Learn Play Therapy
Develop your understanding of play therapy and your ability to apply play therapy techniques to address psychological problems in children and specific adult populations, and to learn how play can be used as a therapeutic tool in the treatment of injury, illness or disability.
There are nine lessons as follows:
- The Foundation for Using Play Therapy
- Applications of Play & Play Therapy
- Play Therapy for Anxiety & Depressive Disorders
- Play Therapy for Behavioural Disorders
- Play Therapy for Developmental Disorders
- Play Therapy for Social & Family Problems
- Play Therapy & Adult Populations
- Related Specialised Creative Therapies
- Play & Rehabilitation
Course Duration - 100 hours of self paced study
Learn to Understand how Different Toys Impact Therapy
Play therapists use a range of toys and materials to encourage exploration of experiences. Nevertheless, it is not necessary to have a fully equipped playroom. It is more important that children in therapy have access to materials which allow them to freely express their emotions and experiences. This means carefully selecting toys and materials rather than merely gathering a vast collection of different items since many toys will not encourage children to express their inner feelings and experiences. Toys are not meant to distract the child whilst they talk, but are intended to elicit certain responses such as:
- Expressive play
- Expression of feelings
- Exploratory play
- Exploration of life experiences
- Testing of boundaries or limits
Some therapists emphasise having toys which elicit play and feelings related to: nurturing, aggression and expression.
Landreth (2012) emphasises using toys which are strong and easy to clean and which encourage expression of themes such as real life, nurturing, aggression and fantasy. He also emphasises the need for gender and culturally appropriate options.
Some examples of appropriate toys include:
- Dolls house & family dolls
- Hand & finger puppets of people and animals
- Toy vehicles
- Plastic animals
- Lego or building blocks
- Play cookware
- Dressing up clothes
- Toy medical kit
- Musical instruments
- Toy soldiers
- Action figures
- Play handcuffs
- Foam sword & rubber knife
- Play money
- Toy tools
Materials to use:
- Art supplies (paper, pencils, crayons, paints, craft materials, plasticine or modelling clay)
- Sand e.g. sandbox
Materials, and toys, should be provided in an orderly and consistent fashion to provide safety and regularity for the child. They will feel more comfortable and relaxed if they know where things are or are presented with things in the same way each time.
As well as toys and materials, play therapists employ a range of other techniques borrowed from creative therapies to elicit play, exploration and expression of thoughts and feelings. These include but are not limited to:
- Therapeutic storytelling
- Dramatic role playing
- Music therapy
- Dance therapy
Age Appropriate Choices
- Children of different ages are likely to interact with toys which appeal to their level of cognitive development. There are no particular cut-off points though and, if provided with choice, children will usually find something which appeals them. Some examples of age appropriate choices are as follows:
- Infants to 3 years - rattles, squeeze toys, teething toys, play mats, mobiles, mirrors, cot toys, baby swings, balls
- Toddlers and preschoolers 3 to 5 years – dolls, puppets, building blocks, sandbox, water toys, stacking rings, pegboards, shape sorters, push and pull toys, toy cars, train sets, musical toys, balls, beads, movement games
- School-aged children 5 to 11 years - dolls, puppets, action figures, toy soldiers, building blocks, sandbox, roller skates, therapeutic board games, play tools, play money, musical instruments, therapeutic storytelling
- Middle schoolers and adolescents 11 to 14 years- art materials, crafts, musical instruments, electronics, therapeutic board games, sports and active games
There are differences of opinion as to whether toy guns should be included. Some therapists suggest using guns which are not actual replicas of real guns. Often parents are not happy about toy guns being used in therapy so this should be taken into account. However, it is important that there are toys which allow children to act out aggression hence the inclusion of items like rubber knives, foam swords and toy soldiers. Regardless, if a child wishes to act out aggression they will do so using any toy that comes to hand. For example, a wooden or plastic building block could become a grenade or a pencil could become a sword.
Some therapists also include aggressive-release toys. These are objects which the child can damage such as bubble wrap which can be popped and egg cartons or cardboard boxes which can be crushed or squashed. The inclusion of these allows for free expression of anger and release of pent up tension. Aggressive toys also allow children to test limits and learn boundaries e.g. how far they can go before hurting someone or how fast they can run before losing control, as well as exploration of rules.
Toys to Avoid
Most children who come to play therapy sessions have low self-esteem, dependency, insecure attachments and other social and behavioural issues. Toys should not present problems to them which only exacerbate or reinforce their existing problems. Therefore, toys to avoid include complex and mechanical ones which may be difficult to understand, toys which need a lot of explanation or helpful input from the therapist, along with any materials which require the therapist’s assistance to use them.