One of the most delightful things about kids? Their lack of a filter of course — meaning they usually say whatever they’re thinking, exactly how they want to say it. While not always appropriate, it can be really refreshing at times.
Well, one California elementary school is creatively harnessing the power of kids’ words to encourage others in their community and across the nation. Students at West Side Union Elementary School in Healdsburg, California, recently created an emotional support hotline called Peptoc — featuring pre-recorded encouraging messages from kids.
Here’s what we know about this voice initiative gone viral.
The “Peptoc Hotline” (awesomely misspelled on a flyer by one of the 6-year-olds) launched through the school’s website on February 26 with the goal of offering — that’s right — mini pep talks suitable for a range of circumstances.
Calling the free hotline at 707-998-8410 directs you to prompts in both English and Spanish that say the following:
“If you’re feeling mad, frustrated, or nervous, press 1. If you need words of encouragement and life advice, press 2. If you need a pep talk from kindergartners, press 3. If you need to hear kids laughing with delight, press 4. For encouragement in Spanish, press 5.”
Making any of the selections launches an enjoyable loop of lively young voices giving advice or encouragement as only children can. A few examples include:
“If you’re frustrated, you can always go to your bedroom and punch a pillow or cry on it or go scream outside.”
“If you’re nervous, go get your wallet and spend it on ice cream and shoes.”
“Be grateful for yourself.”
“If you’re frustrated… go jump on a trampoline.”
“Just breathe, you can do it.”
The students at West Side Union Elementary worked under the guidance of their art teacher and local artist, Jessica Martin, whose goal was to start a public art project that would help people in the community cope with the global heaviness of the past 2 years.
“I thought, you know, with this world being as it is, we all really needed to hear from them — their extraordinary advice and their continual joy,” she said in a statement to NPR. “Their creativity and resourcefulness is something that we need to emulate because that level of joy and love and imagination is what’s going to save us in the end.”
Martin quickly found that motivational statements and words of affirmation via elementary schoolers did indeed prove to be instant mood-boosters. She mentioned in an interview with CNN that the Peptoc Hotline project went viral in less than a week, receiving between 300 and 500 calls an hour, and up to as many as 5,000 calls a day.
We can definitely vouch for the infectious joy, having called the hotline ourselves at least 5 times over a span of 30 minutes. Cycling through the different prompts, the pep talks really do you some emotional good — whether you’re laughing out loud at the kids’ super innocent, matter-of-fact self-help suggestions or tearing up at their beautifully noncynical cheerleading. It’s emotional support in its purest form.
With the help of outside funding, the school hopes to keep Peptoc going through the end of the school year. If you’d like to support Peptoc and the school’s other enrichment programs, you can donate here.
A program like Peptoc is great because it’s a reminder that positivity practice is one cost-free way of fostering mental health. While it might feel awkward at first, forming a positive self-talk habit — even something as small as 30 seconds to 1 minute per day — can greatly enhance your wellness practice.