The Power of Play-4 Ways to Encourage Therapeutic Play

Cute little girl cheerfully looks at a baby toy
Children need to be given time to play freely.

Play is essential to every child’s development. Therapeutic play contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children. Playing allows kids to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles.

Hundreds of studies provide evidence that play is a natural and powerful self-therapy tool. Children use play instinctively to process both environmental stress and inner-conflict. By observing and participating you can use play as a window into their inner thoughts.

Here are four ways that you can help encourage therapeutic play:

Don’t judge or interfere

Playtime belongs to your children, not you. Rather than interfere and manipulate the process,  allow children to follow their imagination when they play. Relegate yourself to follow their lead. Create a safe, confidential and caring environment allowing children to play with as few limits as possible.

Allow the Expression of Feelings

By expressing feelings through play, even if it is symbolically through toys, children can begin to feel better. Expressing their feelings helps children understand those feelings. This leads to a decrease in the anxiety created by these feelings. Children can then devote more of their mental energy to creative activities and problem-solving, which will result in faster learning, an increase in self-confidence and help grow their self-esteem.

Whenever possible, play outside

Create a safe outdoor play space with an area nearby where you can relax in a comfortable chair while your children enjoy the enhanced therapeutic benefits of fresh air and nature. As a rule, be outside as much as you can. Your children will sleep better, play better, eat better and FEEL better.

Watch, learn and appreciate

Most therapeutic play is below the radar, undetectable to us. We’re left wondering what our children might be processing, if anything. Honing our observation skills helps us detect the more subtle examples. Keep an eye out for repetitive themes or behaviours.

Playing freely also allows kids to use their imaginations, problem solve and be creative.  Ensure that you are making time to play with your children on a regular basis

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