More Fun, Games, and Telehealth!
Updated: Nov 8
In May I put out this blog post about some of the creative, playful ways I was working with kids and using telehealth. I wanted to update you with some more ideas. The 20-21 school year is markedly different because the children are on screens much more than in the spring and summer, so I need to find new creative ways to engage them!
I will discuss some ideas that will work for 1:1 work or small groups, and even some ideas for pushing into classrooms virtually. I also collected a lot of fun games for lunch bunch and some “non-therapeutic” games and activities, because you can make any game therapeutic! I haven’t tried out every single link yet, so please make sure you try them yourself first before trying with your kids, to ensure they are appropriate for your setting. Of course you'll want to make sure you are using sites that adhere to the rules where you work, and you are protecting PPI.
Solving Remote Problems and Setting Expectations
I created this fun self-correcting digital game to review online learning expectations. There are some silly answers, which got the kids laughing. I also like to be really expressive when I read these, and give them the choices! This was a really fun way to start off the year while also pre-teaching some of the expected online learning behavior, and how to solve problems that kids may run into with distance learning.
Games to work on Impulse Control and Listening
Some classic games that can be easily done on telehealth to work on impulse control and listening are:
Red Light, Green Light
Pretending you are doing certain activities in slow motion (running, climbing, swimming, etc.)
Find the difference games are also helpful for focusing, paying attention, and visual discrimination.
Social and Communication Skills
I love any activity where I can get the kids UP and MOVING, so I did a lot of scavenger hunts in the spring but kids always love the good old classic “Show-and-Tell” and then having their peers listen and ask on-topic follow-up questions is a good one - especially if you just have a few minutes left! My favorite is when the pets are featured on show-and-tell!
I am finding that my students don’t have a lot of down-time to socialize, so for my small groups I have been starting each group with a “Question of the Week” which is just an open-ended question to get them to start conversing more with each other.
If you have kids who are inhibited, or need to work on self-advocacy or are just looking to get your kids talking more, check out these free printable expressing opinion cards.
Using Your Social Filter
Do you have kids that need to work on using their social filter, and not blurting out whatever they are thinking? Well, this idea worked very well on zoom so I thought I'd share! First, we read I Can't Believe You Said That!" by Julia Cook and learned about social filters. I made a simple memory match game for free at https://matchthememory.com/
Each time it was their turn, the child had to answer whether a statement I said was something they should say aloud, or just keep the thought in their head. These Self-Control Think It or Say It Cards from the Sunny Sunshine Student Support Store are the perfect companion for this activity. After they said their answer, they then got a turn to pick 2 cards to flip (I had it on screen share - you need to press the button to allow the cards to have the letter/number so they can direct you which ones to click, otherwise you can share your remote control.)
I did this with several groups with kids who were usually having trouble attending but since they had to look at the screen for memory (even when it wasn't their turn) to play the game, they were very attentive and engaged with this activity! It also allowed me to gather data on some IEP objectives. Did you know I wrote a book on social-emotional IEP and treatment plan objectives (also available in kindle here)?
Creative Games and Activities Related to Drawing
I’ve been doing a LOT of guided drawing with the kids! They LOVE it! If you don’t feel like leading them yourself, you can stream something from Art for Kids Hub on youtube.
I like to do a lesson and then tie in a guided drawing with it. For example, we learned about growth mindset and the power of yet by reading Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andrede and Guy Parker-Rees, then we danced to the upbeat Power of Yet song by Janelle Monae. Next, we did this a giraffe guided drawing, similar to this one by Art for Kids Hub, and then the kids each wrote down 2 things they can do now and 1 thing they can’t do YET. We had some fabulous conversations with this!
With my upper-elementary students, we did some simple origami. This can be hard to facilitate online if you aren't experienced with it but it is soo satisfying to fold your paper box! There are SO many therapeutic interventions to do with a box! Think about how containing and safe it is! This activity also helps work on in-the-moment frustration tolerance so your kids can practice using some of those coping skills they've been learning with you!
I just made a digital version of my Thoughts, Feelings, and Choices CBT Social Story Workbook (which is a basic introduction to CBT concepts), so you can go through the story on Google Slides with the kids, and pause and have them draw pictures for the different prompts.
