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Top ten tools for gaining an insight into a child’s world

April 9 2017, by , 1 comment
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When training to be an educational psychologist I was advised to develop an ‘EP Toolkit’ – a collection of key tools that I could pull out when needed.

It was great advice and I am constantly updating this kit based on new research, new ideas, suggestions from colleagues etc. This post is a ‘Top Ten’ of some of those tools (a tricky job as I like so many) so I have gone for those that I use to gain a greater insight into the worlds of the children and young people we work with.

1. Drawing the ideal self

The ideal self tool is a fab technique based on Personal Construct Psychology Theory (George Kelly, 1955) and developed by (Moran, 1996).

2. Drawing the ideal school

The ‘ideal school’ is another technique based on Personal Construct Psychology Theory (George Kelly, 1955) that was developed by two of my old colleagues, Williams and Hanke (2007)

3. Kinetic Family Drawing

The Kinetic Family Drawing is a technique devised by Burns & Kaufman (1972) and mentioned in ‘Educational Psychology Casework‘ by Rick Beaver. This strategy involves you asking the child / young person to draw a picture of their family, including themselves, “doing something”. On completion you ask questions in order to clarify what is happening in the picture and any possible meanings. You can then interpret the drawing further, looking at several elements including the placement and actions of figures, omissions of people or characteristics etc. As with any assessment tool this should always be considered alongside other information gathered from consultations, observations etc but, in our experience, it certainly adds to an overall picture of the child / young person.

4. Kinetic School Drawing

A variation on the Kinetic Family Drawing and developed by Knoff & Prout (1985). The school picture is a simple variation that asks the child / young person to draw a picture of themselves in school with a teacher and one or two friends “doing something”.

5. The Three Houses

This technique was originally developed by Nikki Weld and Maggie Greening in New Zealand in 2003 it is now widely used in education and social care settings and forms part of the Signs of Safety approach (NSPCC). There are many links available but we find this one from Nottingham is an easy to follow guide for the three houses technique.

6. The Desert Islands

With this technique the child / young person is asked to draw or write people and things on one of 3 islands: the ‘island of forever’ (where people and things you want to see / spend time with often / all the time go); the ‘island of sometimes’ (where people and things you want to be able to take the boat to see / spend time with sometimes go; the ‘island of never’ (where people and things you don’t want to see / spend time with go). Children seem to really enjoy this and it can lead to really useful discussions.

7. Wizards and Fairies

Similar to the three houses, the Fairy/Wizard tool (designed by Vania de Paz, Department of Child Protection, Western Australia) takes the same categories but with a different graphic representation. The same three questions are explored with a fairy or wizard and magic wands. Problems and worries from the child’s perspective are written down on the clothes and represent what needs to be changed. The good things in the child’s life are written on the wings or cape being symbolic of flying away or escaping or protecting/problems becoming invisible for a while. The child’s wishes are written at the end of the wands and represent hopes for the future and ‘wishes coming true.’

8. Scaling

A very straightforward strategy using number lines / faces / emoticons to get children to rate how much they like / enjoy / feel confident about someone or something.

9. Emotions cards

These come in many varieties with our favourites being ‘The Blobs’, ‘The Bear Feelings Cards’ and the ‘What’s The Feeling Cards’. They can be used in loads of ways to explore children and young people’s emotions.

10. The Big Book of Blobs

This book is a great way of opening up discussions about feelings and developing the understanding of emotions, empathy and self awareness. The different pictures show different scenarios that individuals or groups may experience personally and the books come with guidance and suggested questions such as: Which Blob do you feel like? Which blob would you like / not like to be? Which blob is like your mum / dad / teacher etc? Find a Blob that interests you? The blobs can also be used in less personal ways too so you can ask which blob is happy? why do you think he is happy? etc

There are loads more fantastic techniques out there for gaining the voice of the child or young person too! Hope you enjoyed these ones. On our Facebook page we are showcasing a different resource, strategy or intervention every working day for the year. Like our page for updates.


About Emily Williams

Dr Emily Williams is a Chartered Educational Psychologist and the Founder / Managing Director of Educational Psychology for Everyone Ltd. She is interested in all aspects of educational psychology practice but has a particular interest in children and young people with social, emotional, behavioural and mental health needs. She is currently developing her practice on therapeutic approaches.

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One Comment so far:

  1. […] We love this idea! It was the most frequent suggestion for improvement that we had and we can see that there is a real gap for EPs to talk about, share and discuss various resources that they make use of in their practice. […]

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