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  • Writer's pictureKelli Niewhoner

A Guide to Play Therapy for Children

In the world of therapy, innovation and creativity are essential tools for reaching the hearts and minds of children. One such groundbreaking approach is play therapy, a specialized form of therapy that harnesses the power of play to help children express and process their emotions. In this blog post, we'll explore what play therapy is, how it works in sessions, the various tools play therapists use, why it's chosen over traditional talk therapy, and provide examples of effective techniques.

What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy is a form of counseling or psychotherapy that uses play as a medium for communication and expression. Tailored specifically for children, this approach recognizes that play is a natural language for kids, allowing them to express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a way that feels comfortable and non-threatening.

How Does Play Therapy Work in Sessions?

During play therapy sessions, children are given the opportunity to explore a carefully designed playroom filled with toys, art materials, and other expressive tools. The therapist observes and interacts with the child, providing a safe and supportive environment for them to communicate and process their emotions. Through various play activities, therapists gain insights into the child's inner world, helping them address issues such as trauma, anxiety, or behavioral challenges.

Tools of the Trade:

Play therapists utilize a wide range of tools to facilitate communication and expression.

Some common tools include:

Art Supplies: Crayons, markers, and paints allow children to visually represent their emotions and experiences through drawings and paintings.

Sand Tray: A miniature sandbox and various figurines enable children to create scenes that mirror their feelings and experiences, offering a symbolic representation of their world.

Puppets and Dolls: These act as surrogates for communication, allowing children to project their thoughts and emotions onto these inanimate objects.

Board Games: Games with therapeutic elements help children learn essential social and emotional skills in a structured and enjoyable way.

Why Play Therapy Instead of Talk Therapy?

Children, especially those who may not have developed strong verbal skills, often find it challenging to express themselves through traditional talk therapy. Play therapy provides a natural, developmentally appropriate method for children to communicate without feeling pressured or judged. It allows therapists to meet children on their own level and engage them in a way that feels like play rather than work.

Examples of Play Therapy Techniques:
  1. Sandplay Therapy: Children use a sandbox and various miniature figures to create scenes, fostering a symbolic representation of their experiences.

  2. Therapeutic Board Games: Games like "The Talking, Feeling, Doing Game" help children understand and express their emotions while engaging in a fun and interactive setting.

  3. Play-Dough Therapy: Sculpting with play-dough provides a tactile and creative outlet for children to express their feelings and thoughts.

  4. Puppet Play: Therapists use puppets to create a safe distance for children to project their feelings onto, allowing them to express thoughts they might be hesitant to share directly.


Play therapy is a powerful and effective approach to helping children navigate the challenges they face. By tapping into the natural language of play, therapists can build a bridge to a child's inner world, fostering healing and growth. If you have a child struggling with emotional or behavioral issues, consider exploring the world of play therapy—a place where healing and self-discovery happen through the transformative power of play.

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