A Follow-up to the Flamingo

Several weeks ago, we wrote a blog post about a wonderful young artist who makes some fantastic creations during her time in the art therapy room. In June, we told you about a cardboard tube flamingo. Now, we would like to share one of her most recent creations – a coordinated costume for her pet (stuffed) dog.

This young lady always seems to come into the art room with a plan. She doesn’t usually share her thoughts, so we get to enjoy watching her creation come together with each sequin, dot of paint or piece of tape she adds. Of course, we usually have some idea in our heads of what she might be making… But we never want to underestimate her creativity. This six-year-old frequently reminds us of how amazingly resourceful children can be – especially those who face the challenge of cancer treatment.

What we thought was going to be a pretty traditional picture of a sunflower quickly morphed into a costume. And not just any costume… but one that completely coordinated with the artist’s outfit of the day!

She dressed her dog and “walked” him around the art room with pride!

RylieR&Oscar

Tie-Dye Summer Fun!

TIEDYE

Though tie-dye was a summer staple for me as a kid at summer camp, many of the patients and their families that I work with in the clinic had never done a tie-dye project! It was fun to introduce the kids to this colorful activity, and what I enjoyed most was the “happy accident” quality of this kind of art work. It requires little technical skill, but always turns out interesting and beautiful. There’s a surprise element and delayed gratification because you have to wait for a long time to see the end result, which makes it different from other art experiences to which the kids are accustomed.
This can be a pretty messy project, so preparation is key. Luckily, there is a lot of protective gear in an oncology clinic and the kids enjoyed using the medical supplies for artistic purposes. Dressed from head-to-toe in contact isolation gowns (usually worn by staff when going into a room when a child has a contagious illness) and latex gloves (which are plentiful!), each child wrapped rubber bands around plain, white bandanas. I purchased a tie-dye kit with powdered die already in squirt bottles, so all that was needed was water. This made the project more contained than the tie-dye of my youth, which typically involved big buckets, if memory serves. We then wrapped up the bandanas in our handy “Biohazard” baggies to let the die set.
A day later, the kids got to take home a beautiful bandana – great for protecting bald heads in the Texas summer heat. Each one was so unique, and kids and staff really enjoyed getting to see the final project.

The Art of Play

There often are young children in the art room, 2 to 4 year olds who like to play as well as do art. The interaction and storytelling that results is often very rich and has been a wonderful way to engage and connect with these younger patients. Themes of creating havoc and destruction and then finding ways to rescue and repair are played out over and over. Art materials like model magic are used to create rescue ropes, quicksand or mud. Dominoes, blocks and Legos are used to build walls, towers and castles and figures such as knights on horses, dragons and dinosaurs are the characters that play out the story line. The stories vary but the theme often remains consistent…the bad guys create trouble and the hero rescues those in need, and often these roles are interchangeable. The figures fall or are “pushed off a cliff” over and over, and they are rescued in various ways. As the rescue story ensues, it often ends with the rescued figures being repaired, nurtured and cared for.

This age group uses play as their work and these scenarios help them to address the issues they are facing such as loss of control, injury, fear related to treatment, as well as their desire and knowledge about providing support and tender care. Directing the story and being in control of the outcome provides a means for control of that world and an opportunity to address their struggles and strengths through the metaphor of play.

Champions Video!

One of our kids just sent me  the link to a wonderful music video that was made by Camp Simcha this summer. He’s one of a whole bunch of boys in the vidoe.  Check it out!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmI-nSjLtHE

And while you’re at it, take another look at Tracy’s Kids Keep Your Head up!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I91AVXNsb1c

Now you’re inspired for the rest of the day.

Summer Mosaic Project

As part of a summer project, two local high school students have been working hard with our kids over the last few weeks on a mosaic project. The finished work will be displayed (location to be announced) with the goal of educating the public about the benefits of art therapy. Both kids and parents have helped out this week, arranging hundreds of little glass tiles to create this beautiful piece of art. Kids were also invited to use clay to make their own mosaic tiles featuring whatever they wanted to include in the landscape. Their creations include flowers, leaping dolphins, a black widow spider, a leprechaun–and a “flying potato” (contributed by a very creative two year old!).

Here are some pictures of the work in progress: 

Our project leaders, Mave and Rachel

Our project leaders, Maeve and Rachel

Coming up with the idea

The landscape

The landscape

Drawing ideas

Clay objects created by the kids

Close up of clay creations

Close up of clay creations

Laying out the mosiac tiles

Laying out the mosaic tiles

Tracy’s Kids and Junior Monet

The Tracy’s Kids gallery at the Junior Monet website is beginning to fill up with wonderful artwork from our kids. Here is the link to the gallery

and a couple of photos giving you an idea of the great products you can order–they make great gifts and they benefit Tracy’s Kids.

A selection of Tracy's Kids products on Junior Monet

A selection of Tracy’s Kids products on Junior Monet

Junior Monet has started a great new campaign called “Art for a Cure” and “Art for a Cause.” If you purchase items from these collections, Junior Monet will make an additional donation to Tracy’s Kids! Take a look, happy shopping, and keep checking back for more art from our kids!

