Making Art Together

Sometimes parents and their children share some very special moments doing art together. As an art therapist, it is a wonderful treat to get to witness a child and parent play with art materials and create something beautiful.

On this occasion, a mother and her young daughter take turns drawing colors and shapes- engaging in a fun, “visual conversation” on the paper.

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Bravery

Many of the kids and their families that come to our clinic are very brave. You have to be to undergo treatment or watch someone you love undergo it. Many of our kids pride themselves for having courage in the face of needles and procedures. “You were really brave” can be the biggest compliment for a child after a scary procedure is finished.  

Acknowledging the bravery of a child also acknowledges that what they just did was scary and they had good reason to feel scared.  At times, it is tempting to downplay scary things to make kids feel less anxious.  However, acknowledging the child’s feelings allows for the child to be heard and find the courage needed to get through it.

Bravery also has many faces in our clinic- maybe it involves squeezing a stuffed animal, yelling, or distracting oneself with pictures of favorite things.  Sometimes it involves imagining a pleasant place.

Watercolor of a relaxing place

Watercolor of a relaxing place

Often, at the art therapy table, before a procedure a child will talk about the procedure, express fears, make art about something he or she likes or express some of the inner turmoil with splatters of paint across a canvas. As art therapists we facilitate this range of expressions- acknowledging worries, creating an art space to contain anxiety, helping to create a comforting place using art materials. All of these things help kids develop coping skills to help them through treatment as well as life’s future challenges.

Egg Bombs!

Everyone knows what it is like to feel frustrated and sometimes it is really hard to figure out a healthy way to express it! For our patients, feelings of frustration can arise when they have to miss school to come to the hospital, fast before a procedure, take medication that tastes yucky or have a shot that is painful.  Art therapist can help kids vent some of their frustrations by encouraging them to create and throw “egg bombs”.

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The idea behind the egg bomb is that the individual allows the egg to represent the thing that he or she is frustrated about.  The egg is then filled with an assortment of things- glitter, sand, flour, paint, feathers, googly eyes, beads. The more variety the better, as it allows the creator to choose items that symbolize the frustration.  It can be helpful to provide strips of paper so that the frustration can be written down, rolled up and placed inside the egg. The outside of the egg can also be decorated to reflect the frustration.

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Once the egg bombs have been created the next step is to throw them! When we do this at the hospital we lay out a large piece of butcher paper on the floor- outside if the weather is nice- so that the egg bombs can explode onto the paper. It is helpful to encourage the egg- bomber to reflect on the frustration represented by each egg before it is thrown. As the contents of the eggs splatter onto the paper a piece of artwork is created. Depending on the needs of the individual this resulting artwork can be destroyed or altered to make something else. 

Egg bombs are a great way to release energy, emotion and get physical with art materials. This process is especially important in our medical setting as it allows the child to feel empowered and in control. Getting a little messy and free with art can also provide a nice contrast to the sterile and more rigid environment of the hospital setting.

How- to prepare the eggs:

  • Use a small, serrated knife to create an opening in the top and bottom of each egg (a chopstick can also be helpful to poke small holes in the shell).
  • Drain out the inside of the eggs.
  • Once drained, run cold water through the eggs to get both the inside and outside clean.
  • Arrange the eggs in a muffin tin and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Once the oven has reached temperature, turn it off and place the eggs inside the oven- leaving them in there until the oven has cooled down. This will give allow the eggs to fully dry.
  • *When preparing eggs that will be used in a medical setting we always make sure that the eggs are really clean by wiping them down with hospital disinfectant wipes before use. 
  • Once the eggs are clean, tape up one of the holes so that the filling placed inside the egg will not fall out.

Happy egg bombing!

Lombardi Magazine Features Tracy’s Kids

The Tracy’s Kids art exhibit at Lombardi Cancer Center is featured in the February edition of the Lombardi Magazine online.

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Here’s the link to a really great article about the exhibit and our program at Lombardi:

http://www2.georgetown.edu/gumc/lombardi/magazine/361034.html

Tis’ the Season for Peeps!

Here we go again- thinking up crazy ideas for the annual Washington Post Peeps Contest! (http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/peeps ) The deadline is this Monday, the 25th, and we are in it to win!

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We have our idea (but you will have to wait to see what it is!), now we just have to figure out how to make our Peep masterpiece.

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A couple years ago when we created our first Peeps Diorama (Peeper Fever) the kids jumped right in, helping to construct the scene and dress the peeps. Although very different from our first entry, I think this year’s diorama is going to be awesome and the kids are going to have a great time making it!

Wish us luck!

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Birthday Celebration!

Last week a new leukemia patient came in to clinic with her mom. She has been kind of shy since diagnosis but we’ve gradually gotten her involved at the art table. She was excited to put  a little sculpture  in our show at Carroll Square.

The tiny red bird’s nest on the right side of the podium is by the birthday girl!

She  just turned five on Tuesday, so she was all excited about her birthday. Her mom prompted her to tell me what they had done to celebrate–“I took my family to see the art show!” She was grinning from ear to ear.

Cool.

“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.

 

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