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How Worry Eaters Help Children Manage Fears

Plush character holds worries and cuddles

Everyone Worries

We are all afraid of something. So we worry. Children and adults alike. And that’s not altogether bad. In fact, our fears help keep us safe and motivate us to do whatever we can to avoid what we fear could happen.

Whether we’re 16 or 60, taking the written test to get or renew a driver’s license is likely to make us anxious. We fret over the possibility we’ll fail. That fear motivates us to study the manual until we feel prepared. No guarantee we’ll pass, but we’re more likely to answer the questions correctly and to feel less apprehensive.

Real Versus Imaginary

Children worry too. Sometimes their fears spring from their active imaginations.  Take monsters under the bed. These fearsome creatures may be make-believe, but to the young child not yet clear about the difference between fantasy and reality, the fear is real.

Magical thinkers who view the world from a self-centered perspective, children often believe themselves responsible for events. I recall our then three year old son thinking his grandparents had bought a new car because he’d thrown up in the old one. He worried they were angry with him. In his mind, he’d ruined their car. That months had passed between these unrelated events never occurred to him.

Tools for Managing Worries

Gerd Hahn knows the feeling of losing sleep from worry overload. A creative man, he used his angst and talent to create a solution – Worry Eaters. Engaging, soft, huggable characters, their manta is “Let me carry your worries so you don’t have to.”

Their invitation is simple.

1. Write down or draw your fears and worries.

2. Feed them to me – I’ll hold them for you.

3. We’ll get through this together.

That’s a powerful message. Worry Eaters help children put a name on their worries and express their feelings. As adults we sometimes can’t put a finger on the cause of our distress. Likewise children sometimes cannot find words to explain theirs.

A trusted, caring adult, can help a child figure out and assign a name to what’s bothering him. Through the process of sharing his feelings, the child gains emotional support. By feeding his worries to a Worry Eater, the child lightens his load, creating space between himself and his worries.

A favorite Worry Eater also becomes a confidant. Whenever a child needs an ear, Worry Eater listens. Soft and huggable, Worry Eater comforts and consoles.

Not Just for Little Kids

Worry Eaters help bigger kids too. School age children face daily challenges as they grow and develop. Managing worries in a healthy way is a must. Worry Eaters, like a journal, serve to ease anxiety by encouraging kids to identify and cope with what’s bothering them. The process of naming the worry and feeding it to a Worry Eater symbolically creates space for problem-solving.

Customers have purchased Worry Eaters for their young adult children too. I recall one buying two to send daughters in law school. She figured – and you know she’s right on – those young women had plenty of worries in need of holding.

Worry Eaters in Therapeutic Situations

I credit my daughter-in-law with this idea. Having individual Worry Eaters for every little kid client is expensive. What she suggests is creating a file box with an envelope for each client. Between sessions transfer the worries to these envelopes for safe keeping and quick retrieval.

Something for Everyone

Worry Eaters help children (and their adults) express and cope with their worries in a healthy way. With two sizes and an array of delightful characters-five available both large and small-you’re sure to find a Worry Eater perfect for every worrier in your life.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

 

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Multiple Benefits of Light Up Toys for Children

Hand-held spinning light show globe
Lifting Spirits

With darkness falling earlier and earlier, we need a dazzling light show to lighten our spirits. Meteor Storm does that and more. Spinning, bright colored lights in ever changing patterns attract our attention. Captivated, we watch the show and feel our tension slip away. We’re lighter in spirit, more joyful. Other light up toys that also enthrall are  Mini Meteor Storm and Light Show Stick. Below are some benefits of light up toys for children.

Behavioral Distraction

Because light up toys are spellbinding, a child in the midst of a full blown meltdown may turn his attention to an amazing light show and stop acting out. In this case, the light up toy helps restore calm and supports self regulation. Meltdowns can often be prevented by providing a light up toy to a child struggling with self-control. “An ounce of prevention,” as the saying goes, “is worth a pound of cure.”

Therapeutic Distraction

In another setting, spinning light up toys make ideal distractions. Consider Meteor Storm. In a therapeutic setting, it draws a child’s focus away from a frightening situation. Child life specialists use light up toys to distract children undergoing simple medical procedures, such as a blood draw or inserting an intravenous drip line. Instead of the child freaking out, she becomes mesmerized by concentric circles of changing lights spinning inside a globe. Before the fascination wears off, the procedure is finished, and the child is too spellbound to notice. Such therapeutic distraction reduces patient and parent distress, improves patients’ coping skills and ability to cooperate, and makes the procedure go more smoothly. As a result a potentially traumatic experience becomes a positive one.

Visual Tracking Assessment

Vision specialists use Meteor Storm to assess visual tracking in children who are blind and visually impaired. Those with low vision delight in holding one close to their faces, watching the bright colored lights spin while listening to the hum and feeling the mild vibration the spinning creates. Teachers frequently motivate students by setting aside time to play with a Meteor Storm once a task is finished.

Fine Motor Development

These light up toys develop fine motor skills. In addition to grasping and holding the toys, children must press and hold the switch that starts the light show. This means the child must pay attention to what he’s doing or the lights literally go out.

Gross Motor Development

Lazer Fingers, lights with elastic bands for wearing on the fingers brighten up ceiling and walls as fingers dance and arms circle and swing. Getting a move on—dancing and prancing—takes the Lazer Fingers experience to new heights. To take it to the max, add music for a multi-sensory experience.

