Masks all around, not being able to go out, virtual classrooms – young children can feel anxious and vulnerable with the changes in their schedules and routines. The inability to express their fears and concerns can make their anxieties worse. This can result in challenging behaviours or deeper emotional struggles. Play therapy is an excellent way to help children open up and acknowledge their feelings.
When Play Becomes Therapy
Playing is probably one of the top favourite activities of most children. Apart from fun which is the obvious benefit, playing can also help children build their skills and boost self-esteem. Play therapy is a process by which children of all abilities are given tools to engage in fun activities that provide a sense of belonging and inclusion. This psychological intervention method uses play to address the physical, cognitive, emotional needs of a child. Studies have shown that play therapy can have far greater benefits with parental involvement. It can serve as a method for parents to understand the world through the child’s eyes.
Benefits of Play Therapy
Playing can help in nurturing skills that are required for children to lead fulfilling lives. Here are some of the skills that can be developed through play:
- Problem Solving
- Addressing Fears
- Managing Stress
- Social Interactions
- Social Communication
- Sensory behaviours
Simple Play Therapy Activities
Since each child is unique, a professional play therapist can help in identifying activities that work best for the child. Here are a few simple activities play therapists recommend to help children cope with their emotions:
The Magic Wand Game
This game that helps children to talk about their fears may not require anything more than a decorated stick. The game involves telling the child that they can use the wand to ask for three wishes. Experts say that most children may talk about their existing problems in at least one of their wishes. Children can also be encouraged to be specific in their wishes.
‘You can wish for something you would like to change in your life right now’
‘What would you want to disappear from the world to make you happy?’
The Worry Box
Some children who tend to overthink may not know how to process their worries. Asking them to ‘not worry’ may not comfort them because they may feel that their feelings were undermined. By giving them the tools to make sense of their worries, we can help them navigate their negative thoughts.
A ‘worry box’ involves the child writing or drawing their worries and putting it in a box for safekeeping. An adult can help the child in putting their worries on a piece of paper. Any empty cardboard box lying around the house can be used as a ‘worry box’. Getting the child to decorate the box can help them get comfortable with the process. As each worry is written, the child can be encouraged to talk about the worry. Every day, the worries can be discussed with the child and any new worries can be addressed. This reassures the child that all their worries will be heard and understood.
We all know that taking deep breaths can help in calming us when we face stressful situations. Young children may need help in learning how to take deep breaths when they feel stressed. One simple technique used to teach deep breathing is with shapes. As children trace these shapes, they learn to inhale, hold their breath and exhale to take deep breaths.
Bubbles can also be used to teach deep breathing to children. Blowing a big bubble can help children learn how to breathe deep from the stomach and exhale slowly. Social stories can also be used to tell children how our body can relax when it gets more oxygen. This can help children understand why they feel anxiety in their bodies and that they can deep breathe to calm themselves.
Hope you found these play therapy techniques useful. Please share your feedback and suggestions in the comment section below.