Playing at a Distance
As a consultant working with the child life team of Sabara Children’s Hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I am so grateful to be in close contact with them during the COVID19 crisis. I meet regularly with the clinicians online to discuss their work with children and families (currently they are working at a distance, as they are sheltering in place). In order to support their challenging work during the pandemic, we have spent the last several sessions together participating in creative arts activities, such as the ones I have been blogging about. Today, we did one of my favorites, Wonders of the World, adapted from Rebecca Carmen’s Helping kids heal: 75 Activities to help children recover from trauma and loss. As we play together via What’sApp, the team benefits from the parallel process of participating in a relaxing, inspiring activity which they can then bring to the children and families in their care.
The Wonders of the World activity is meant to instill hope and resilience in children and adults who may have difficulty picturing their lives beyond the walls of sheltering in place. It has been used with hospitalized and traumatized children and teens for the same reasons. Sometimes it is hard to imagine our lives beyond the present situation. It can be a challenge for us to move our bodies when we are leading a more sedentary existence. This activity is a great way to get us up, moving, and interacting physically when we do a life-sized body tracing. More conversation and joy tend to occur when we do it on the larger scale, but it still has therapeutic value and is enjoyable when done on a smaller scale with the outline of a body on drawing paper.
I have conducted this activity with nurses, hospital play specialists, social workers, psychologists, hospital administrators, and children in the Czech Republic and Japan. Thank you to the Czech and Japanese students and professionals in the photos.
- Drawing paper with body outline (Links to an external site.) or butcher paper on which to trace your body, should you decide to do this with a friend or relative. Participants can also be invited to draw their own body outline on a piece of paper.
- Crayons/Markers/Watercolor pencils/Paint
You can use the body outline provided, or on large butcher paper, whiteboard (or sidewalk chalk if you want to do it outside!), have someone trace your body. The body tracing can be done lying on the floor/ground or standing against a wall.
Decorate the body outline with facial features and clothes.
Imagine your life in the future outside the pandemic quarantine. Then draw/paint the following items on the outline or anywhere on the paper that seems appropriate:
- What you want your eyes to see in the future
- What you want your ears to hear in the future
- What you want your nose to smell in the future
- What you want your mouth to taste in the future
- What you want your heart to feel in the future
- What you want your hands to do or make in the future
- Where you want your feet to take you in the future
- Consider playing music in the background to accompany drawing (kid’s choice), maybe a childhood favorite.
- If a participant is reluctant because they feel they cannot draw, encourage them to pretend they are an artist.
The sharing out is one of the best parts of this activity, both during the artwork and after.
Today, Jess shared: “When I imagine what could happen, I think of my friends all at the bar – so here we all are hanging out at the bar. I am missing my muay thai. The classes were in the middle of the process of my self perfection. I want to go to the beach and the sand and to smell the smell of the beach. The wave represents things coming and going.”
Dora shared: “I put different colors for different feelings and senses. I want to be in nature, because when we go out now, it is just buildings and concrete. I want to hear the wind in the palm tree. I am listening to music a lot. It helps make the days more light. Here is a bird singing. I would like to hear news about a cure for COVID, so I put medicine here. I want to see landscapes, the Christ the Redeemer in Rio, because my best friend lives there and I won’t be able to be there now.
I want to smell the wet ground after rain. I would like to eat the cheesy bread of my grandma, a very special recipe. I would like to feel myself with all things that make me feel safe. We aren’t in a safe context right now. I want to touch things and people and hugs, touching things without fear. My feet want to go to the sea and the sand, and I also put paths to different routes and ways to walk without fear and with freedom.”
Leandro shared: “I think like a kid. At first I was doing philosophy, and it was too hard to think of big ways to change the world because I am so tired. But then, I tried smaller concrete things, and it was easier. I would like to be in nature now and to eat vegan cheese bread and good coffee.
My feet are on the beach between the water and the sand. My hands hold an electric guitar because that is what I want to hear. My eyes want to see the forrest and to smell the forrest – the trees and the green.
My heart is a yin yang because I want to feel good things, but I understand that it doesn’t happen every time. I understand the balance of the good and the bad. “