Over Spring Break I was able to attend one of Pam Dyson's trainings on "Play Therapy for Grieving Children" through the DFW Center for Play Therapy Training. I was truly inspired by all the directive techniques I could add to my toolbox for students at our school. One such idea was the incorporation of the game "Don't Break the Ice" in such a simple and easy way. Inspired by Sueann Kenney-Noziska's idea on Play Therapy Corner, Pam created an activity for children that helped open them up about their grief. Children knock pieces of ice out of the ice rink and answer questions based on which ice piece fell. At this training the game was targeted at children opening up about their grief and loss, but I thought I could easily tweak it for my anxious kiddos.
It's extremely easy to create your own version and add therapeutic value. The first step is taking all of the "ice" pieces and adding a colored sticker to the bottom of them. Pam used those gold foil star stickers, I chose to use bright colored Avery circle labels because I had plenty of those on hand. There are 32 total ice pieces and 1 large ice piece for the skater. I decided upon 4 different prompts for our discussion about worries, so that evenly divided up the stickers into 8 per color. On the large ice piece I put 1 of each color so they could pick. When the ice is turned over for the game, students cannot tell which color is underneath the piece of ice.
Then I created the question card. Instead of making 32 individual question cards, I chose to simplify our discussion to 4 prompts that could easily be answered numerous times. You could definitely make a variety of questions and color-code the stacks of cards. I thought about which 4 prompts would help students share/vent about their worries, discuss what happens in their body, receive validation, brainstorm helpful techniques for coping and also discover that other students had similar experiences. This is what I came up with, you can download a copy here (don't forget to add colored stickers that are on your ice pieces):
The game was such a success we played it numerous times. Students even came up with fun variations on the rules for when more than one ice piece fell. Incorporating games into your work with children creates a safe and engaging platform to help them feel comfortable in opening up. I hope you have as much fun with your children as I did!