Archives for December 2012

Keeping it Clean

The Tracy’s Kids Art Rooms in every location are a welcome oasis of creative chaos in the hospital environment. We like to have a colorful selection of art supplies on hand to inspire young artists. Many kids leave their recent works in the art room for everyone to see.


Art Room Display Board at Lombardi

All this is inviting, but since we work with kids with suppressed immune systems, we have to be very careful to keep all this stuff clean. We keep down the clutter as much as we can, sending artwork home or filing it away for safekeeping, but most importantly WE CLEAN!

 Hospital Grade Disinfectant

Every day the art tables, chairs, markers and pencils are cleaned with hospital disinfectant wipes, and EVERYTHING in the area—toys, brushes, containers, clay tools—is cleaned at least once a week. We want the kids to be comfortable and have fun, so we do our best to provide an experience that is both spontaneous and safe!

Being together

I have learned a lot in my 20+ years working with pediatric cancer patients and their families. After I had been on the job about six months, I had a revelation of sorts. It occurred to me that most people are simply unaware that kids can get cancer. I was a young parent myself, worried about developmental milestones and saving for college–but not about cancer!

Robin’s nest

But knowing what I knew changed my perspective on my kids. I was still anxious about the future, but I also truly cherished the present. I made sure that we did lots of fun stuff together, spent time with relatives and told stories about my own childhood. I wanted to really know my kids and help them know me–and I was grateful for the time we had together every day.

It didn’t make me a perfect parent–far from it–but we had some real good times.

Now, after Newtown, we are all painfully aware that bad things really do happen. In a time when the world seems more full of sadness and loss than ever, I am reminded of the lesson of this work–love those you hold dear, and make time for fun every day.

“Look Mom, I’m Sewing!”

Recently, our patients at Georgetown participated in Operation Sock Monkey, creating hand- sewn sock monkeys to donate to kids affected by Hurricane Sandy. Many of the kids had never picked up a needle and thread before so this project provided an opportunity to learn a new skill.

One little girl was especially excited as she learned to sew for the first time. She called her mom over to watch her make her tiny pink stitches.  As she sewed the first leg of her sock monkey she exclaimed, “Look Mom! I’m sewing!”.  Her mom took pictures and there were many “Oos” and “Ahhs” as we all shared in this exciting first-time experience.

As an art therapist (and someone who loves to sew!) it was a joy to witness and share in this little girl’s first experience of sewing.


Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

Throughout the year, the Tracy’s Kids art therapists help children decorate their hospital rooms with handmade creations, trying to make a foreign place feel a little bit more like home. Not surprisingly, these decorations tend to become even more festive and prolific during the holidays!

Even after an otherwise very cranky afternoon, one little boy quickly agreed that he wanted to have a white Christmas in his room! Soon, sticker snowflakes sparkled in his window and paper snowflakes floated down from his ceiling. In about twenty minutes, his room and his mood had completely changed. He has been asking for more snowflakes almost every time we see him. A full blown blizzard may be coming in the near future!

Twisted Paper Snowflakes

For the children who have to stay in the hospital over the holidays, a few pieces of paper and appropriately applied tape can make a huge difference. Even when it is fifty degrees and rainy outside, it can be snowing inside Children’s National Medical Center.

Below is a link to directions on how you can make your own twisty paper snowflakes. They can be made in any size and with any color paper. We hope you enjoy trying these on your own, and you can see how quickly any ordinary room can become a real winter wonderland! 

Happy Holidays from Tracy’s Kids at Children’s National Medical Center!!!

Holiday Cheer!

A proud house builder!

A friend of the Tracy’s Kids program at Georgetown generously donated a whole bunch of pre-built gingerbread houses and candy to decorate them. Thank-you, Shazalyn Cavin Winfrey of SCW Designs, for making Monday at the clinic fun!

