Our Guest Blogger, Teresa Schoell, is a Certified Child Life Specialist working with pediatric patients and their families in the hospital. She will be sharing a creative way to provide therapeutic activities for families coping with the loss of a loved one.
· Model Magic, 1 oz package in white (single-patient use, makes about 5-10 charms, depending on size)
· Markers (I use kid’s washable markers, any brand)
· Small straw (I use a coffee-straw usually, but have made do with a pencil tip or 16 gauge needle)
· Medical gloves
· Portable hard surface (clipboard, back of a tissue box, etc.)
· This is very easy for siblings and kids to participate in – the materials are all kid-safe and easy to work with. I often find joining me for “a craft project” is a wonderful turning point for anxious little ones when their families bring them to the adult ICU to “say goodbye.” Crafts are so normalizing, familiar, and engaging.
· Wear gloves (this keeps your finger prints off the molds, and keeps you from getting marker on your fingers.)
· Roll out small balls (about grape sized, give or take), and gently flatten. Spheres flatten to circles. Tall mini-marshmallow shapes flatten to rounded rectangles (I use the side of a tissue box to straighten the sides a bit after flattening) Get creative with your shapes. I’ve done hearts, crosses, dolphins, and tic-tac-toe boards at patient and family request.
· To add color, I press the tip of the marker into the dough. For a smooth, even color you knead the dough until the color is evenly distributed. For a “swirled” look, just knead a couple times and then roll and flatten.
· You can also color on the patient’s fingertip with the marker, then press it into the white dough. That also looks spectacular! I’ve fallen out of the habit, as the nurses prefer I don’t ink the patient’s fingers. When doing fingers, I try to avoid red (as it may look like blood, especially in trauma cases), and I try to avoid blue (lest it get on the nail and be mistaken for a sign of cyanosis!)
· Place the shapes onto a clipboard, or other portable hard surface, and press the patient’s finger into the dough. If a family has asked for multiples, I’ll often shape them all and line them up, then press the finger into each, all on one go. This efficient process is especially helpful if the patient is very tired, and won’t have the endurance to offer up a finger every two minutes as each new shape is prepped. I also prefer this when doing them in the morgue with a patient who has already died – both because it’s faster and the morgue tends to be very chilly. If you have to work within the cooler, the dough can get stiff when cold, so I will set them all up on the clipboard outside the cooler, pop in and press the fingers, then back out to make the holes.
· After pressing the finger, use the coffee straw to make a small hole near the top (this is used to string the medallion on a necklace, if desired. (or key chain, or no hole for a pocket stone, etc.)
· The finished items air dry over the next 24 hours. I will often place them in a kidney basin for safe transport. If I’m doing a whole bunch, I’ll slid a piece of cardboard into a “sheet protector” sleeve, and place the patient’s ID sticker on the cardboard inside. Then line of up the finished medallions on top to dry. This way the family can carry the full bunch without them smooshing together. I learned the hard way – do NOT put them on paper to dry!!
· Really large pieces (like full hand prints) can warp a bit as they dry.
· Photos show one of my favorite combinations of shape and swirl color. Toddlers love to help by stabbing the dough with market tips. And then knead-twice-and-roll lets them press all the colors in without it combining to a greyish-brown.
· To start the dough feels like a cross between play dough and a marshmallow. Once dry it is light like Styrofoam, with a smooth surface.
Other questions that came up…
You can do these on adults, kids, babies. For peri-natal loss situations with super early babies that have not yet grown much in the way of skin . . . I’m not sure. I haven’t tried this. The dough is not “sticky” so I am hopeful that it would work. If someone tries it, please post back and let us all know!
For newborns and preemies, one packet would be more than enough to do a baby foot print. But remember that larger pieces can warp a bit while drying. I’ve had some (but not perfect success) flipping the piece over every couple hours while it dries, to reduce the warp.
No baking needed – they air dry.
I color it while making it. I have never tried coloring it afterward. Again, if someone tries it, please post back and share the info!
Creative child lifers, post your photos to the thread and share your ideas for styles, use of color, shapes, etc.
Teresa Schoell, MA, CCLS