Art for a Cause benefits Tracy's Kids

Art for a Cause benefits Tracy’s Kids

Scribbling Siblings 2013

Hi! My name is Amanda Andrews and I’m the newest member of the Tracy’s Kids art therapy team at Children’s National Medical Center.  I’m an art therapy graduate of George Washington University, where I discovered my passion for working with oncology populations and in medical settings. I am here for the summer to work primarily with the siblings of the children who are here for treatment and appointments, but I also get to interact and make art with many of the patients themselves.
 
The siblings I work with get an opportunity to create their own art work at the art center in the waiting room – We like to call it “Scribblin’ Siblings”.  It’s a great place for them to share, create, and explore while they wait.
Since it’s summer and these kids are spending a lot of their time in a boring waiting room, I try to keep things fun! I’ve been working to create various, inviting themes each week to keep things interesting and to provide an environment that allows the kids to be themselves.
 
image
 
We’ve been working on projects like these:
 
Make your own giant shield
Creating superheroes with super powers
Make and fly paper airplanes
 
The very hungry caterpillar
catepillar string
   
Bones and X-Rays
xrays
 
Make your own turtle
turtle bowl
 
 
 
It’s been great getting to know the kids who are here each week, becoming the art table regulars. Some of them have even started teaching ME how to make things and showing me ideas that I can share with everyone else.
 
I’m looking forward to a fun and creative summer with these siblings!  
 

A great resource for moms of our littlest kids

The mom of one of our patients sent me this link. It’s about a great idea that a little cancer patient’s mom came up with–a little tube-top with a pocket to protect her daughter’s medication cathether tubes. Many of our kids have “tubeys” so they can get intravenous medication without a needle stick, but they have to be careful not to pull the tubes or get them dirty. We do a lot of play with the little ones, putting pretend “tubeys” in dolls or teddy bears and letting the kids practice administering “medication,” cleaning, and generally getting more comfortable with the tubes. You can read the article below from Seattle Children’s hospital about one solution to help our littlest kids cope with their “tubeys.”

http://pulse.seattlechildrens.org/one-mothers-creation-provides-a-valuable-tool-for-tiny-cancer-patients/

I have also included a page depicting a medication catheter from our comic book for kids with cancer, “Kids vs. Cancer,” by Tracy Councill and Linda Kim and published in 2011 by Georgetown University Hospital’s Child Life Department with a grant from the Bear Necessities Foundation.

Tubey page from "Kids vs. Cancer" by Tracy Councill and Linda Kim

Tubey page from “Kids vs. Cancer” by Tracy Councill and Linda Kim

Drawing Food!

A lot of times when our kids have to wait to eat until after a medical procedure, they choose to do art about food. Sculpting pizzas, cakes, cupcakes, drawing hamburgers, fruit, or ice cream is very common at the art table. Many of the kids drawing all this food have gone without breakfast–and sometimes lunch too–waiting for a test or scan that involves sedation. I always thought it was curious that of all the things that seemed to help kids who couldn’t eat, drawing their favorite foods was a big one!

photo

An article in the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science may shed some light on this phenomenon. Researchers asked subjects to draw picture of  cupcakes, pizza, strawberries or green peppers. They found that drawing pizza elevated the subjects’ moods by 28%, cupcakes and strawberries by 27% and 22% respectively, green peppers only 1%. So maybe our kids knew intuitively that drawing food, even when they couldn’t have it, would make them feel better.

Here’s the citation and a link to the full article if you want to know more:

G. Privitera, B. Moshaty, F. Marzullo and M. Misenheimer, “Expressing Food through Art: Evidence for a Nutrient-Specific Effect on Mood,” Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science, Vol. 3 No. 2, 2013, pp. 163-167. doi: 10.4236/jbbs.2013.32016.

http://www.scirp.org/journal/jbbs/

Watch Out for the T-Rex!!!

Today one of our young patients came in with a friend and the two of them spent the morning using the relaxation mats in our clinic to build an elaborate house complete with passageways, doors and a roof. For the patient, having his own space in the house that had a roof over it was particularly important. When the roof was on his house he didn’t want anyone to be able to see him. His mom and I worked to fulfill his need only to find moments later a “strong wind” had come through and knocked the house down! The strong wind quickly developed into a T-Rex that was determined to destroy everything in its path. The two kids giggled and jumped up and down in delight as they tumbled over the large mats. Once the T-Rex was gone we worked to rebuild the house until… (you guessed it!) another T-Rex came along to knock the whole thing down again!

IMG_8098

The theme of creation and destruction is one that we sometimes see with kids. As adults, we usually view creation as a linear process- we come up with an idea, work to create it and hope that in the process and after it is completed that it doesn’t fall apart. For some kids however, the creation process can be less linear and more circular with equal joy and importance on the creation as well as the destruction of the artwork. At times destroying something can be far more therapeutic than making it!

In this patient’s case, the creation of a place where he could hide and not be seen by anyone made him feel safe and protected, while the later destruction of the house allowed him to feel more in control and powerful. The process seemed to validate both of these feelings and help relieve his anxiety about the medical care he received today.