Feel better boxes
About Feel Better Boxes
The goal of The Play Well Trust is to support as many children and families as possible, as quickly as possible. We offer free, direct access to a variety of activities on our website and social media, which may be helpful in supporting you at home.
But the main way we are able to support children who are too unwell to attend school/nursery and help their families is by providing Feel Better Boxes.
Feel Better Boxes offer children and their families the opportunity to play, learn, heal and smile together, wherever they might be. The contents of each box will vary, depending upon the age, needs and likes of the child as well as the number of siblings they have, but each item will be added for a reason.
Every Feel Better Box will contain a helpful leaflet for adults, which will outline the different ways in which items in the box can be used. Full details are available below.
What's in the box?
As we have mentioned, each box will contain different items for your child to play with, and these items may sometimes seem a bit strange. You may wonder what on earth you are supposed to do with them! Well, the answer is that your child can use them in any way they need to, however, here are some of the reasons why we add the things we do:
Puppets/ soft toys:
These are great for helping children to talk about thoughts and feelings and children will often project their own feelings onto their toy. They might say something like, “my puppet is feeling scared today, he’s got to go to hospital.” This can open up a conversation for you both. You could even respond with another puppet or toy, instead of as yourself.
Puppets and soft toys are also perfect for comforting children, many of us had one or two favourite soft toys as children that we loved more than anything.
Paints/ crayons and creative activities:
Creativity is valuable to us all. It increases happiness, improves mental health, lowers stress levels and boosts your immune system. Drawing, painting and creative arts and crafts also offer children a way to express themselves and work through thoughts and feelings.
A seemingly everyday activity that you can carry around in your bag and use wherever you need to. Not only are bubbles great fun, but they can also help children who are feeling anxious to control their breathing.
Find a calm time to blow bubbles with your child, have fun and make those happy memories. The breathing required to blow bubbles is the same technique that is used to calm breathing in people who suffer with anxiety, so this is a great way to practise.
If you and your child later find yourselves in a situation where you might be starting to feel anxious, you can blow bubbles together, either real or imaginary, to calm your breathing. Recalling the happy memories of other times you did the activity can help you both to relax further.
Play dough/ plasticine/ clay:
These materials are perfect for modelling. Your child can create anything they want to using these items. They are great for developing fine motor skills, concentration, imagination, creativity and animations. If you download an app, like Stikbot your child can make their own stop/go animated videos.
Playdough is also good for sensory play as you can add different scents, colours and textures. Click here for our recipe.
A strange thing to put in a Feel Better Box, you might think, but toy soldiers are good for helping children play out conflicts and resolve issues within their own thoughts. If you can put the soldiers in a sand tray or outside in the mud, they will stand up more easily and you will have added a sensory element to the game.
Small world toys:
Little figures of people or animals are great for imaginary play. They are pocket size, so children can carry them around with them and play whenever they want to. Sarah’s son, who has autism, used to take a small toy to school with him every day when he was little. He called it his ‘pocket monster’ and it gave him a sense of security to know that he had one of his toys in his pocket, even if he didn’t play with it.
Who doesn’t like to play with Lego? We sometimes send mixed bags of Lego to children because it’s a fantastic tool for building and creating. If one of your toys needs a house, you can make one, if they then need a car you can stick wheels on the house and away they go. Lego also has lots of mini figures which are great for children to use to add a narrative to their play.
Shells, pine cones, stones etc. are wonderful to play with because of their sensory qualities and the fact that they come from nature. We strongly believe that being in nature has a calming and positive impact upon everyone.
The other good thing about natural materials is that they are available to everyone and they make fabulous props for imaginary play.
Sheets of stickers are a versatile item that you can keep in your bag and take out and about. They can be used creatively, but also playfully. A really good use of stickers is to stick them to each other.
If you sit face to face with your child, give them a sheet of stickers and ask them where they would like to stick their stickers, the reply will likely be “on your face!” Let them. Equally, if your child is happy for you to do so, stick some on their face too.
Interacting with your child in this way builds strong attachment and bonds between you and also, it’s just fabulous, silly, fun!
