Body tracing can be a great way to foster connection with your child. This particular body tracing activity is particularly beneficial for kids with trauma histories, difficulty connecting with their family or siblings and those with self-image issues. This body tracing therapy activity provides positive reinforcement and also allows kids the chance to practise encouraging others and see themselves more positively.
For kids with autism and attachment issues due to adoption, eye contact can feel threatening. This activity promotes eye contact and safe physical touch in a fun and relaxed way.
We began this activity with a small talk with our kids about what would be an encouraging or positive word or phrase and gave them some examples. We wanted to decrease the chance that one brother may write something negative on another brother’s sheet!
To lower your child’s anxiety about this activity, it is usually best for you to be the one who lies on the butcher paper first. Your child can then use a marker to trace around your body. Once your body tracing is complete, get up off the paper and have everyone who is participating write positive words that describe you in the outline of your body. You also need to participate in this part and write positive words about yourself.
Writing positive words about yourself is one of the hardest things about this activity, but it’s important to model that for your child.
Next, it is your child’s turn to lie on the butcher paper. You know your child best. With some kids, you can joke light-heartedly while you are tracing them about their ticklish bits. However, for kids with abuse histories, you will probably want to trace more widely around them so that the marker doesn’t come into contact with any part of their bodies. While you are tracing them, be sure to look for opportunities to make eye contact and give them encouragement.
Now it is time for everyone present to write words about that child in their body tracing. That child also writes positive words about themselves on their paper. Writing something positive about themselves was hard for some of our kids to do, but once they were able to write one thing, the rest seemed to come more easily.
Lastly, we got someone present to read all the words for each child in the form of “so-and-so is intelligent and cheerful and likes trains and…”. The child whose paper was being read was always beaming by the end.
I was worried about how some of our kids would do with this activity because as siblings, they don’t always have the nicest things to say about each other or to each other but they really caught the spirit of this and they all did an amazing job of building each other up.
We intended this to be a therapy activity that would boost self-esteem but I feel like it did more than that. There was a feeling of family togetherness and peace when we completed this activity. Afterwards, I heard our kids being more encouraging of each other and I heard less negativity in general.
This body tracing encouragement activity could be used in families, group programs, teams, or schools. It requires no prep, very few items and creates a sense of unity and affirmation.
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