I was recently approached by TTS and asked to review the Therapeutic Toolbox by Dr Tina Rae. I’m always looking for decent mental and emotional well-being materials (see my review on the Calming Cat, too), so I was intrigued by this set of materials. It had instant play appeal as my husband and youngest two children pounced on the fidgets as soon as I opened the box!
Created by Dr Tina Rae, a recognised expert in the field of child development and emotion, the pack includes various activities and exercises to help children cultivate mindfulness, self-regulation and other important skills for well-being.
The pack of well-being materials included an overview guide, 6 key-ring bound sets of activity cards, a USB stick with pdf and video content and various fidgets. The six packs of activities are on:
- Anxiety Management
- Effective Thinking (CBT)
- Building confidence and self-esteem
- Positive psychology tools
- Anger and stress management
Activities take the “emotionally available adult” through each activity, supported by the contents of the pdfs where necessary.
More than Fidget Toys?
Before embarking on the cards, I recommend reading the larger A4 guide. It explains what an emotionally available adult is and the theory behind the content of the materials. There’s an excellent section on how to set up a Calm Space and a healthy selection of additional reading…but, perhaps most usefully, there are a series of documents to use for baseline and progress measurement.
The pack was well-presented. The box is robust and, although made of a laminated card, will likely still look neat after a few years of being lifted on and off the shelf for use. Fidget items came in a paper bag and a little muslin drawstring and included ‘worms’, balls, a very robust doughnut, a popper and two finger stretchers. OK, that might not be what they’re officially called, but I think everyone knows what I’m referring to! Going by the fact that my own children acquired them within a few minutes of the box being opened, I’d say they were a popular option. The cards are made of a thick, slightly laminated card meaning sticky fingerprints won’t destroy their appearance. The content of the cards is usually presented across two facing cards; however, some activities are a single page. There’s enough information for an adult to drive a session without it being entirely scripted and static. The activities can be dipped into and out of without a strict sequence, but this does require the adult to familiarise themselves with what is available.
Off too test in a school!
I took the materials to a primary school where I had been commissioned to undertake some consultancy work. Most schools are squeezed for space, so I find myself working in unusual spaces and often end up sharing the space with children who have become dysregulated and need a break. This gave me an ideal opportunity to test out some of the pack. As lots of the students came into the space identifying as angry or stressed, I decided to focus on familiarising myself with the Anger and Stress Management Activities (plus, this was the purple pack of cards, so it automatically appealed to me!). We really enjoyed the anger iceberg, which helped one particular student (bear in mind I have no relationship with them) to open up and start talking about what was happening below the surface. Her TA was impressed with the language she used to express things, and a follow-up conversation illustrated that the student had gone on to use this a few times since my visit as a calming mechanism. I think that it’s important to note that in the pack it suggests the activity is used once the child is calm to explore other feelings, whereas, with this student, they use it as a way to calm and express their other feelings in order to identify ‘why’ they feel angry. I like that flexibility. We did attempt the firework model with the same student, but she wasn’t ready to look at her fuses…just yet. With another student, we used active relaxation from one of the cards and taught him dragon breaths.
I was delighted with the short-term results I saw with the students. I needed no preparation time and could simply dip into the pack and select a suitable activity for the student. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a trusted and known individual to the students, so the fact I could achieve success with the students can only indicate the impact that would be seen with known adults.
“In conclusion, I found the pack of materials to be a valuable resource for supporting the mental and emotional well-being of children. The activities and exercises are well-designed and seem to have a positive impact on the children I worked with. The adult needs to be familiar with the contents of the cards so that they select a suitable activity. Overall, I definitely recommend looking at this pack of materials if you are seeking to expand your resources in this area.“