Obviously, we can’t send water in the post, but many of our toys are perfect for using in water. Water play is extremely therapeutic and children can often become completely engrossed in their own watery world.
NOTE: From a health and safety perspective, never leave your child unattended when they are playing with water.
Stories and storytelling:
There are all sorts of stories available to help children make sense of their thoughts and feelings. Stories are easily accessible to children and story time is always a very special time between children and adults.
You don’t need a physical book to tell stories, you can also use puppets and toys and make up your own stories. The best thing about these is that they can be unique and personal to you and your child.
Music and singing:
Music is a wonderful therapeutic tool. The type of music we listen to can greatly affect our mood and singing along to our favourite songs at full volume can bring a real sense of release. Children love music, they love to sing and dance and make noise. Enjoy letting go of your inhibitions and join in with them.
You can also make your own shakers with dried peas in a bottle, or get the saucepans out and some wooden spoons and make a drum kit! The main thing is, to have fun.
Sarah is a strong advocate of using Makaton Signing in her music sessions, so if you are attending a group that we are running, the chances are you will see her signing and singing.
Some children prefer to have a structured activity to play with and simple games can offer them that opportunity, so we sometimes include card games and board games in our boxes for families to play with together.
REMEMBER: It’s okay not to follow all of the rules. You and your child could change the game completely by making up your own rules. It’s the face to face, playful interaction that is important.
There is so much more that we could add to this list, and over time many other activities will be discussed on our social media and blog posts.
The role of the Adult
You do not need to be a therapist to support your child through play, the joy of play time is that we can all do it.
The aim of play time is for you to both be in the moment.
There should be NO PHONES or distractions.
Allow your child to look through the box and choose what they want to play with. It might be more than one thing at a time.
Your job is to hold the space for your child. You can do this by simply sitting near them. They may choose to invite you to play, they may not, but you need to be there and present for them.
Let your child lead the play, choose the activities and direct you.
If they choose to shut down a game mid-way through and move on to something else, that’s fine.
It doesn’t matter if you and your child do not follow the rules of a game.
You don’t need to interpret the play that your child chooses.
Enjoy spending time with your child and just have fun.
As well as using the boxes for free play, we also add activities that can help children learn and use specific skills. Most items are versatile enough to offer both play and learning, which is good as we believe that play and learning go hand in hand and that children are always learning through play.
Here is a brief list of how our boxes can support your child in an academic sense.
Craft activities will help teach your child specific skills such as needle work or construction. Your support may be required to help them complete activities.
Plasticine/ clay/ playdough are helpful for developing fine motors skills. They can also be used to create animations using the Stikbot app.
Books, colouring in, games and puzzles are all helpful for mark making, reading, logical and mathematical thinking.
Science activities. Lots of fun, and also plenty of opportunity to ask and answer questions about the world around us.
Any objects within the box can be used for counting and sorting activities.
If your child is likely to be out of school/ nursery for an extended period of time, our sister site The Do Try This at Home School is packed full of learning activities for children and families. It includes art and craft, science, cookery, history, out and about and language and communication. Why not click here and have a look.
It’s not only children and families that we offer learning opportunities to. We are also happy to discuss bespoke training sessions for school staff, early year’s staff, groups of parents or anyone else who is keen to learn more about the use of play based activities with children.
Our training sessions are very hands on, so be prepared to make mess and get very involved in a world of play!
For more information, please email us: email@example.com
Who can Apply for a box?
As we are currently a small organisation, funded entirely by sales of Sarah’s books and kind donations from the public, we are limited in the number of feel better boxes we can send. However, as The Play Well Trust Grows, we will of course send as many as we possibly can.
Our criteria for sending feel better boxes is as follows:
We can only send one box per family, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
There must me a genuine need for a box, e.g: a child within the family is too unwell to attend school/ nursery for an extended period of time and would benefit from therapeutic play. These could be children who are undergoing treatments for cancer or other medical conditions as well as those experiencing mental health problems.
We can currently only send boxes to children and families in the UK.
We aim to offer as much FREE information and advice as we can on our website to support families to use play at home.
To apply for a box please use the contact page.
Thank you for your support.