More Drawing Prompts
You can have the kids get out paper and something to draw and color with and give them simple prompts like:
Draw a safe place
Draw a relaxing place
Draw yourself as an animal
Draw yourself as a superhero
Design a logo for yourself
Draw a family crest
Design a shield with 3 character traits
Draw your own galaxy
Draw yourself as any creature
Create a habitiat for your creature
Draw your dream home
Drawing Websites and Apps
Here are some online drawing sites you can consider:
Jamboard is Google's collaborative, interactive whiteboard
Quick Draw is fun! It is the world's largest drawing data set. It gives you a prompt and you have 20 seconds to draw it.
Gartic.io is similar to pictionary. You can pick your own room and make it private, but from a glance, it seems like some of the word prompts might be inappropriate for younger kids
Skribbl.io is another game that is similar to pictionary. You can create a private room and add your own words to this one.
Drawasaurus is another game that is similar to pictionary. You can create a private room and they give you the word prompts. I haven't explore this one too much yet.
Sketchpad App is really fun because they have lots of drawing options - even clipart, different brushes/tools, shapes, fills and importing your own images! You can run it on a browser and use screen share, and share your remote control. There are layers so if you aren't familiar with drawing software, it would be good to practice using this on your own first.
Aggie.io is a collaborative paint program you can run on your browser. It is awesome! Again, I suggest trying it out yourself to get familiar with the tools because this has layers and a lot of options!
Witeboard.com is another website where you can send someone a link to join you, and you can draw together.
I love sandtray therapy and was bummed to pack away all my supplies in March so I was so ecstatic when I heard there was a FREE sandtray therapy website, Online Sandtray! There is so much power in storytelling. Here are some other resources for creative storytelling online include:
Kids need to move to learn! Their brain needs movement. I am concerned with how much kids are sitting in front of screens, and how much this is impacting their physical activity levels so whenever I can, I try to add movement in. Some ideas to add movement into your sessions
When playing a game, each time a person takes a turn, they do some type of movement (jumping jacks, stretch, etc.)
Someone shared this Yoga Spinner game with me. It's in Hebrew so I can't read it, but I can see the yoga pose pictures.
If you are working 1:1 mirroring games can be so fun and help with relationship building and attunement.
Try incorporating a Spell out Your Name Workout - or you can spell out other words like hope, positivity, kindness, etc.
This could be a movement or an art game! Write down a list of 6 animals and a list of 6 feelings. Use real dice or a free online random dice generator. Roll 2 dice and then act out and/or draw the combination like "a sad shark" or a "joyful cheetah." This is a fun one! You can also just play feeling animal charades, and try to guess (without rolling the dice.) I got the stamp of approval from my 8 year old on this one "This games pretty cool Mom!"
I love having fun and hearing the kids to laugh. Especially when someone is feeling down or blue, laughter is so helpful. Last year I had a group where we would end each session by sharing a joke. I was so impressed because the kids would come each week with prepared jokes for me! It was awesome! They would share the joke with each other as they walked back to their classrooms, so they were always transitioning back with a huge smile on their face! Here are a few humorous resources:
Would You Rather is always super fun. Here are some free cards from WonderMom Wannabe. I have a Would You Rather Board Game but it looks to be out of print. Here is an affordable book with over 400 Would You Rather Questions!
Another fun game is "if you woke up and..." the kids just take turns making up silly scenarios and discussing them. This can be a riot!
Bingo and Memory Games
I actually first played bingo online as a self-care activity at a staff meeting with My Free Bingo Cards. You can make up your own Bingo games on this website which is awesome! I had a couple of kids who had IEP goals to be able to independently verbalize a certain number of coping skills, so, I did a screen share of the Bingo Card Generator screen, and had them list as many coping skills as they could think of (we needed 25 to fill the board)! This was great because it allowed me to collect data and play a fun game. When each card was called, we either practiced that coping skill or discussed it. The kids loved it! You can do alternatives to 5 in a row by playing four corners, fill in the frame, black-out etc.
Match the Memory
Pairs and Match the Memory are two memory matching games you can play online. You can make your own cards on this website, and here are some pre-made I found. I suggest starting small (like 6 matches) and then building up to more cards. I usually use this dinosaur one for a simple introduction so the kids can have some mastery before moving onto games with a lot more cards.
I love to use relaxation apps in my own life, but I really want to learn more about how I can incorporate apps into my work. Are you using any apps while meeting with kids? Let's connect on instagram and let me know! I've heard great things about this Trauma Focused CBT (TF-CBT) app called Triangle of Life. I need to delete some apps on my phone to make some space so I can download it and check it out too!
