In looking for recipes for homemade playdough a few weeks ago, I came across a great idea for making stress balls from balloons and playdough. I thought I would share this idea so that other therapists could try this out with clients.
To make your own stress ball, simply take a balloon, fill with playdough, then tie off the end. I have also seen other variations in which you fill a balloon with sand or flour, but playdough has the advantage of not being quite as messy if the balloon eventually rips.
I have created a few balloon stress balls that I plan to add to the basket of fidget toys in my office. This could also be a great activity to do with a client as part of working on relaxation and healthy coping. The client can then decorate the stress ball however they like with a permanent marker. I have decorated mine with different feeling faces in order to help spark conversations about different emotions.
Stress balls can be great for a variety of uses. When children are anxious, a stress ball can help them to calm down and feel more centered. For high energy or ADHD children, a stress ball can provide an appropriate outlet for some of their energy. Balloon stress balls are small enough that they could keep one in their pocket or their desk at school. Stress balls can be helpful in anger management, giving children a safe outlet for angry feelings. Stress balls can also great for children on the autism spectrum–while they may not like the feel of clay or playdough, they may enjoy squeezing a balloon playdough stress ball.
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Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT, ATR is an art therapist in Austin, Texas who works with children, teens, and families. For more information about individual therapy, child counseling, family therapy, and art therapy services, please visit www.therapywithcarolyn.com.
This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any mental health conditions. All directives, interventions, and ideas should be used by qualified individuals within the appropriate bounds of their education, training, and scope of practice. Information presented in this blog does not replace professional training in mental health, psychotherapy, counseling, art therapy, or play therapy. Although anyone can have a healing experience with art, art therapy requires the direction of a trained art therapist.
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I work with kids within our school. Can you share how you get the play dough inside the balloons?
Carolyn Mehlomakulu says
Thanks for reading! Here are some tips to get the playdough into the balloon. I usually blow up the balloon and then release the air a few times to help it stretch out a bit first. Then stretch open the neck of the balloon and add the playdough in small balls, pushing it down to the bottom of the balloon each time. This can be awkwardly done by one person or done a little more easier with two people. When the playdough starts to back up into the neck of the balloon and cannot be pushed down any further, you've probably got as much as will fit. Release the neck of the balloon, squeeze down any playdough caught in the neck, and then tie it off.
I usually keep a small supply of these available in my office in the "fidget toy" basket. Kids can play with them during session and for those that seem to enjoy it, I allow them to take one home or make one in session. When it pops, we can always make another together in session. My last one in my stash got popped yesterday evening, so I guess I'll be making some more this weekend!
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Kids will definitely love to play with it.
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Hi, interesting post and thank you for sharing.
I however have one question. Can I use Plasticine instead of playdough? Would it be harder to squeeze if I use Plasticine?
Carolyn Mehlomakulu says
Sorry for the very late reply…for any future readers who are wondering, I would generally recommend against plasticine as I think that it would be too hard. However, there may be individuals that really prefer something with a lot of resistance. In that case, modeling clay or plasticine might work. It will likely end up as a smaller stress ball because I don't think you could press it in as easily. If anyone gives this a try, please leave a comment and let me know what you think. I just got a big bag of balloons, so maybe I'll try some different materials soon and see how they feel.