Did you know you can give your child therapy when you play with them? You may be wondering how. Through play therapy! The great thing about play therapy is that it doesn’t feel like therapy. It’s just like normal play except with a bit more purpose.
Curious how you can teach your child by simply playing with them? Keep reading to find out how play therapy can help you help your youngster.
What Is Play Therapy?
Play therapy is an intervention created by Dr. Stanley Greenspan that focuses on the relationship between the provider and the client, or in this case parent and child. The thing is you don’t have to be a therapist and your kiddo doesn’t have to be a client!
Another name used for play therapy is “floor time” because a lot of play takes place on the floor and parents get down to play at their child’s level. You probably already do that on a daily basis.
Play therapy focuses on activities that engages children. In other words, playing activities that your child already enjoys. You probably do that when you play with your kid too.
Playing a favorite past-time on the floor probably sounds like regular play time. What makes it therapeutic is that it focuses on using relationships to help children grow intellectually and emotionally.
Without the child realizing it, play sessions are lead by them. Adults participate in play that is on the child’s developmental level and builds on their strengths. Through this process the adults help kids expand their intellect, communication skills and emotions.
What Does Play Therapy Teach?
The goal of play therapy is to teach kids intellectual and emotional skills in 6 areas which are:
- Relationship building
- Communicating with others
- Complex communication interactions
- Emotional ideas
- Emotional thinking
Play is a natural methodology for kids to learn and practice self-regulation, communication and exploring emotions so that they can reach their full potential.
What Does Play Therapy Look Like
Play-time happens in a calm space. During play-time kids select the activity and start playing. The adult then joins the child and follows their lead. From there, while playing, the grown-up engages in interactions with the youngster in a back and forth manner.
Let’s use building blocks as an example. Let’s say your child starts building a tower. You let them stack a few blocks, then you help build. Keep interactions minimal, just follow their lead or imitate them.
Next your child crashes the tower with his hands so you follow suit. After awhile you suggest building a taller tower, or using a ball for crashing. As you build you slowly expand the activity by changing the type of tower, labeling colors or shapes or bringing in action figures. All of this helps your child respond and interact with you.,
As your child grows, you can use strategies to help build your child’s interests to encourage higher levels of interaction. Going back to the block illustration, you can use the same play themes with other types of building toys like Lincoln Logs or Legoes. You can try building a house instead of a tower.
Tips For Success
Play therapy is a great way to bond with your child and teach him or her valuable communication and emotional skills. To ensure success be sure to:
- Meet your child at his or her level
- Assess your child to see how he or she is feeling, acting so you know how to respond
- Let your child lead or initiate activities
- Avoid introducing ideas too soon
- If child gets frustrated either stop or back away
- Keep it fun
Don’t underestimate the power of play! You’ll be amazed at what play therapy can do for you and your child.
Elizabeth Purpero is a licensed school counselor and licensed professional counselor-in-training. She has her master’s in counseling psychology. Elizabeth has worked as an autism therapist with children and teens. During her career, she has worked in intensive at-home therapy programs utilizing ABA and play therapy along with OT and speech therapy techniques. She has also worked as a mental health therapist helping clients address their mental health issues as it relates to autism. Elizabeth’s background working with the autism community has greatly helped her work with students in schools too. She has helped teachers implement effective strategies, create goals for IEP’s and make classrooms more sensory-friendly. Mark Twain once said, “Write what you know about,” and Elizabeth enjoys writing about autism-related topics and providing additional resources to help those impacted by autism.