I really love this quirky, little story about a small boy, Pete, whose father decides to cheer him up one rainy day, by making him into a pizza! Pete’s parents take him through lots of playful stages in this process – kneading, stretching, whirling & twirling. Creative substitutes for oil, flour and pizza toppings are liberally applied to the ‘dough’ boy. The text resembles a set of directions and Pete’s parents show him in a really fun, loving and definitely hands-on way, that they know just what kind of activity and fun he needs to help him to feel better.
So many adopted and fostered children who have experienced traumatic early lives, struggle to feel in tune with their bodies. Neglected and abuse children may have missed out on the important early movement experiences that are so important in helping them think about any sorts of feelings. In therapy, adoptive parents and foster carers have often spoken to me of how their children struggle to notice if they are hot or cold, hungry or full. They find it hard to be still or settle to concentrate on anything for very long. These are the children that come into the therapy room like little whirlwinds and we know that we are a long way from sitting and talking about emotions – first we have to address what is going on for them on a body level. If we start by helping children to feel more comfortable in their own skins, they can become calmer and think better.
In my sessions with parents, I prepare them for the fact that the start of therapy is likely to be very active – we will be moving and playing and experimenting with lots of ways to help their child ‘check in with their body’ and discover what it needs to feel just right. We practice together before their child joins the session, so that parents can understand and have confidence in the ways we will be working together. We create a ‘tool kit’ of sensory strategies for them to take home together.
I have found that Pete’s a Pizza can be one of the books in that tool kit. In a wonderfully quick and simple way, this story of few words can help in introducing the idea that we can experiment and find activities to help our bodies to feel better and that this can be fun. It can invite conversations about what feels right for the child and what doesn’t – such as when Pete and his family notice that pizzas don’t like being tickled. The absurdity and energy with which Pete is thrown into the air by his father and eventually becomes ready for the oven (which is really the sofa), can help to catch the attention of even the wriggliest and most distractable of children! Although this board book is aimed at very young children, I have found that children of all ages have responded well to its message – as have the adults who love them.
Pete’s a Pizza conveys a lovely message of how playfulness can help to create both connection and self-regulation. When I read this story, I can’t help but smile.