Play Therapy Techniques for Children – Part 1

When working with an adult in a therapy session, the technique used may be solely a back-and-forth conversation.  In these cases, the ability to communicate (even if not entirely effectively) is usually not an obstacle.  However, with children, who may not have fully developed communicative abilities, therapists frequently rely on various active and fun therapy techniques.

What is Play Therapy?

Despite what the name might suggest, the child is not simply playing with random toys for the duration of the session. Professional, trained therapists use “specific toys and activities to help children work through problems or issues.” (Quite a few books and papers have been written on the topic of play therapy techniques.)

Play therapy is a method used typically with children ages 3-12 that uses toys and activities as a way for children to communicate (and eventually resolve) their psychological challenges. As the Association for Play Therapy explains, this method is commonly used for children to help them cope with a certain problem: “By confronting problems in the clinical play-therapy setting, children find healthier solutions” to their problems.

For example, if a child has lived in a home where domestic abuse occurred, the therapist may give the child a house full of dolls and some toy cars to play with, then watch how the child makes the dolls interact, or he may throw in roadblocks to the child’s play to see how the child reacts to these perceived obstacles. In these instances, play therapy techniques are helping children adopt healthier ways to deal with certain situations.  In addition, this teaches them healthy nonverbal and verbal ways to communicate their thoughts and feelings.

We use toys and activities to help initiate conversation with the child. In addition, the therapist can just observe the child in a “free-form environment”.   This allows the child to behave as he/she might at home.  Although this particular play therapy technique may seem the most like merely playing around without any therapeutic or psychological benefit, the therapist’s trained eyes will be looking for any potential red flags.

A Few Techniques

When determining what active and engaged therapy technique should be used, there are a few factors that your therapist will look at: the child’s developmental age, whether this is individual or group therapy, and the goals for the child post-therapy (i.e. what are the therapy sessions hoping to accomplish).

The activities can be further broken down into the particular goal of the therapy sessions. For example, there are specific techniques for the following:

  • Expressing emotions
  • Developing healthy social skills and communicative abilities
  • Building self-esteem
  • and dealing with death or a traumatic experience

The moral of the story is this.  We offer kids a comfortable way to cope with and communicate what may be a difficult experience.  We do this by engaging with children through interactive activities and toys.  Alternatively, this helps the child express himself/herself in a healthy and safe way.

If you’re interested in having a professional therapist work with your child, or just want to know more about therapy, give us a call.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to help you




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