Back to School Gifts for Coworkers

When it's time to head back to school, I always have the same giddy feelings that I had when I was a student heading back to school! There's something about walking to the building again, seeing familiar faces, and wondering what surprises we'll be in for this year. I always like to spread around a bit of my own excitement to coworkers so we can all start the year on the right foot! Whether you're putting together gift for your co-counselor (if we were only all so lucky to have one!), your admin, front office staff, or all of your teachers, hopefully one of these ideas will be of help to you!

If you're creating gifts for just a few coworkers, succulents are a great little treasure. Counselors can't help but cultivate things, right? ;-)

For the flair pen-loving staff members, a couple of brand new pens and a few little sweets are sure to delight!

If you're wanting to create gifts for your whole staff, popcorn is a great budget-friendly treat to wish them a fresh and poppin' new year! I got these little treat boxes at Target for about $0.50 each.

Whether you're new to your building or a familiar face, I always find it goes a long way to make rounds a couple of days before students arrive to get some face time with teachers simply to remind them that you are there to help and support the students. Showing up with goodies in hand is just an added bonus! You can download all of these gift tags for free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

7 Apps to Use in School Counseling

Do you remember growing up in a world without smart phones and tablets? Our students today will most likely never know what it's like to be more than one touch away from family, friends, and new ideas. Technology geared towards children sometimes gets a bad rap, but these 7 apps are winners in my book! They help students name feelings, practice deep breathing exercises, and more. These 7 apps are wonderful tools to have at your disposal when working with tech-savvy students in any counseling setting. They are great for check-in/check-out, de-escalation, and individual sessions.

1. Settle Your Glitter by Momentous Institute
Imagine my surprise when I found this app after spending a great deal of time and craft supplies on perfecting my calming bottle collection! This app leads students through mindful breathing exercises as the glitter settles and offers time for comparing strength of feelings before and after the exercise.

2. Stop, Breathe & Think Kids: Focus, Calm & Sleep by Stop, Breathe & Think
This fantastic app is chock-full of calming mindfulness breathing exercise. This is perfect for students needing to calm and refocus. The exercises are around 5-8 minutes and also allow students to use emojis to track their feelings before and after.

3. Breathing Bubbles by Momentous Institute
This is one of my favorite apps to use with kids who worry. When the user selects worry as the current feeling, the app asks if the user would like to release a worry or receive a joy. Students can then practice calming breathing exercises.

4. iTouchiLearn Feelings for Preschool Kids Free by Staytoooned
As the title states, this is a great app for young children who are learning to identify feelings. This app is also helpful for students who struggle to recognize facial expressions in others. Users are given a scenario (like the picture below) and asked to select the emoticon that matches how the character is feeling.

5. Social Stories Creator and Library by Touch Autism 
This app is great for creating social stories using your own pictures and audio recordings. There are also in-app purchases for ready to use social stories if you need one in a pinch!

6. TF-CBT Triangle of Life by Allegheny Health Network
This is an awesome app that introduces CBT through a safari game. Animals describe their experiences and learn about how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are related. Students also learn how to challenge automatic negative thoughts!

7. FOCUS On the Go! by University of California, Los Angeles
I am a big fan of the FOCUS programs, and this app is a great extension. Students work with Buddy Bear to practice identifying feelings and gathering tools they can use for calming!

What other apps are you using with your students? Let me know in the comments - I'm always looking for more!

5 Easy Calming Bottles You Can Make This Weekend

Calming bottles are one of my favorite things to make with students, but mine never turn out quite right. I either add too much food coloring or not enough... too much glue or not enough... too much glitter, okay you get the point! It's been a real Goldilocks situation over here! I think I finally found some winning combinations so I wanted to share my "recipes" in hopes that I could save someone else lots of money in wasted craft supplies.

But first, let's talk about the why/how. If you're new to calming bottles (I realize you're probably not since they've been all over Pinterest for years, but just in case...), they are a great tool to keep in a calm-down area or to stock in calming kits. Students can shake the bottles to exert pent up energy/frustration and then watch the glitter/contents fall to refocus and bring down their energy levels. They're fun to make with students to give them ownership of the process and also allow them to choose contents/colors that are meaningful to them in some way.

(This post contains affiliate links)

What you'll need:
Water bottles (I bought a 24 pack of 500mL Voss water bottles on Amazon. I like these because the shape is perfect and the labels are easy to peel)
At least 5 bottles of clear glue (I bought Elmer's from Amazon)
Water beads (also purchased from Amazon)
Food coloring
Various types of glitter (fine, coarse, shaped)
Baby oil

The Winter Glitter Bottle:
This one is fun to use in the cold months or with students who love a particular icy movie. I really like the look of this bottle but would likely add more glue if I made another one. The snowflake glitter falls pretty quickly, but it is nice to have 2 types of glitter in one bottle.

The Glitter Bottle:
This is my favorite of the bunch! The coarse glitter is slower to fall and is easy for students to focus on while it's settling.

The Water Bead Bottle:
If you haven't played with water beads before, they are a great sensory tool! They start out as teeny tiny balls and grow when soaked in water. I recommend soaking your beads so they grow to full size before putting them in the bottle so that you don't end up with too many! They give off a cool, aura look in the bottle and can be rolled around rather than shaken. Students can roll the bottle and count the purple beads, spot their favorite colors, etc.

The Bead Bottle: 
This is a fun way to use those tiny little beads that are intended for ironing shape projects. They float, so students can watch the beads rise after shaking the bottle. And just for fun, I used glow in the dark beads.

The Ocean Bottle:
This bottle can be tipped on its side and rolled back and forth to create waves. It's not visible in the picture, but I also dropped a tiny starfish in the bottle for students to watch as they make waves.

The Failed Glitter Bottle:
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the bottle that didn't turn out so great. I used glitter glue instead of clear glue for this bottle, and I didn't love how it turned out. The coarse glitter settles slowly like in the pink glitter bottle above, but the glitter that was in the glue is very slow to settle. If I were to use glitter glue again, I'd use much less. I really just prefer the way the bottles turned out using plain clear glue. 

What other items do you like to include in your calming sensory bottles? I've got at least 10 more bottles waiting to be filled!
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Back to School Gifts for Coworkers

When it's time to head back to school, I always have the same giddy feelings that I had when I was a student heading back to school! The...

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