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Play Therapy: Intro to a Child’s World

Children have continuously growing minds. They explore creatively and, at times, it feels that they are from another world. In counseling, children do have their own world that they explore through therapeutically. As adults, we process conflict, thoughts, and feelings through talking about it. Naturally, we assume this is the same approach for children. When talking with children and asking their thoughts or feelings, do the kiddos say something like, “I don’t know” or they change the subject? Verbal communication is considered a child’s second language. Their primary language is play. They communicate their thoughts and feeling through how they play, and the materials or toys they use are their words. Play therapy is key for children when processing and communicating.

When a counselor utilizes play therapy in session, they are accessing the child’s world. The child then shares what is on their mind and process what they need to. For example, a child typically discloses their trauma through repetitive, and almost scripted, violent play. This play is not prompted. Naturally, they recreate their trauma in their play, and repeat the “scene” in order to process and understand what they have been through.

In order for a child to be able to process their traumas, representation is key. Below is a list of materials that is common in play therapy rooms:

  • Dolls/puppets
  • Figures of people, trees, characters, alcohol, support services, etc
  • Art supplies
  • Costumes of support services such as law enforcement, judges, etc
  • Popsicle sticks or egg cartons (anger processing)
  • Play doctor/first aid kits