This is a simple and very useful family intervention idea from reader Jessalyn Pedone. Ms. Pedone earned a gift certificate to childtherapytoys.com for her submission. Learn how you can do the same!
Theme: Cooperation, working together, following direction, and family interactions
Recommended Ages: Pre-K through 3rd grade
Goals: Client will practice following directions, cooperation, teamwork, listening skills, and impulse control during activity
Materials: Paper and coloring utensils (pens, markets, glitter glue, crayons, etc.)
I typically do this activity with families but it could also be done in a group setting (see discussion below for more information on how to implement this activity in a group therapy setting). First I have the family work together on creating a picture of the parent’s choice (if two parents are present, have them work as a team to lead activity). The family takes turns adding elements of the picture as dictated by the parent. Mom/Dad may decide to draw a beach and ask the child to draw a sun, and then Mom/Dad would draw the sand and ask the child to draw another part of the picture. The client will be able to pick the color they want to use but will not be able to change the color (this distracts from the focus of the game). While each person is drawing, only encouragement and positive language can be used (i.e. “Wow, you are doing such a great job of drawing that sun! I love all of the detail you are adding!”). After the drawing, I point out all of the positive communication skills used during the activity. I ask how this felt to all involved and discuss how the goal was achieved by working together. The parents and children seem to really enjoy it.
This activity works well for children that struggle with following directions, controlling their impulses, or relinquishing control. It is helpful for parents that are learning to play a more assertive yet supportive role. This may be an appropriate activity for children diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and impulse control disorders. It is useful in dealing with parent-child conflict or with children that simply struggle with following directions or respecting parental authority. I have also done this activity with children with attachment issues because it helps to remind them that the parent/guardian (foster or adoptive) is a safe person who will provide structure and control while also being nurturing and supportive. This activity could also be done in a group setting with the therapist in the lead role, or by having each group member taking a turn in the lead role. It is a simple and fun way to encourage compliance, positive listening skills, following directions, and teamwork.