One of my pleasures in life is exploring unusual shops and markets: antiques, bric-a-brac, dusty books, shiny objects and other curio all fascinate me and I could spend hours looking for unusual objects and bargains. Not that I ever do. My husband and children can’t think of anything worse so a brief glance is usually all I can manage. I was in heaven in the Colaba Causeway Market on our trip to South Mumbai recently. Sounds, smells and overcrowding assaults the senses; shiny objects glisten tantalisingly and the stall holders are on a mission to sell you something at all costs.
At a little antique stall, one item did catch my eye. A small, metal lamp. The sort you could expect a genie to emerge from….with some imagination!
I snapped it up, memories surfacing about a concept I’ve read about numerous times about the power of a magic lamp in play therapy. Magic lamps are commonly sold on therapy resource sites, used in Play Therapy, Sand Tray Therapy and other interventions aimed at children. The lamp is a fabulous tool to explore the inner world of the child by asking them to express their wishes.
Asking about your child’s wishes can give insight into their thoughts and feelings.
It may be that they wish to spend more time with you or a particular friend; they don’t want to do an activity that is bothering them or they are feeling homesick. It’s always important to explain first that wishing is a game, it doesn’t mean we can make their wishes come true. When we did this recently, Naledi wished that her brother could be the same age as her. This opened up a conversation about her frustration that he often spoilt her games and we looked at some of the games they could happily play together.
Magic Lamp Inspired Activities
Design your own lamp. A nice, easy craft activity that can be adapted to suit the materials you have available. We simply cut out the shape of a lamp and provided the children with glue, sequins and buttons for them to decorate with.
Create a Genie. This craft activity incorporates sensory play and you can use a variety of materials. We used Holi powder (usually found in Indian supermarkets) and mixed in some salt to add texture and glitter for a sparkling effect. Coloured sand would work well too. The children drew the shape of a genie and covered it in glue. I poured the powder into the lamp so the children could then pour in out onto their pictures. A genie emerging from a lamp! Some googly eyes completed the look and the remaining powder was used as a writing tray later.
Create Magic. Young children are little scientists and love exploring and investigating how materials are able to change. You can use a lamp to create ‘magic’ by incorporating it into simple, age appropriate science experiments. I filled ours with the tiny water beads, poured them into a bowl of water in the evening and the children were delighted to see how much they had grown the next day. My eldest was interested to know how they had expanded whilst my toddler just loved playing with the beads and spooning them into small containers.
Ways to Use a Lamp
- The magic lamp is a great way to check in with your child, especially if you suspect something is bothering them. It can be used as a conversation starter to explore what they are thinking and feeling.
- Using a magic lamp, wishing well, wand or another symbol of magic can be incorporated into your family traditions. To celebrate a birthday for example: your child can be granted three wishes which may have to do with eating a favourite food, visiting a favourite place or playing with certain friends.
- You can use it at the start of term or the educational year to set goals for older children. Ask them what they hope to achieve, what they wish they could learn and have conversations around how they can make their own wishes come true. This is great for building self-efficacy.
You don’t need a fancy lamp to try out these activities; a homemade one, a metal gravy jug or something you find in a second-hand sale would work as well. We all have hopes, dreams and wishes and children are no exception. Ask you child about theirs!