Friday, November 30, 2012


We played this game last week for Thanksgiving.  The patients loved it, and we were able to connect it to our daily theme.

The game is similar to musical chairs.  To play the game, have each person choose a Thanksgiving name, such as pumpkin pie, potatoes, gravy, whipped cream, cranberries, etc.  One person is "it" and stands in the middle of the circle.  Everyone else sits on a chair.

The person who is "it" calls out two names, for example cranberries and pumpkin pie.  Those two people then change places.  The person may call out names as fast as they want, repeatedly call the same name, or even call out three names at a time--all to make it more interesting and challenging for the players.  Play continues until the person who is "it" calls out "Cornucopia!"  At this time, everyone has to get up and change seats, the person who is "it" finds a chair, and the person who did not get a seat becomes the new "it."

We used this game to talk about boundaries.  After playing the game for a while, we had everyone move their chairs closer together.  We discussed how personal space varies from person to person and how the game forced people to get in each other's space.

Game found online here

Social Skills Jenga

Jenga is one of the most used games at our hospital!  We use this version on the day we talk about developing social skills.

I have a Jenga set with a colored dot on one end of each piece.  The dots are red, green, blue or purple.

Play Jenga as normal.  When a player pulls out a Jenga piece, look at the color of the dot.  Based on the dot color, the player has to do a specific thing.  Examples include:

Red = Name a social skill
Blue = Compliment the person to your left
Green = Recreation Therapist presents a social situation and player says how he would react in that situation
Purple = Set a goal to improve a social skill

Hand-print Circle

   Butcher Paper
   Construction Paper

   Have each patient trace both hands on a piece of construction paper.  On one hand, have them write down what they are in treatment to work on and problems they currently face.  On the other hand, have them write down specific goals they want to accomplish and their dreams for the future.

   Glue everyone's hands together in a circle on the butcher paper.  On the inside of the circle write down and discuss the things that will help them achieve their goals and be healthy (positive coping skills).  On the outside of the circle, write down and discuss things that will prevent them from changing their lives and being happy (negative coping skills).

   Compare the two lists.  If you want, you can cut up the outside and talk about how we need to eliminate these negative things in our lives in order to accomplish the good.  You could even display the hand-print circle in the group room for a few days to remind the patients what they are here to work on.

Adapted from an activity done by Jill Comarell, rec therapist at PCMC Child Residential and Day Treatment Program.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Purpose: to help individuals realize their positive traits and talents

   Butcher paper
   Art Supplies (markers)

   Each person will be traced on the butcher paper so there emerges a silhouette of their body.  After everyone has been traced, take turns writing in positive qualities about each person, and sharing what you what was written   For example, if a person is very caring, you might write that over where the heart is in the body.  If someone is smart, you could write that over the head.  Continue until everyone's silhouettes is full of compliments and positive traits.

   Talk about how it feels to hear other people tell you such positive things.  Talk about how even though things on the outside might be rough, inside we all have good qualities.  Discuss the compliments each person received.  As if it's hard to believe everything nice that was said?  How come?  How does knowing other people see these positive traits affect how you feel about yourself, and how you want to be?

Variations:  Do this as a family therapy activity.  Talk about how despite the difficulties a family may have had, the goodness still remains.  Talk about how remembering the good qualities in one another can help the family get through the struggles they are currently facing.

Idea from Karl Jensen, recreation therapist at Telos Residential Treatment Center.

A-Z Leisure Education

Purpose:  to help patients identify positive ways to spend free time and develop new leisure interests

   Magnets (or cards) lettered A-Z

Have each person pick as many letters as they want.  Starting with the letter A, have the person who drew that letter come up with one activity he can do when he has free time that is appropriate and positive.  After he identifies at least one activity, open it up for the group and see how many ideas they can come up with for each letter.

If you want, you can have the participants keep a list for future reference and the next time somone is bored have them pick an activity from the list to try.

Spider Web Activity

   Yarn or Rope
   Beach ball or balloons

For this activity, everyone stands (or sits) in a circle.  Person 1 says something nice about someone across the circle from them (Person 2) and throws them the yarn.  Person 2 then says something nice about someone else (Person 3) and throws the yarn.  Continue complimenting each other and passing the yarn until you have a nice, connected spider web.

Talk about what it was like to compliment other people.  Ask how it felt to hear the positive things others had to say about you.

Throw a balloon or beach ball onto the spider web net, and try bouncing the ball.  Notice how the ball won't fall through the spider web.  Talk about how positive relationships with people connect us to them and prevent us from falling or failing in life.    Demonstrate what happens when people let go of the yarn and the holes get bigger.

Have each person think of one individual they can work on developing a better relationship with and make a specific goal about how to accomplish that.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Emotion Painting

Patients will gain an understanding of how much of a role emotion plays in artmaking. The connection between line, color, texture, shape etc. will be explored as patients create a painting which expresses a certain emotion or feeling.