Added Safety On Halloween

Visibility is vital to safety as children go trick or treating. These light up toys make children easier for motorists to see in the dark. And add unexpected dazzle to the door-to-door trek.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Might Hospitalized Adults Benefit From Practices Advocated by Child Life?

baby with stethoscope and teddy bear
Making Hospital Less Traumatic for Children
I’ve written about the ways child life specialists make being in hospital less traumatic for children and their parents: advocating for positions of comfort, educating patients in age appropriate ways, providing distraction during procedures and opportunities for children to engage in activities that encourage self-expression. Play is essential to a sense of well being. Amidst the chaos of hospitalization, play gives children a normalizing experience. While playing, children are in charge, an important respite from having little control over what’s happening in their lives.
 Well Documented Benefits
All these practices reduce stress, enhance coping skills, and help patients manage pain. With preparation and distraction, procedures require less sedation thus reducing the risks of side effects. Patients recover faster, readmissions decline, and both children and their parents report increased satisfaction with the hospital experience. The benefits are so well documented that the American Academy of Pediatrics advocates for child life services.
Adults Struggle Too
Granted adults aren’t children, but illness and injury leading to hospitalization are discombobulating at best. Even the best educated, well informed, well adjusted among us can easily become overwhelmed by all that’s happening. We know we need to “get a grip.” We have questions and need easy to understand answers. We need time to process all that’s happening, figure out ways to cope, relieve our distress, and manage our pain.
Patient-Focused Care for All
 Recently the Wall Street Journal published an article online entitled “Why Hospitals Should Treat Adults Like Children.” Or to be more precise, how making adult hospitals more like children’s hospitals reduces anxiety and readmissions. This insightful article is a must read for everyone interested in patient-focused health care.
 Less Stress, Better Outcomes

The author, Lisa Ward, interviewed Kumar Dharmarajan, MD, MBA, an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine and co-author of “Balloon Animals, Guitars, and Fewer Blood Draws: Applying Strategies From Pediatrics to the Treatment of Hospitalized Adults,” which appeared in Annals of Internal Medicine, 19 May 2015.

Anyone who has ever been in hospital recalls being awakened every couple of hours for medical interventions, whether checking vital signs, drawing blood, or giving medicine. In neonatal intensive care units, best practice prescribes grouping interventions to minimize sleep disruptions. That’s a practice we all can appreciate and one example of how “treating adults like children” could make hospital stays less stressful.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Hats Off to Child Life Professionals Worldwide

baby resting on father

March is Child Life Month, a time for raising awareness of the psycho-social needs of pediatric patients and their families and celebrating the child life professionals who support those needs. Illnesses and injuries are always frightening. Diagnostic testing and treatments are too. That’s when the presence of a child life professional makes all the difference.

Educated in child development and how illness and injury impact children, child life specialists offer evidence-based, developmentally appropriate support. By providing information, procedural preparation, distraction, and therapeutic play, child life specialists help children cope with the uncertainties and fear that accompany being in hospital. Children experience less distress and are better able to manage their feelings as a result.

Child life specialists advocate practices that minimize distress. They encourage parental presence with guidance, comfort positions, and distraction during procedures. Comfort positions provide both physical and emotional comfort. Remaining calm is easier when a child is physically comfortable and emotionally supported. Procedures go more smoothly, children experience less pain, and what began as a frightening experience becomes easier for everyone to deal with.

Recently our micro-premie granddaughter benefitted from a medical staff aware of comfort positions. Experiencing a problem requiring readmission to NICU, she entered through the emergency department. During admission, she lay contently against her father’s chest. Once in an exam room, staff suggested he lie down on the bed with her on his chest – the perfect comfort position for her exam and initial treatment. Transport maintained that position on the trip to NICU. Parents and child alike were comforted by the compassionate care provided. An unexpected, frightening experience became manageable.   

Our family salutes child life professionals worldwide. Your efforts have transformed attitudes and practices for the benefit of children and their families, and we’re grateful.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Tangles = Stress Relief and Joyful Play

The ultimate universal playthings, Tangles feature a series of 90 degree curves interconnected to pivot 180 degrees at each joint. Just as a Tangle has no beginning and no end, there is no end to the satisfaction children and adults alike experience when turning, twisting, bending, and coiling. Compact, lightweight, and quiet, Tangles are ideal stress relievers and fidget toys, perfect for take-along play.

Manipulating a Tangle relieves stiffness and improves flexibility in fingers and joints, a boon to anyone with arthritis. By strengthening muscles involved in fine motor control, Tangles also benefit those learning to hold a paint brush or a pencil or to play a musical instrument. Communicating by sign language requires finger flexibility and motor control, functions enhanced by Tangles.

Movement is critical to cognitive development, and Tangles invite movement. The brain is divided into hemispheres, the left and the right. Research associates linear, analytical thinking with the left hemisphere and creativity, imagination, and emotions with the right. Learning requires the passing of information through the corpus callosum, a function is not fully developed until the ‘tween years.

The motor systems inside the brain run along the right and left hemispheres. Movement allows information to pass from one to the other through the corpus callosum. The more movement, the more efficient the process. This passing of information maximizes storage and recall of information. Making a presentation? Don’t just stand there. Move around.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play