Introducing activities into your family therapy sessions can help make the process more engaging while creating a warm/fun environment, and breaking down concepts to be more developmentally appropriate for children. These simple activities can bring out sides of family members they may not always be shown at home, encourage playful and healthy interaction, build rapport, and allow the therapist to role model, redirect and provide positive reinforcement.
Balloons are a cheap/accessible item that can easily spice up a family session, and be then be used to continue work at home. The following activities promote team-work, group cohesion, attunement, communication, problem-solving, conflict-management, etc. They can be used to both assess family functioning and teach new skills. Notice patterns that come up, how they negotiate or resolve conflicts, who leads, etc. After each activity process with the family how it went, what they noticed, what they liked/disliked, what they need to work on, etc. Families can also do these fun games at home.
- Juggling Issues: In a family session it is common for the topic of discussion to snowball as family members bring up multiple subjects at once. Have each family members blow up balloons and write an issue on each one. The family then stands in a circle and bats a balloon around without letting it touch the ground. Add the rest of the balloon, one at a time, to demonstrate how ineffective it is to juggle so many issues at once. Afterwards the family decides together which issue to tackle during that session.
- Balloon Pass: Have the family/group stand in a circle and make up (or have them make up) ways to pass a balloon around (ex. using only elbows, feet, etc.). Have them hold hands in a circle and try to keep the balloon from touching the ground as they bat it around without letting go.
- Busy Balloons: Have family/group members partner up and call out different body parts that they must hold the balloon up with (ex. noses, elbows, etc.) If there is an odd number of people than family members can take turns being the person calling out body parts.
- Balloon Waddle: Each person holds a blown-up balloon between their legs. The family/group must come up with a way together to get across the room without anyone dropping the balloon (ex. jumping, waddling, rolling, etc.). Once one slips then everyone must get together to re-strategize and start over. You could also modify this to complete with partners or as a relay.
If you have any balloon activities you use in therapy, please share your thoughts in the comments.