What is Play Therapy and how is it valuable for young children?

June 6, 2018

Our friend, Mr. Fred Rogers, from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, said it best,

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.”

Children learn through play. Play has a significant importance in the lives of children; it allows children to be creative, to interact with one another, to try out different roles and personalities, and to suspend reality. In her groundbreaking work on play, Maria Montessori called play “the work” of the child.

All behavior has a message. In the process of growing up, issues that children experience are often compounded by the limited ability of adults in their lives to understand or respond effectively to what children are feeling and trying to communicate. Play is a medium for expressing feelings when the use of verbal forms of expression are not fully developed.

Play Therapy serves as an extension of this idea. Play Therapy allows children to communicate and address challenges in a non-threatening way. It differs from regular play, in that, its focus is to help identify, address and resolve conflicts in a child’s life. Play Therapy can be therapist directed, where the therapist selects the game or items that will be used in a session, or client-led, where the room is set up as a “playroom” and the child selects any item to be used.

With both of these styles, play therapy supports children with expressing their feelings, confronting worries, enhancing social skills, and developing problem-solving strategies. Mr. Rogers said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.”

In the safety of the Play Therapy experience, children are able to explore the unfamiliar and develop a knowing that is both experiential-feeling and cognitive. Through the process of play, the unfamiliar becomes familiar, and children often express outwardly through play what has taken place, or what is currently taking place, inwardly.

If you would like to know more about play therapy, or take a tour of our play therapy playroom, give us a call to chat HEREBe Wise!

From Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family

and Dr. Amy Fortney Parks, Practice Owner