Within the play therapy, sand tray, and sand play communities, there are hundreds of resources for finding miniatures.

In fact, once you get started in sand tray, the challenge becomes how to STOP finding miniatures. While I don't have advice on that, I can help you find some really cool sand tray figures. 

One of my favorite resources for unique, hand-crafted sand tray miniatures is Kennedy Niatsac.  

FULL DISCLOSURE:  Kennedy is a friend who sometimes gives me minis that she doesn't like.  Occasionally, she gives me some that she does like.  Mostly, I am one of many people that give her honest feedback during the development stages of new products.  If you purchase anything from her, she will give me a great big thank you (but nothing else). 

This is how Kennedy describes her business:

Kennedy's Minis is a teeny-tiny operation run by Kennedy and her brother out of their living room. The business was accidentally born out of the creation of one tornado, and has since taken off. Many of the figures offered were created by special request. They include jails, superhero kids, waves, water, fire, and rainbows. They specialize in making your vision into reality. When not making miniatures, Kennedy likes to sleep and dream of making miniatures. 

How Kennedy Makes Sand Tray Figures

Honestly, I have no idea.  

Well, that's not totally true.  She uses a 3D printer for a lot of them. Others are cast in resin.  Then she paints them by hand or spray paints them.  

It all sounds pretty easy when you hear her talk about it.  Until you realize that each 3D prints takes hours upon hours and that sometimes one little glitch will ruin an entire project. 

So, what you don't see in all of these projects is her attention to detail, her critiques of all of the tiny flaws and her process of doing and re-doing projects until they are really something quite extraordinary.

Kennedy's Rainbows, Tornadoes and Waves and Fire

If you are looking for anything weather-related, she probably has it.

Kennedy is well-known for her rainbows, tornadoes, fire and waves.  In fact, she loves making rainbows more than anything else in her shop (because they require the most tedious care and attention to detail!).

Actually, that's exactly the reason that she hates making them. But people love buying them because they are such a popular symbol for so many people.   I prefer the ones WITH the clouds, but they are both pretty amazing.

The waves (all of shapes and sizes) are each slightly different colors and truly as unique as the ocean itself.  Same with the fire....these are some of my favorites!

And the tornadoes....well, if you live in an area that has tornadoes or if you see clients who often feel like their life is spiraling out of control...they are perfect symbols that are hard to find other places. 

Figures and Emotions

What I have been even more impressed with lately though are the figures and the level of emotion that they bring.  And the power of symbolizing negative, difficult, or scary emotions which is such  a needed part of your sand tray collection. 

Kennedy has these real-life inspired figures with big emotions.  Some, like this one covered in hands, really says more than I can do justice with words.

For a more mature audience than typical in the play therapy world, Kennedy can assist your adult clients in expressing the frustrations of breastfeeding, the joys of intercourse, the pain of pregnancy and the devastating pain of losing a child. 

Custom Made For You

And the coolest thing about Kennedy is that most of her orders now are custom made by request.  That means if you can think it, she can probably make it. 

I have tasked her with a delicate (but strong) plumeria flower for my Hawaii Play Therapy Retreat.  (We have just a couple spots left, btw) The results are still a secret for registered guests only, but let me just say...she nailed it!

I gave her an idea, sent a picture and she is making the magic happen.  

Pretty cool, huh?  Challenge Kennedy with a custom project of your own. It might just turn into something that everyone else wants, too! 

Warning: They Can Be a Little Fragile

There are some pieces that can be a little fragile.  If you pack them in your suitcase and then sit on it, they might not make it.  If you drop them off the top shelf of your sand tray bookcase, it is possible that it will crack in half. 

Just like any other amazing piece of artwork, there are limits to what it can do or be.  If you are working with dozens of three and four year olds per day, then you might need to take extra caution.  

I will say that my 4 and 5 year olds rummaged through the entire collection and did not break a single piece, but...maybe they were just on their best behavior at the time. 

If you want to see these bad boys for yourself, you will find Kennedy at many of the play therapy or sand tray therapy conferences in the vendor area.  Otherwise, you can order directly from her Etsy shop or message her there about your custom order. 

Which one is your favorite?? Please let me know in the comments. 

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Why a white daisy?

Apparently, when people  are asked to draw a flower, the first one that comes to mind for a majority of people is the daisy shape.   This single flower (just the flower part without the stem or any leaves and on a solid black background) was show to study participants after being shown a high-arousal negative image. Examples of high-arousal negative images include awful things like violence, injuries and car crashes.  Two trials were conducted:  in the first subjects were shown a high arousal image and then either a) the flower image b) a mosaic of fragments of the flower image or c) a visual fixation point.  In the second trial, the high arousal image was followed by either a) the flower image, b) a chair (deemed a neutral image) or c) a blue sky with clouds (deemed a positive non-floral image).   Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were taken throughout the experiments.  

As expected, mean blood pressure was lower when participants viewed the flower versus the fixation point or the mosaic flower,  but what was unexpected is that the flower image actually reduced mean blood pressure to a level lower than the baseline.  Both the flower image and the blue sky had a similar positive impact in changing mood from negative to positive (with the blue sky having the most overall impact).  However, only the flower (not the sky) caused a reduction in mean blood pressure.  It was determined that viewing a simple flower image could in fact change a negative mood into a more positive one and also decrease blood pressure. 

The power of the single flower image was then studied in regards to salivary cortisol levels.  During this study, the high-arousal images were once again paired with the flower image, the flower fragment mosaic or the fixation point.  Once again, only the flower image was shown to significantly decrease stress during the recovery phase. One final examination looked at fMRI images of the brain during these conditions.  Through this imagery it was discovered that the flower image was effective in decreasing the amygdala-hippocampus activation that occurred after viewing the high arousal images. Researchers speculated that the flower image was a distraction tool that was helped prevent the recall of the stressful images.  

The brief viewing of this single flower image was shown to be effective at reducing negative emotions and created better functioning of both the cardiovascular and endocrine systems! Having such a simple tool available to help reduce stress and regulate unpleasant emotions and is one possible tool for interrupting ruminating thoughts or unpleasant flashbacks.  

About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

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