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.
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
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.”

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!


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.

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!


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.

Happy Independence Day!!

Independence is  a wonderful thing–whether celebrating America’s birthday or just the idea of acting independently, we can relate. Here is a re-post of some of the American Flag art pieces we have made this summer and the process of creating them. Nothing like giving a kid a syringe full of acrylic paint to let them know you trust them!

Lombardi FlagLWC FlagCCBD FlagIMG_3078Flag process 6Flag process 5Flag process 2American Flag

Art from Art Therapists

At the American Art Therapy Association Conference last week in Seattle, I bought $5 worth of raffle tickets to benefit  the Multicultural Committee’s Scholarship Fund. Much to my surprise, at the end of the closing reception they drew the tickets and called out my name! Here is a picture of the banner, hanging in the art area at the clinic at Lombardi.

American Art Therapy Association Multicultural Commitee Art Banner

American Art Therapy Association Multicultural Commitee Art Banner


A SpongeBob SquarePants Summer!

Initially, patients become involved and engaged in the art-making process for a number of different reasons. Some patients love and have always loved creating, while others need to observe the art therapists’ continual presence and empathic support before they are willing to participate. Some patients need to see active involvement by patients their age or by members of their family. Some patients are searching for a creative outlet through which they can express themselves, while other patients are searching for an activity to help them pass the time. Some patients wait until a particular medium, material or process interests them.

This summer, a popular television character, SpongeBob SquarePants, has captured the attention of many of our patients and their families. A movement that began with one patient experimenting on an over-sized coloring sheet, has transformed into many patients creating brightly colored images of SpongeBob and his friends to fill the open wall space in the art room. SpongeBob’s familiarity has encouraged patients to participate in art-making at the clinic for the first time, allowed patients to collaborate and work closely with family members, feel connected to other patients in the clinic and gain a sense of pride and accomplishment, among other things. Thanks, SpongeBob!



Kari Kant and Tracy’s Kids

A couple weeks ago American flags created by patients from the DC and Virginia Tracy’s Kids locations were featured in an art exhibit along side the work of artist, Kari Kant. The art show was a lot of fun and we were so happy for the opportunity to share the kids’ artwork!  Thank you again to Kari Kant and to everyone who came out to show their support!

Here are some pictures from the show: 

Tracy's Kids team with Kari Kant and Sabra Rogers

Tracy’s Kids team with Kari Kant and Sabra Rogers

Gretchen and Jess in front of the found object flag created at CCBD of Northern VA.

Gretchen and Jess in front of the found object flag created at CCBD of Northern VA.

Tracy and Kate in front of the syringe painted flag created at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital.

Tracy and Kate in front of the syringe painted flag created at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital.

String quartet

String quartet


Hooray for Scribbles!

Young children like to experiment with paint. To a three or four-year old, mixing colors is scientific enquiry. What happens when you mix blue and yellow?  red and yellow?  red and green? all the colors together?–when you’re little it’s a revelation. Many small children perform these experiments over and over, trying out combinations until the paper is covered in what looks like a blackish blob.

Art and Science Converge

Art and Science Converge

Sometimes adults wonder if there is something wrong when a little one’s paintings turn to black. They see them start with beautiful bright colors and then come up with black-ish soup. Does all that black suggests depression? sadness? a lack of imagination? In most cases it is just the opposite. Creative exploration without judgment is important to cognitive development. Pretty is not always the point. Kids need to try out every imaginable combination for themselves, over and over, to understand how what they do influences what shows up on the paper. So next time your little person asks to paint, say yes–and turn them loose!


During a recent visit to the clinic’s art room, a very creative six-year-old immediately began gathering materials – several giant paper towel rolls, some masking tape, and pink construction paper.  This young lady always has a very clear plan of what she wants to make in the art room, but this was obviously going to be an extra-special creation. 

Our young artist worked quietly and very intently at the art table, never looking up. Eventually, she gathered a few more materials, including orange and black paint, extra-large googly eyes and a bunch of pink feathers.  The art therapists waited in anticipation to see what she was going to create that morning.  A few helping hands, careful placement of tape and a couple of strategic scissor snips later…


And we had a bright pink flamingo, with a smiling orange beak make its debut in the art room.  It is has been great fun to have our friend, the flamingo, sitting on our counter and watching over the creativity that happens in the art room everyday.