Our little Mike in the Social Adventures group is a young 5 and wears an angry expression on his face. He has such difficulty transitioning into the group, between activities, even within conversations, that he just can’t relax and enjoy himself. Other kids in the group share some of this rigidity and transition difficulties, which causes them to experience stress, anger and disappointment as well. Body-space challenges lead to kids bumping into each other or knocking over creations in the gym, which sets the whole group reeling with uncomfortable emotions and disorganized chaos.
One day my co-leader, Sue, suggested we read The Angry Octopus by Lori Lite at the beginning of group. Now, it has been my habit to read books as a calming activity after the gym and just before the kids go home. But…I agreed to read the book earlier in the session to see if we could help the kids achieve a more relaxed state, in hopes that they would be more open to the activities that follow. Why not try something radical! Since I didn’t have time to order the book, I downloaded the app and minutes later found myself reading The Angry Octopus to the kids. The background throughout the book consisted of an ocean that gently waved like a horizontal lava lamp making us feel as if we were at the bottom of the ocean. The kids sat in beanbag chairs; their eyes glued to the book, as they tensed and relaxed specific body parts along with the octopus. They also completely related to the story line – the octopus learning to deal with his anger as a result of playful lobsters inadvertently messing up his shell garden in the night!
As you may have guessed, the rest of the group was calmer with fewer flared emotions and physical insults than we had experienced up to that point. Little Mike participated in each activity with greater ease and a number of smiles crossed his face throughout the hour. When mayhem began to arise in the gym, we were able to corral the kids into a corner and help them visualize the octopus as they took deep breaths, curled up into a ball, and then stretched out on the mats. Each child was able to implement this calming strategy on the spot sufficiently enough to resume playing and leave the gym cooperatively when it was time to go.
Please look into Lori Lite’s books and follow her on twitter and Facebook. Just reading her work brings me back to the ocean and relaxes the lines on my face. Thank you Lori! www.stressfreekids.com