Feelings and Coping Skills Games
I wrote about Feelings Charades in my last post, but this year we have stepped it up to make it even trickier! We are playing feeling charades with masks! Check out this fun resource on Feelings Situations and Body Language - it is a great conversation starter about looking at someone's full body language and listening to other communication features, like their tone of voice.
PBS has some onine games about managing and expressing feelings.
PBS Kids Feeling Games
A huge part of my work is helping children develop coping skills, so I was psyched to find this fun Cover and Connect Coping Skills game from Carol Miller - The Middle School Counselor! When I saw she posted this, I just had to buy it! My plan is to use it this week and next with the kids. I think they are going to love it! My schedule is a little weird because I have the election day off.
An important strategy that I work on a lot, is helping children understand their thoughts, and how their thoughts impact their feelings. It is important for them to learn that some thoughts are helpful and some thoughts are unhelpful. When I found this Positive Self-Talk Digital Activity by Kylie the Creative Social Worker last year, when we suddenly went remote and I felt ill-prepated, I was grateful!
Another thing I felt grateful for was when Music City School Counselor updated a lot of the wonderful resources I already had to DIGITAL VERSIONS! Yes! So when I saw this Dealing with Feelings counseling game was now also digital, I was very pleased because I knew it would be great for some of my first grade friends.
Just for Fun: Trivia, Word, and Puzzle Games
In the summer I ran some fun lunch-bunches as a way to keep the kids socially connected with each other. I was surprised that many of the kids asked to do trivia!
I am such a Scrabble fan, so Boggle is another fun game that I love to play!
Scattergories: The rules are simple: you are given a letter and five categories (things like "school supplies," "book title," and "girl's name.") You have 1 minute to come up with a word that fits in each category and starts with that letter. You get more points, the more more unique your answer is. Some of the categories may not be appropriate, so I pick the categories (without screen share on) before starting the game.
Jigsawpuzzles.io is such a cool website because you can talk while working on the same jigsaw puzzle together! Some more puzzle games include:
More Toy Theater Games
Toy Theater is a cool website and has MANY games – you can choose to play against robot or real players. I also like that you can turn off the sound in their games. I only included games where you can maneuver with the mouse – not the keyboard.
Snakes and Ladders - this one is great because you can play up to 4 players and take turns while answering questions!
iO and Other Online Games
I haven’t personally used all of these yet, but have bookmarked them so I can try them out myself first before using with kids. You always want to try out an online resource first to make sure it is safe and appropriate!
Board Game Arena has some online access to favorite games my family loves like Sushi Go, Yahtzee and Carcassone. I haven't tried the online versions yet.
Battleship is another classic game that kids love.
Yahtzee Dice Roller game from Elverson Puzzle.
Papergames.io has more classics like battleship, connect 4, and tic tac toe. You send someone a link and then they join you in a private game.
Playingcards.io has games like checkers, crazy eight, hearts, go fish, chess, backgammon, etc. There is a bit of a learning curve (in my opinion) and I think it would work better when working 1:1 with a child. I like how you can make a private room to send someone to!
Uno by Uno Freak Kids love Uno! I found they might need some help learning how to open up a new browser and play, while keeping you on zoom minimized, but they loved this! You can make it therapeutic by making up rules that pertain to the child you are working with. For example, if they put down a 2, they say 1 positive quality about themselves, if they put down a 1, they share one of their triggers, if they pull a red card they share a coping skill.
Poki.com has other games like Snakes and Ladders, Tic-Tac-Toe, Connect 4, and Minecraft Classic
Chess by Lichess
Digital Escape Rooms
I haven't used any digital escape rooms yet but I really want to try one and give it a therapeutic twist! Are you aware of any therapeutic digital escape rooms?
100 Doors Game Escape from School (this is an app in the google play store)
Using Videos in Telehealth
I was very excited to find this You Tube Channel called Playfully Connected Games!
Here is an example of the Superhero Game from Playfully Connected Games - when the music is on, you move your body around, and when the music pauses, you discuss the prompts.
I like to buy bundles (and LOVE growing bundles) because I always feel like I'm getting a bargain! Here are a couple bundled digital resources you might consider. Counseling with Sandi put together this bundle of 5 virtual games and icebreakers. I love how she included 4 corners - this is a great way to get the kids moving! And Counseling with Kindness has this Confident Kids resource with 6 interactive lessons.
Please subscribe to my blog (at the bottom of this page) for access to my Free Resource Library and be sure you checked out my first post, because it has a lot more fun games you can use with telehealth or if you are doing counseling during hybrid, distance, or remote learning.