Source: McDowell, Barbara (2004) “The Pick-Up-Sticks Game.” In Kaduson, Heidi Gerard & Schaefer (Eds.) (2004) 101 Favorite Play Therapy Techniques. Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Pick-Up-Sticks is another game that many children are familiar with. Children who are impulsive, have weak fine motor skills, or have low frustration tolerance may not enjoy this game. In one therapeutic version of this game (McDowell, 2004) children are taught the following color-affect pairs:

Black-Very Sad

Each time a stick is removed the player describes a time they felt that emotion. Again, the therapist is expected to follow the rule, but should tailor their responses to the needs of the child. Early on, the therapist may allow a certain number of “passes” where the players don’t have to respond. It is important to pay attention not only to the content of the child’s responses but also to their choice of sticks and which colors, if any, they avoid. This game not only encourages discussion and opening up, but affect recognition and the appropriate expression of affect.

The color-affect pairs are based on Color-Your-Life (See Hall, Kaduson, Schaefer, 2002).

This activity is designed to help children understand and discuss various affective states. The child is encouraged to think about what colors might represent different feelings. For example, the child might be asked to try and guess what feeling would go with the color red, or if they’ve heard the saying, “green with envy.” The discussion with the child should ensure that they have a good understanding of each feeling. Books such as “The Way I Feel” can be very helpful. The child is then provided with a blank piece of paper and encouraged to fill the paper with colors that show the feelings they have had throughout their life. The child is free to complete the picture in any fashion they want to. The completed picture can then become the focus of discussion.

ChildTherapyToys.com now has new eco-friendly Pick Up Sticks made of real bamboo.

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