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Creating discussion opportunities through play

As you are all aware, settling in times can be quite traumatic with lots of tears and emotions for a child. My Mood Stars is just one way that can really help children settle in by being used as comforters. The shape of the star having five points fits really nicely into small hands and their soft feel is soothing and reassuring. Once the children start to recognise the Mood Stars’ expressions through story-telling and playing games, it’s amazing how soon children can start to use them independently.

During my career childminding and while I was creating my Mood Stars, there were some really key moments, where the stars were used just how I hoped they would be.

Using the stars for comfort

I had one child who at around fifteen months picked up Sleepy Star and simply handed it to me to tell me she was tired. The nice thing was is that she would then carry Sleepy Star to her cot and use it as a comforter.

When the same child was older and outgrew her naps, she would run to collect Sleepy Star and hand it to me when I was taking another child for a nap! The association with Sleepy Star showed a deeper level of emotional understanding that sleepy star related to having a nap and feeling tired. 

Building confidence when communicating 

Another child I looked after was extremely shy, so I encouraged her to 'talk' through Shy Star.

“How about Shy Star tells me what you had for lunch?”

She would pick up Shy Star and I would ask again. This time, the children used Shy Star to talk. Of course, it took time to build up her confidence and I had to encourage her to talk louder and clearer but it worked.

“I had curry and rice!!”

Just from using this small tool, she could express herself in a way that she was comfortable with at the time. She gained confidence every day until she didn't feel the need to use Shy Star anymore and was happy to talk by herself. 

Discussing emotions 

A few years ago, we were hit by a number of amazing storms which resulted in the gazebo from next door's garden flying over the fence and landing in our garden! The children never forgot that moment and it actually evoked a number of emotions including being worried, scared, shocked and happy.

At the time of the event and since then, the children have told the story using the Mood Stars and are able to talk about their emotions and how they felt when the storms hit. This allows them to express their emotions in a healthy way. If they were scared, they can use Scared Star to express themselves and then we can take steps together to talk about why they were scared, how that felt and what to do to manage that feeling. 

Helping with special needs

The most profound effect I have seen when using my mood stars, was the impact it had on one child who was diagnosed with ADHD.

This child was prone to tantrums because he struggled to express his emotions and communicate how he was feeling. One afternoon, I felt one of his tantrums brewing and rather than bracing myself for a melt-down, I calmly took him out of room where the other children were playing and my mood stars were on the floor with the board. 

From my monitoring and understanding of the child, I knew that his schemas were often trajectory as he always wanted to climb, move and investigate by throwing, jumping and using force. So to tackle this, I took one of the stars on the floor and threw it on the board. Because of the way I designed the stars, they actually stick to the board. I then used this as a continued distraction for the little one who watched and grinned to himself every time I missed and shouted "botheration!". He then wanted to join in and threw the remaining Mood Stars onto the board, some getting stuck and some bouncing off.

The distraction of the Mood Stars stopped the tantrum from forming and created a new game for all the children to join in with. The parents were so happy that they bought a set of My Mood Stars the next day!

Visit www.mymoodstars.co.uk, meet the eight My Mood Stars and download the free ‘Games to Play’ leaflet for more ideas on how you can use them with your children. Get 20% off using code PACEY at checkout. A new accompanying book is also now available to purchase which encourages children to discuss their feelings and provides space for notes and drawings so they can look back at their feelings from other occasions.

You can watch more examples of how using the toys can allow children to discuss emotions on our You Tube channel.

About the author

Wendy White is an experienced childminder of more than 20 years, a published author of children’s books and toy designer. My Mood Stars are tactile toys that children love to play with and are a highly effective developmental resource, that can be used to encourage emotional development in early years settings and at home.

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