2017 APT Conference Emphasis on Mindfulness By Parie Faridnia, PsyD, RPT, RYT

As a play therapist and yoga teacher, I was pleasantly surprised to notice the emergence of new mindfulness toys, games, and resources across multiple categories at the 35th
Annual International Association for Play Therapy conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At the Self-Esteem Shop, I found simple, clear, and quick strategies within children’s books, activity cards, and sand play (even a miniature dragon that’s meditating!). The focus on using mindfulness in play therapy extended beyond toys and resources into. workshops. For example, there was a workshop entitled, “Bubbles and beyond: Play Therapy Interventions for Anchoring, Relaxation, Imagery, and Mindfulness for Children,” presented by Angela Cavett, Ph.D., RPT-S that playfully described how deep breathing and other calming techniques can be applied in the play therapy room.

One of the new resources I was most excited to use when I returned from the conference was the “Mindful Kids” card deck that was so cleverly created by Whitney Stuart and Mina Braun. These cards are full of mindfulness games, visualizations, and exercises to help children calm, ground, and relax themselves, improve their focus, and practice loving-kindness. The authors made sure the cards represented children of diverse backgrounds and the exercises were easy to follow and included modifications for children of all ability levels. I am grateful that the authors offered simple techniques that are brief and easy to execute—they even fit inside a short attention span!

The “Mindful Kids” deck, the “Yoga Pretzels” deck, and children’s books like “I am Yoga” by Susan Verde and Peter Reynolds and “Peaceful Piggy Meditation” by Kerry Lee Maclean, have found their home and are well-loved in my play
therapy office. I don’t typically utilize them in a prescribed way, I simply have the books and cards laid out in the sensory/comfort pillow corner of the play room, and let the child be naturally drawn toward them if that is something they need for their healing journey. I’ve seen these tools played with by children in the beginning of session to help transition and settle into the play world, to calm and soothe after a particularly emotionally charged or physically intense activity, or at the end of session to help transition back into regular life
outside of the playroom. Collectively, these resources showcase a bevy of diverse options to make calming strategies
easier and more accessible for play therapists. In my practice, I have noticed that when kids can settle in and connect to their breath, they can more easily connect to themselves, and in turn can better connect with others. It’s wonderful to come back from the conference, armed with an array of new resources to offer, giving children more tools they can utilize to ease the intensity of their big feelings, one breath at a time.

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