Activities you do with your inner child
September 20, 2014 7:30 PM   Subscribe

My therapist suggested that I do some activities with my inner child. What are some activities you've enjoyed and have helped you heal? (a variety of ages inside)

I'm working with my therapist on healing my inner child. Actually, my inner children: ages 3, 5, 11 and 17. (I had a lot of trauma, with specific events at various ages.)

I've looked through lists of books, movies, and activities that are age-appropriate for actual children, and I'm starting to play around with them and am really enjoying it. I find it healing and a lot of fun.

For others who have also done inner child work:

- What do you watch / read / do with your own inner child?
- Where do you look for materials that are helpful? (Books, movies, etc.)
- What has helped you make the most progress with this type of therapy?
- What have you enjoyed the most?
posted by 3491again to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I did play therapy with an excellent therapist, and he said that I was unusually comfortable with play. I guess that's true--my house is filled with toys! I honestly think quiet play with dolls is incredibly soothing. There's nothing quite like dressing a doll, or brushing her hair. Building with blocks or legos is likewise wonderful and peaceful.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:49 PM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have enjoyed mandala coloring pages. Sometimes I find old cartoons on YouTube or Netflix. (There are a lot of great classic clips on the Sesame Street YouTube channel. Like Making Crayons!) Very occasionally I'll treat myself to candy at the check-out at the grocery store, or buy a small carton of chocolate milk. Each year on my birthday I buy myself a pink cupcake. These are treats that I would have loved as a kid.
posted by nathaole at 7:54 PM on September 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

I did play therapy as part of a psychology course, and it was incredibly open ended in terms of emotional narrative. It was specifically sandbox play with small figures and miscellaneous stuff. It was with a British therapist who called it 'going back to the land.'
posted by cocoagirl at 8:02 PM on September 20, 2014

Swing. I don't have official inner child play experience but have, throughout my life, ended up out on the swings in the evening to think.
posted by Swisstine at 8:17 PM on September 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

Second the mandala coloring pages. I bought myself a really thorough set of colored pencils, a nice sharpener, and a huge book full of mandala drawings, and I find it SO soothing to do a little coloring whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:20 PM on September 20, 2014

I enjoy playing quite a bit and can speak to the "what do you enjoy" question.
Lego or other building block toys (especially Wooden blocks!) are wonderfully calming to play with.
I agree with pho about brushing dolls hair! So soothing. I was so happy to have a daughter who wanted lots of dolls in the house!
Putting together train tracks and seeing how many train cars you can push around the track is great fun.
Physical play can be fun even on your own. I love to kick a ball around my yard, pretending to be a highly skilled soccer player in the final game of the World Cup. When I was in better shape, I spent a week trying to do a cartwheel. Never did, though!

Man, now I want to go play.
posted by waterisfinite at 8:21 PM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Moomins and the great flood by Tove Jansson is one of my favorite books.

As an adult reader I love it for the amazing portrayal of Moominmama, as a demonstration of maternal virtues.
posted by Middlemarch at 8:28 PM on September 20, 2014

For me there's something very therapeutic about making things with my hands- crafting, colouring, all the messy stuff I did as a kid that I don't get to do now. Building blocks and legos, as suggested above, are great too.

I also love watching old cartoons- Swat Kat, Captain Planet, GI Joe, and the DCAU (Batman, Superman and JLU) are what I grew up with, and honestly are more enjoyable and smart than 90% of the crap on my TV now.
posted by Tamanna at 8:31 PM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go make a sandcastle or play minecraft or dodgeball or something.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:54 PM on September 20, 2014

Nthing coloring, swinging, and bike riding. Also paint by number, latch hook rugs, paper airplanes (or origami for the older children).

If you can set an alarm you trust, let yourself lose track of time and don't bother finishing any project if you get bored (i.e., let your attention span be what it would be as a child).

Lots of childhood stuff is seasonal, so maybe look for apple orchards that let you pick your own, and also make a jack-o-lantern (or just draw ideas for one).
posted by whoiam at 8:59 PM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get together with some friends and play the surrealist sketching game "exquisite corpse" - it's just so much fun and it's a great creative exercise. Google image search will show mostly figures but it's also fun to just sketch random stuff, then fold over leaving just a few lines for the next person, then the next, etc.
posted by belau at 9:05 PM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Coloring Books
Pillow/Blanket Forts
At least three hours of The Sims (any version)
Sugar Cereal
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:48 PM on September 20, 2014

Go to a pumpkin patch, pick out a pumpkin, and go wild carving it!
posted by radioamy at 11:50 PM on September 20, 2014

Ice cream. In public. With abandon.

Spa night (if you are female): water and nakedness with other kind human beings.

Visual art. Art stores. All the colors. I can haz paintbrush? Yes.