What You Need:
  • a large sheet of heavy paper (or canvas)
  • acrylic paint (for older students)
  • tempera paint - or crayons (for younger students)
  • paintbrushes
  • water
  • containers
  • mixing trays (could be styrofoam trays or sheets of old cardboard)
  • paper towels
  • newspapers
  • old shirts or painting smocks
  • music (various styles)
  • scrap newsprint
  • pencils
What You Do:
  1. Talk about emotion. What does the word emotion mean? What kinds of emotions do we experience on a day-to-day basis.
  2. Talk about color. How do certain colors make us feel? Why?
  3. Talk about line. What kinds of lines are there? Straight, jagged, squiggly, zig-zag, etc.
  4. Warm up by having patients draw lines (using pencil on newsprint) based upon certain feelings. IE: draw happy lines, draw angry lines, etc.
  5. You can also encourage your patients to draw lines based on the music they are hearing (IE: jazz, classical, pop etc.)
  6. Once everyone is "warmed up" begin working with the paint. Make sure each patient has a paintbrush, water and access to at least the three primary colors (red, yellow and blue).
  7. Give a quick demonstration of how paints are used properly (always clean brushes before dipping into a new fresh color ... treat the brushes well by not squishing them down on the paper etc. Also, review color mixing (yellow + blue = green; red + yellow = orange; red + blue = violet)
  8. Everyone can then decide on an emotion or feeling which they will express using various paint colors, lines, textures and shapes.
  9. Allow your patients to take as long as they need to create the final work, encouraging them to stand back from time to time to have a really good look at what they are doing. Is it moving in the direction they want it to? Are the desired feelings starting to emerge?
  10. Remember too that this is a very intuitive and subjective exercise and as such the works should not be analyzed by the instructor, but rather by the kinderartists themselves.
  11. When the paintings are complete, hang them up and see how others interpret the work. Does everyone see similar emotions in the same works? Yes? No? Why? Refer

This idea was found via

How to Draw a Zentangle

Zentangle Art is a great way to promote relaxation and creativity for your patients. I found this great HOW TO from the website SO simple but can have a great impact on the patients! This project works great in art therapy sessions to help the patients learn a new skill and fill confident in their own and unique art piece. 

Begin small, work on a piece of paper approximately 3.5" x 3.5" (9cm x 9cm).

I am using a pen for the initial steps so it shows on the scan but you should use a pencil.
Draw a border around the square of paper, about a half inch (1cm) from the edge as shown. Do it freehand and let it be 'rough'.

Draw a 'String'
Again, with a pencil, draw a light random line within the border - it can be anything but keep it simple to begin with. Rick and Maria call these lines 'strings', which helps you to visualise the kind of lines that work. You are aiming to create areas in which to doodle. Experiment until you get something you are happy with.
Fill Your Zentangle

Switch to a black fine liner pen and begin to fill the shapes made by your string. Oh... and put some soft music on and allow your mind to wander. These simple patterns are called 'tangles'. You can see lots of them at
Are You Relaxed?

Keep going. Don't fret over what pattern to use, you will find as you do more, that the next pattern seems to suggest itself.
My example here is very rough and I seem to have misplaced the border while scanning, but I'm sure you get the idea.
As you can see, I have worked up to the border, making my Zentangle a square, however, you don't have to do that - leaving white space can work well too.
All Done

                                                                                                                        Here is my rather rough and ready example finished.
Erase all the pencil lines and use a little shading in order to make your drawing more three dimensional.

Childhood Memory Art Therapy

Give patients 10 minutes to think about a good childhood memory.
After have patients share their memory with the group. Have them specify how they felt especially their emotions (happy, excited, adventurous etc.)  After encourage patients to be creative and make a unique design.  Have them depict their memory in an art form such as watercolor, paints, color pencils, crayons, or write the memory out.

Relationships Art Therapy Project

I found this awesome activity from

Choose the people who matter most to you in life and create unique art for each.

Are you the type of person that feels stretched too thin? Do you try to please and accommodate everyone under the sun? Could you be spending more of your time on the people that matter most in your life? If so, this may be a good art therapy exercise for you.

There’s only so much time in a day, a week, a month, a year, and even a lifetime to do the things we want. There’s just never enough time. We live life one moment to the next and when it comes time to reflect on those moments, we want them to be well-spent, memorable, and hopefully un-regrettable.

Here’s a simple activity that you can do to help prioritize and focus your energy on the people that matter most to you. I’m talking about the people that help you maximize the moments of joy in your life. It’s easy to become misguided and distracted, and to focus on the bad energy that surrounds you. Therefore, sometimes it is helpful to focus on the people that make you smile, treat you right, and really have a positive influence in your life.

So, for this exercise, you can use as many, or as few, materials as you like. This is meant to be as open and unique as you want with regards to the art you will create. This activity may need to be spread out over some time, but it will be well worth it.
Okay, think of 5-15 people in your life that matter most to you. In other words, if you had to choose 5-15 people to go with you to a deserted island, who would they be? Write their names down, and try to limit who you take to 15.

Now, create a unique piece of art for each individual that reflects their relationship with you and why you chose them to go with you to the island. You can draw, paint, photograph, collage, craft, or sculpt anything you like. There are no limitations on the art materials you use or the art you create. It could be a poem or a painting or whatever you think fits best.

When you’re done creating your pieces of artwork, you should have some newfound positive energy in your life that you can then put forth with the people you named. Use that energy and motivation to call them up or do something fun, whatever it is that you want to do, as long as you’re spending time and energy with these people.