play therapy toolbox

The Essential Play Therapy Toolbox

Play therapy is an effective way to improve social communication and language development. The beauty of play therapy is that it’s fun for both parents and children. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t require prior planning for the best results.

There’s really no such thing as spending too much time with your children. However, most parents are hard-pressed to meet all the time obligations in their daily lives. That means that it’s smart to not only set aside time to play with your kids, but also to make every hour count. That’s where a play therapy toolbox comes in handy.

A play therapy toolbox doesn’t cost anything, and you can store it anywhere. It’s simply a handful of helpful principles that you can apply to any play therapy session. Try this list of play therapy tools to make the most of time spent with your children:

Be a Play-By-Play Announcer

If play therapy has one essential principle, it’s paying close attention to your child. Children who have delayed communication and social skills can’t always tell you what they want. That makes it doubly important to pay extra attention to their behavior, and go along with them as much as you can.

To energize your play sessions, don’t just watch and play along. It’s great to introduce a running commentary on what’s happening. If your child likes tumbling,  get down on the floor and do it too. Then supercharge the effect by saying:  We are tumbling now. Eventually, children will associate the words with the actions. They’ll also associate talking with fun. It’s a great way to increase communication.

Understand Play Is More Than Actions

Describing what you’re doing while you’re doing it together is useful and fun. Don’t stop there. It’s just as useful and fun to describe the way you’re feeling as describing what you’re doing.

Observe your child’s expressions as they play, as well as their activities. Say things like: You are rolling on the floor. You are very excited. Your child will associate both the action and the feeling it gave them with the words you use.

Never Was Heard a Discouraging Word

Play therapy activities are all about support and encouragement. It’s smart to avoid introducing any discouraging words into your activities. Always find a way to acknowledge effort, no matter how the activity turns out.

Delayed language development can be frustrating for parents and children. Keep a positive attitude at all times to encourage effort despite impediments.

Play Therapy Is All About Choice

It’s not helpful to plan out play sessions to the last minute, and then become peevish when your child would prefer to do something else. Whenever possible, steer your child to desired activities with choices. Saying, You can do this, or you can do that, which do you like better? is a great way to avoid frustration all around.

Set Soft Limits

All parents need to set limits. Playing along with your children doesn’t mean you have to lose control over their activities. It’s smart to set boundaries, and enforce them. The way you limit activities is very important. Avoid harsh or discouraging language that will make your children associate play sessions with being disciplined instead of having fun.

Try to stay in control by gently steering your children away from behavior you don’t want, while allowing them some measure of control over the situation, too. For instance, try saying, Instead of shouting like that, would you rather tumble, or play a game?  That approach is more likely to get an enthusiastic response than giving orders.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can use your play therapy toolbox to improve your child’s language development and social skills, visit the Play.Connect.Grow  Play Therapy 101 page.

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