Exercise. Run. Hard. As fast as you can. See that you are taking up space in the world. See that no one is getting hurt. Run harder.


Museums. Ferries. Eat dinner outside.

Sit in the grass and do nothing except stare into space until the inside of your head meets the outside. Then eat wild blackberries warm from the sun.
posted by macinchik at 3:40 AM on September 21, 2014

Draw pictures and tell the story of what you are drawing. This can be as realistic or abstract as your interest and ability permit.

It seems like the story telling is the most helpful part.
posted by tulip-socks at 4:31 AM on September 21, 2014

Play dough and oobleck are both fun and easy to make, great sensory play.

Your inner 3 year old might like books by Sandra Boynton, both the 3 and 5 year old might like Tap the Magic Tree book.

Definitely colouring and swings.
posted by Lay Off The Books at 7:58 AM on September 21, 2014

Lay on your back in the middle of a pretty garden. Look up at the sky, watch the clouds planes & birds. Find shapes in the clouds, wonder where the planes are going, try and imagine being a bird. Roll on your belly & look at the grass, watch the bugs, chew on a piece of grass, smell it. Look at the flowers & bugs around you. Then just lay there & think nothing & daydream. Even better if there is a dog or 2 to join you. My favourite thing to do as a child, that I will still do to this day over 40 years later.
posted by wwax at 8:05 AM on September 21, 2014

Without knowing the specific nature of your trauma... one thing that was very helpful to me in my therapy was a stream-of-consciousness exercise where I visualized my ideal parent. The activity in which the imaginary parent and I engaged (building toys together) was, surprise, evocative of a specific area where I did not feel supported by my actual parents. If it wouldn't be too triggering, perhaps you could give this a try and generate some ideas based on where your mind leads you?
posted by trunk muffins at 9:07 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Coloring books, adult or child or free hand. I have crayons, markers and pencils.

Ice skating, or roller skating.

Go to the zoo, aquarium, petting zoo or the animal shelter. Pet or play with whatever animal allows it.

Fun sports like ice hockey or soccer league or pick up basketball.

Borrow your friends kids and play tag on the front lawn.

Run through sprinklers. Dip feet in a kiddie pool.

Paint in water colors.

Finger paint.

(We did a lot of art when I was growing up.)

Paint a mural on one of your walls, or just paint a wall.

Go to a kids movie.

Play with make up and dress up.



Play a card game with a kid, Uno, War, go fish.

Play cards or dice with your friends. I love playing Yahtzee!

Basically, do some babysitting and play with the kids. Kids love to play with adults and it's so fun!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:22 AM on September 21, 2014

I've never done this type of therapy, but here are some of my ideas based on the things I would want a daughter to experience (if I had a daughter):

-Age 3 - finger painting, buying a balloon at a festival, face painting, simple board games

-Age 5 - Trip to the zoo, petting zoos, trampoline jumping, flying a kite, building a sand castle, swimming

-Age 11 - Horse back riding, manicure, jump rope, trying out make up, stay up late watching a scary movie

-Age 17 - Facial, buy a cute new outfit, drive someplace you've never been before on a whim
posted by parakeetdog at 10:28 AM on September 21, 2014

If you are carrying a lot of anger, get a hammer and peg toy. Beating on it can be therapeutic and it is way safer than using a real hammer and nails on construction projects (though that can be fun too, it isn't very inner child oriented).

I also liked watching cartoons with my kids when they were little. I liked playing with actual small kids and watching cartoons with them in part because you can make baby talk at them and stuff like that and people will just think you are being good to the kid and not be so judgy about your behavior. So maybe hang with nieces/nephews or offer to babysit for a friend with small kids?

When grumpy, I still like stomping when I walk, like a toddler in a bad mood.
posted by Michele in California at 2:51 PM on September 21, 2014

This works well for me late at night, though I don't know exactly which ages are interested in it. I find it soothing to find an image of an intricately detailed piece of artwork (Bruegel works well because there tend to be lots of people doing different things) and then talk to myself pointing out all the details I can find. There's a squirrel, there's a boy playing with a ball, etc.
posted by gentian at 3:08 PM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

When I was a kid, I lurrrrved drawing/coloring in the Anti-Coloring Book. You can read an interview with the creator here. I think it would be great for some low-risk adult exploration.

Also, Mad Libs!
posted by ikahime at 5:48 PM on September 21, 2014

Go to Build-A-Bear and build a bear :)
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:25 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing coloring books, especially if you treat yourself to the big box of crayons. Ditch the 8-, 10-, or 12-packs and go for 64+. You can listen to music or NPR and just color. No pressure.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:45 AM on September 22, 2014

Definitely coloring. It's so soothing! My college roommates and I used to bust out the crayons and coloring books, and leave the door to our room open so anyone who wandered by could come in and color. It was wildly popular.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:02 AM on September 22, 2014

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