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!http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-3D-Paper-Snowflake 

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.

Artwork By Tracy’s Kids On Display at the Carroll Square Gallery

Tracy’s Kids art show at the Carroll Square Gallery

Washington, DC

December 14, 2012 through January 25, 2013


“Big Heads” by patients at Lombardi Cancer Center. Artists will star in a music video debuting at the exhibition featuring their work.


Opening Reception: Friday, December 14, 2012 | 4:00PM-6:00PM


Carroll Square Gallery
975 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
Gallery Hours: Monday-Friday | 8:00AM-6:00PM


We hope to see you there!


Miniature Worlds

Yesterday I stopped in at the US Botanical Gardens on the National Mall  in Washington, DC. They have an amazing holiday display, including a Fairy-themed Holiday Train and “The Mall in Miniature,” a recreation of many of the buildings on the National Mall made of natural materials.  Pine cones, willow branches, acorns and other natural materials combine to make amazing, rustic recreations with incredible details. I have included a number of pictures of these amazing sights.

Fork in the track

Log Tunnel

The Capitol

These displays were made by professionals, and they are simply amazing. But many participants in Tracy’s Kids love to make miniature environments. One year we made a miniature hospital for the Washington Post Peeps Contest. Last year’s Tracy’s Kids exhibit at Carroll Square Gallery featured a whole complex of playgrounds made by kids in our program.

“Peeper Fever”

Carroll Square 2011

As the creator of a miniature world, a young patient can escape from the world of hospitals and limitations and enter an imaginary world where things are exactly as they want them to be. Pretending doesn’t make it so, of course, but activating the imagination awakens hope and helps kids cope with the challenges ahead.

The Art Space

The art space is a really important part of the experience of the families and patients who come to our clinic. The space helps to transport the patient from the sterile environment of the hospital into an artist’s studio; the art table providing respite from the examination table. No medical procedures are allowed in the art space!

It is also a place where patients can display their artwork- placing their own mark on the landscape of the hospital they spend so much time in. For our kids, the presence and consistency of this space, filled with paintings and pottery, can also be very comforting.  For our parents, coloring with crayons or the smell of Play-doh can bring back happy childhood memories. This space is a kind of sanctuary that makes the medical work the kids and their families do manageable and enjoyable.

One patient invented an orange “monster” called “Bob,” whose portrait hangs proudly on the art closet door. Many kids see him and create their own versions of Bob—indirectly exchanging ideas with patients they may not even know.

We discovered just how keenly aware our patients are of the art space when one of our clay pieces, a tiny green and red dragon, was taken home after living on our shelf for the past year. In the days following the dragon’s departure kids would walk into the art area, look around at the many little objects and paintings and ask alarmed, “Where is the dragon?”  Apparently, he had become the unspoken mascot of our art space! As the days passed more kids continued to ask us where the dragon was and we soon realized that we needed to create a replacement. Here she is guarding the artwork…

Felting Fun (or not)

Having an intern to supervisor is exciting and exhausting. The influx of creativity, ideas and enthusiasm offsets the additional work supervising an intern means. Recently my intern introduced me to the technique of felting. Here are some examples of our first attempts at wet/dry felting.

While some people found the long process fun and relaxing, some had a harder time. This next image is when I attempted to teach the technique to a friend. Her heart was quite holey!

While I do like this technique, I tend to want to add to and mix all my medias.  I decided to sew my star and add felted beads to make this flower nest.  Happy felting!