are in these heightened emotional states, it can be hard for them – and for those around them – to experience the therapeutic benefits that the Playtime Project aims to offer. When a child is upset, scared, or angry, their breathing becomes rapid and shallow, but helping a child breathe deeply can “trick” the child’s brain into thinking it is calm! It can be difficult to teach young children breathing techniques. Fortunately, there are some fun breathing activities that seem like play, and will make it easier for kids to remember to deep breathing skills! If a child seems particularly wound up when he or she arrives at Playtime, or if you spot a kid on the verge of a meltdown during the course of the evening, try one of these playful breathing exercises to stop trouble before it starts: Peaceful PinwheelsKids love pinwheels, and the colors on this simple toy provide a nice visual element to complement the breathing. Simply have the child take a deep breath, coaching them to breathe in slowly and deeply. Tell them to hold their breath for 2 seconds and then instruct them to blow out into the pinwheel. Repeat at least 3 times. Flower and Candle CalmerAdapt this to the playroom environment by using pretend items if necessary. First hold a flower (real or otherwise) or another nicely scented object, like lotion, and have the child breathe in slowly and deeply, smelling (or pretending to smell) the object. Tell them they are breathing in happy, calm feelings! Have them hold the breath for a couple of seconds, and then ask them to release the breath by blowing out the “candle” (fingers can be a good substitute for candles). As they breathe out, tell them they are breathing out sad, angry, scared feelings. Repeat 3 more times. Feel-good FeathersGrab some feathers from the crafts supplies in the Playroom. Ask the child to pick a feather that makes them feel good, and have them hold that feather in their hand. Have the child take a deep breath and hold it for 3 seconds. Ask the child to breath out by blowing up one side of the feather and down the other. Repeat 3 times. TIP: These techniques work best if the child has practiced them in a calm state. So, if you know of a child who tends to get worked up during Playtime, make time to teach them these exercises in peaceful moments, so they can easily access deep breathing skills when they really need them! via Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S,...

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Tip of the Week: Never Underestimate Your Presence!

Posted by on Sep 18, 2012

Tip of the Week: Never Underestimate Your Presence!

As the saying goes, “The world is run by those who show up.”    One of our volunteers came to us through the White House Internship Program this summer. At the end of her time here, she wrote to us to tell us what an impact Playtime had on her. She gave us permission to share her story:    I have been homeless twice in my life. The first time, I was an infant, and my mother, brother, and I lived in a car. The second time, I was 17 and my adoptive mother told me she didn’t want me around anymore…the degradation of not feeling a part of a family, of always feeling like a burden, is something I will never forget. For the past four years, I’ve had a place of my own and a network of friends who care deeply about my well-being. I know that homelessness does not end until until a person finds both of these things. The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project has the potential to help children make the kinds of connections with peers that break cycles of poverty and abuse.   You never know who you are volunteering with side-by-side, or what the children you are playing with are going through. So whenever you have doubts about the importance of your presence at Playtime, remember that you are what makes Playtime possible. You are Playtime. You make a difference that you may never realize the full impact of. But the children know, and so do...

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Tip of the Week: Help Children Prepare for Back to School

Posted by on Aug 13, 2012

Tip of the Week: Help Children Prepare for Back to School

Just 2 more weeks of summer vacation before school begins on August 27, and that means it’s time to help families get the clothes and supplies they need to be ready.  Did you know that children who are homeless are entitled to free school uniforms and transportation assistance under the McKinney-Vento Act?  We will be distributing flyers to parents this week to instruct them to go to their child’s school and ask for the Homeless Liaison to access this help. For a list of who those people are, visit: http://osse.dc.gov/publication/dcps-homeless-liaison-contact-list. Children without the proper uniforms are NOT barred from attending DCPS so that is not a reason to delay starting school.  Children who are homeless miss more school than their peers, so let’s all do what we can to help make sure our kids are ready to...

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Tip of the Week: Slowing it Down

Posted by on Aug 9, 2012

Tip of the Week: Slowing it Down

We get so much positive feedback from parents on how much they love Playtime, but what’s the biggest request Playtime parents have of us? Many parents report that their children are often hyper and spinning like tops when they are picked up, which makes it tough to get them ready for bed.  There are lots of strategies we can use to help children “wind down” at the end of Playtime. Adults using softer voices to set the tone and establishing a tradition of kids picking out books to read with volunteers after snack while they are waiting for their parents to pick them up work well. Or calmer coloring, yoga or board game activities! How about a volunteer grabbing a guitar and serenading the children with peaceful sing-alongs while they are eating their snack? Research indicates that calm music is therapeutic and relaxing so use this great tool that is free and available to all of you. It works...

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Supporting Homeless Children & Parents

Posted by on Jul 26, 2012

Supporting Homeless Children & Parents

As Playtime volunteers see firsthand, parents experiencing homelessness are undergoing a great deal of stress and may not always be able to respond to the needs of their children. This may lead to homeless children experiencing developmental difficulties. Fortunately, we at the Playtime Project are in a fantastic position to provide support to both the children and the parents with whom we work. Learn more about how you can help minimize stress for homeless families by reading Supporting Homeless Young Children and Their Parents, a brief from Strengthening At-Risk and Homeless Young Mothers and Children, an initiative of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The brief gives an overview of the developmental and mental health issues our kids might be facing, and describes the “Five R’s” for supporting brain development in young children:– Relationships– Responsive Interactions– Respect– Routines– Repetition In addition, the brief gives tips on how to build strong relationships with parents, which will will help us provide even more support for the kids. For example: “Relate to parents as partners who are experts on their lives and the on their children’s lives,” and “Find out about parents’ hopes, values, and goals for themselves and their...

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