Happiness is…the BIG Picture!

I don’t know if you guys have read (although I wonder if that’s the right word for that book) Ralph Lazar & Lisa Swerling’s latest book called ‘Happiness Is…’. It is a simple yet heartwarming book which gave me a great idea for an interactive/collaborative art project for my room. I stripped down my massive pin board to bare and, in colourful letters, wrote the prompt, ‘Happiness is…’. And really, that’s all that was needed.

The little and not-so-little ones I work with, and their parents, my friends, clients, colleagues, the young, the old…this simple but visually obvious prompt on my pin board did not fail to pique the curiosity of whoever entered my room. Since then, I have had a series of absolutely delightful contributions, in all shapes and sizes, in words as well as in doodles, in song, and in lyrics. I have bemusedly watched adults get to the task with childlike glee, even asking for coloured markers! And children spouting inner wisdom that has left me humbled.

happiness is

Here are the many, many ways interactive and collaborative art projects are a great idea when working with little and not-so-little people:

  • Art has huge therapeutic benefits. It generates enthusiasm, while also having a relaxing effect on our physiology. It alerts as well as calms. Collaborative art also has the added benefit of teaching kids to work with others, to pick up from where others have left off.
  • Doing a collaborative project means learning to wait. I may have done my little bit but I need to be patient while the rest of it comes together, bit by little bit.
  • Helps them see the bigger picture. When working on our individual bits, we tend to take a worm’s eye view, focusing on every little detail yet working within our comfort zone. As soon as I put my little bit into the larger whole, it becomes something else altogether. The whole is always bigger than the sum of its parts. A wonderful lesson in perspective taking.
  • Kids get to learn so many new ways of thinking and responding to the same thing. “I used to think happiness lies in playing video games alone, but hey, many people my age seem to think doing art makes them happy…and some say sports..and for some simply humming a tune seems to do it..hey wait! That one makes me happy too!”. For therapists working with children, such projects open up a world of insightful discussion and peer-modeled skills.
  • It is the process rather than the product, that matters. It is how the project comes together, how another person’s idea triggers off something in this one’s mind, how some kids jump straight into theirs while others labour painstakingly through theirs, wanting to get it ‘just right’. These are the processes that reveal the greatest insights and stay on, lingering long after the project is done and dusted.

Go on, start one today and be surprised!


Taking Turns With The ‘Talking Ball’


One of the most important skills we often try to teach children is turn-taking, and the ‘talking ball’ is quite the wonder tool to help with that!

I have been using the ‘talking ball’ with groups of children, adolescents, and yes, even adults, and it has turned out to be a very effective tool. How it works is that the group knows, right from day one, that the ground rule for talking in our group is to have the ‘talking ball’ in your hand. Only the one who has the ‘talking ball’ is allowed to speak at any given moment, and if you wish to add or comment on what someone else has just said, you simply ask for the ball before making your comment.

You will be amazed to see how well and how quickly children take to this simple rule. Within the first few sessions, I have had kids reminding each other, and me, to ask for the ball if we have started talking without it. I have seen it helping my shy, meek-voiced ones to get enough time and space to speak up, and my impatient ones to learn to wait. It also serves as a wonderful fidget object for those talking as it keeps their little hands occupied, which helps them focus better.

Feel free to use it in your classroom or at home with your little ones- at dinner-table conversations, on play dates, and while playing family games. Remember to use a soft ball made of cloth or wool to avoid any injuries!