The Magic of Play

Playing is a magical and problem-solving part of human nature and has long been regarded as an important aspect of child development. The opportunity to play is even outlined as a basic right for children by the United Nations. Through play, children develop physically, cognitively, and emotionally. Play also helps children to share their emotional experiences in an effective way. Kids are able to explore the realms of their imaginations, learn social-emotional skills, express themselves, and have fun! Play improves children’s health and well being. Play can also be an incredibly therapeutic tool, particularly for children.


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Play as Therapy

Play therapy is well-established and respected in the counseling world. Mental health professionals who provide play therapy must have a masters or doctorate degree and hold an appropriate license from The Association for Play Therapy (APT). The symbolic nature of play makes it an ideal method of providing therapy to kids. It can be an effective treatment for a variety of behavioral and emotional challenges. It is also an appropriate form of counseling for kids who have experienced trauma or have limited verbal skills. A Registered Play Therapist(RPT) uses many different tools including toys, games, sand trays, puppets, art, and much more. Parents play an active role throughout the process. Although play therapy is primarily used with kids, playfulness does not end with the arrival of adulthood. Play therapy techniques are utilized in a variety of settings from counseling offices to schools and hospitals.


The Language of Children

Play therapists understand that play works like a child’s language. Children express themselves better during playtime than traditional talk therapies for several reasons. Children are not always able to communicate their feelings and problems through conversation. And sometimes child’s words and actions are misinterpreted. During play therapy, there is little pressure to articulate how they’re feeling. Kids are in control and free to interact with toys, games, and activities with little restriction. The therapist then follows the child’s lead, hoping to make meaning out of the play and catch a glimpse of how they are interacting with the world around them. Some therapists take a more directive approach during the play therapy sessions, depending on the goals of therapy. Play therapy helps them to understand exactly what a kid wants to express.


Meeting Kids Where They Are

Play therapy allows the therapist to meet the child where they are developmentally and otherwise. The enjoyable nature of play is conducive to positive relationship building, which is key in any therapeutic setting.  The therapist works to create a comfortable atmosphere where kids are free to enact conflict in a safe environment and accepting place. Kids communicate important thoughts and feelings as they play. Trained play therapists then interpret and guide the session in healing ways. Using gentle reflection throughout the process promotes self-esteem and self-understanding. For the most part, kids have the power to use toys how they would like. One exception is that therapists set limits with destructive or aggressive behaviors to help teach better ways of expression and self-control.

Play therapy is a valuable treatment modality for children. The effectiveness of play therapy in a child’s optimal growth is huge! It’s developmentally sensitive and allows adults to see the world from a child’s point of view. Play therapy techniques can be empowering for kids, their parents, and family members. Learn more information about play therapy here.