Making gingerbread houses at the clinic


Winter Ballerinas

I am always searching for new, seasonal art projects for the patients, their families, and the staff to do. This helps the patients pass the time in the clinic, learn new techniques, and explore their creativity. The addition of all this artwork to the clinic walls makes the patients proud to spend time her, especially when their artwork is displayed.  When these snowflake ballerinas first made their appearance at the clinic, all the adults asked for directions, staff and parents. First fold an 8×11 piece of paper into a triangle and cut off the extra strip.  Put that strip aside for another step.  Fold the triangle twice more, point to point, to make a smaller triangle.  Cut tip off triangle where all folds come together. About two inches down from that point, cut a wavy line across. This makes the skirt. Proceed to cut pieces off sides of skirt as you would a paper Snowflake.






Next take extra strip of paper from beginning and fold in half lengthwise.  On the fold draw a body of a ballerina. Cut this out. Open snowflake skirt and slip folded ballerina body through top hole until skirt is under snowflake. Open ballerina body and hang. Enjoy!


The Art of War

Going through a long term medical treatment can at times feel like a battle. Not only the disease itself, but also the ups and downs of treatment, the medicines, and the blood draws, can feel like an assault to the person going through treatment. For children this can be difficult to process, but art can allow them to make sense of this experience. For some patients, the medical experience finds its way into play and artwork in the form of battles, swords and protective armor.

Recently, a patient created a submarine equipped with toothpick guns and protective force fields made from pipe cleaners and paper clips. Another patient made a protective shield using mosaic tiles and foam core. Both works of art express the patient’s need for protection, feelings of vulnerability and the experience of medical treatment as a battle.


Lots going on!

There’s a lot going on at Tracy’s Kids this week. Our show at Carroll Square Gallery, 975 F St., NW goes up on Tuesday and opens with a reception from 4:00-6:00 on Friday afternoon. We will have artwork by kids from all five Tracy’s Kids programs, including our newest one at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

 We’ll have paintings, drawings, and sculptures by kids of all ages and young adults—including a poet who plans to perform a short reading at the reception. We’ll put up lots of pictures after the show goes up, so check back in a day or two.


One piece that we’re really excited about is the premiere of our music video. Inspired by artist Wayne White, who created a Big Head of LBJ and other cardboard puppets, the kids in our Summer Art Workshops made any kind of “Big Head” they wanted to, and danced wearing their heads to Andy Grammer’s song “Keep your Head Up.” It’s fun and whimsical and inspiring. We hope our local friends will come see it all at the gallery, and in a few days we’ll post the video online for everyone to enjoy, so stay tuned!

Virtual Penpals


A hospital stay can be lonely and scary for many of the children that we work with.  These feelings are especially strong for the patients who are placed on isolation precautions.  When a child is placed under isolation they cannot leave their room at all and can have no contact with any of the other children staying on the unit.  You can imagine how difficult this type of seclusion would be for anyone, much less a child.

 Recently, we found a way to help three little girls who were on isolation connect by using visual media so that these little girls could become virtual pen pals.  Using an App on our IPad, we had one of the girls write a story.  She chose to write a story about how her doll helps her when she’s in the hospital.  The story included pictures which she had drawn and inserted into the story.  We then emailed the story to another little girl who replied with her own illustrated story.  These girls were able to make contact with each other and share their feelings about what it’s like to be lonely and stuck in a hospital room.  Through their “virtual exchange” they were able to express themselves and ease their feelings of lonesomeness.  There’s nothing virtual about the value of their friendship.

2012 Carroll Square Art Show

Tracy’s Kids is excited to announce our 2012 Art Show at the Carroll Square Gallery!
December 14, 2012 – January 25, 2013
Carroll Square Gallery
Washington, DC

We hope you will join us at our opening reception on Friday, December 14th from 4PM to 6PM!

We look forward to celebrating the artwork and many accomplishments made by our talented artists throughout the year.

Carroll Square Gallery
975 F Street NW, Washington, DC 20004

Opening Reception: Friday, December 14, 2012, 4:00–6:00pm