My second internship rotation was in the emergency department of a large children’s hospital. It was a truly awesome place to gain experience as I learned how to work with families from all walks of life and saw children of all ages and coping abilities. In the ED, the pace is fast and prepping a child for a procedure often happens in a few minutes and you have to build trust quickly. Distraction toys have to have instant appeal. Glitter wands to the rescue! I carried one with me everywhere. They are calming and so versatile.
I like to purchase them in primary or jewel tone colors so that they are more gender neutral, and I have a few that work with a kaleidoscope for extra pizzazz. The glitter wand is inexpensive, easy to carry around, and can be used with a wide age range. They tend to appeal most to preschool through early elementary age kids, but I have used them successfully as a focus tool with teenagers.
A few games to play with glitter wands:
1. Turn the glitter wand upside down and watch the colored beads and glitter drift to the bottom. Have the child see how fast or slow they can make it go. You can count in a steady rhythm to time the trials.
2. Play “I spy…” Talk about the objects that you see inside. What colors? What shapes? You can purchase glitter wands now that have objects to find inside called Wonder Tubes.
3. Use as an aid for relaxation. Have the child focus on the wand and use slow, calm speech. Emphasize the slowly drifting movement of the glitter. The wand goes up and the glitter goes down. Talk about letting the body and the mind settle down just like the glitter.
4. Use as a wishing wand or other imagination prop (zapper, freeze ray, princess scepter, etc.). Allow the child to control the wand and its imaginary uses. Act as a facilitator for other adults (parents, doctors) to understand and become part of the play.
The glitter wand is a fun and adaptable tool, but it does have a few limits. Always be aware of how a child is using the wand, especially during procedures. Never give a wand to an out-of-control child as the glitter wand is essentially a hard plastic stick and could become an (un)intended weapon. Safety first :)