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10 Play Therapy Activities and Ideas

Looking for specific activities for your Play Therapy program? Then read this mini-guide to learn about certain activities and see if you’d like to try them out for the kids you are caring for!

By Bernard Ramirez on Jun 16, 2024.

Fact Checked by RJ Gumban.

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Play Therapy Activities

Hello, there! If you have stumbled upon this guide, then our guess is that Play Therapy is a topic that you find interesting, or you are a therapist with a certification to practice Play Therapy for work.

Just so you know, this guide is all about Play Therapy Activities. We also have a guide for Play Therapy Techniques. If you are wondering how those two are different, well, Play Therapy Techniques and Play Therapy Activities can be interchanged, but the distinction between the guides is that the Play Therapy Techniques guide talks about activities in general, while this one discusses specific ones under certain technique umbrellas.

If you would like to just know about Play Therapy Techniques in general and get creative based on what you will see there, please check out our guide for it. But if you want specific activities, you’re in the right place.

Lastly, before we start the actual mini-guide, do note that you need to undergo specialized training and get a certification to practice Play Therapy. If you want to add Play Therapy to your line of therapeutic work, please get the appropriate training and certification from the nearest organization that teaches Play Therapy.

What are Play Therapy Activities?

Before we get to the nitty gritty about Play Therapy Activities, let’s discuss what Play Therapy is first, for the sake of those who are using this as an entry point to that kind of therapy.

Play Therapy is a form of therapy where the therapist, psychologist, or counselor provides an interactive kind of care to children and adolescents they are handling through play! What we mean by play in the context of Play Therapy is having kids partake in engaging activities that allow them to process their emotions and experiences in healthy ways. These are things they can do during one-on-one sessions with the kid or when you have them join a group of other kids their age! Sometimes, Play Therapy makes use of toys, too! What kid doesn’t like toys, or rather what kid doesn’t make toys out of something?

Aside from being a great way to process their emotions in healthy ways, Play Therapy is a wonderful way for therapists to help children work through the challenges they face, whether they are things unique to certain kids or just the challenges of growing up in general.

In order to help them overcome the problems they face, play therapists will teach the children essential skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication, which are all important and must-learn skills. By teaching them these skills, children will have the opportunity to build confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth, as well as learn healthier coping mechanisms to prevent them from doing self-destructive or self-harming activities in response to the trials and tribulations they face.

Now, how do play therapists teach kids those skills? They do so by having them engage in certain activities, depending on what play therapists have observed and what they know of the kid based on what their parents and guardians have told them.

Throughout the initial sessions with a kid, play therapists determine what the child needs and will build a tailor-fitted play therapy program based on that. It will likely include activities like drawing, painting writing, reading, storytelling, building, sculpting, playing with toys, and a whole lot more. Some of these activities will be done alone, some of these will be done in groups with other kids, and some will involve parents and guardians.

We will go through specific activities later on in this guide, but first, we should discuss how Play Therapy Activities are helpful to therapists!

Why are Play Therapy Activities helpful?

If you have been a therapist, psychologist, or counselor for a long time, then you know how hard it is to get patients to talk sometimes, especially at the start! Why wouldn’t it be when you are a stranger to patients during the early sessions? While some may find it easy to open up to strangers, most people won’t have an easy time doing so. And if it’s already difficult to get adults to open up to you for therapy, what more when your patient is a kid?

The great thing about Play Therapy Activities is that they help therapists with getting kids to open up. Play is likely to be more effective than talk-based therapy because kids just like playing in general. If they are able to play, that means they know they have the opportunity to have fun, and when they are able to have fun, that means they feel safe enough to just enjoy what they are doing.

Making kids feel safe is the point of Play Therapy. Play Therapy Activities help create an atmosphere for the kids to know they are in a space without judgment and that they can freely express themselves in a safe environment.

10 Play Activities and Ideas

Now that you know what Play Therapy is all about and what Play Therapy Activities can generally do, here is a short list of specific activities that you might want to add to your Play Therapy program:

Magic Wand Play

  • This particular Play Therapy Activity requires a wand, and if you think it would be good for roleplaying, wizard/witch costumes! For this particular activity, kids only need to wave their wands and make three wishes. It’s a fantastic way to get them to say what they want out loud! If they can verbalize it, they might want it even more!
  • Do take note of what their wishes are. Something might catch your attention, especially if it’s a wish about something in their lives to be better.

Sock Puppet Making

  • For this one, make sure to have a lot of socks that can be used by kids to make characters. Therapists should make their own sock puppets and use them to talk to the kids.
  • The kids can respond by making their own sock puppets and having them talk to yours. This is a good way of making themselves more vulnerable to you because it allows them to speak about themselves through their sock puppets.

Inside and Outside Mask Making

  • For this one, you only need sheets of paper and drawing materials. Instruct your kids to make two masks. One mask should be something they would like for people to see, and the other that they want to keep for themselves.
  • You can use this alongside Sock Puppet Making by having your sock puppets interact with kids to ask about both masks, especially the one they want to keep to themselves.
  • You might be able to learn about any insecurities they might have and find ways to help combat those insecurities through other types of play.

Inside and Outside Box Making

  • This is similar to the Inside and Outside Mask Making, but this time it involves shoeboxes and a bunch of magazines, not masks. For this Play Therapy Activity, kids only need to decorate their boxes using magazine cutouts. These can be headlines, actual passages in articles, and even pictures.
  • For the outside part, they need to decorate it with positive cutouts, while the inside of the box will be decorated with negative cutouts. The point of this is to show that they can compartmentalize and put a lid on the negative things in their lives. This might help boost self-esteem and emotional resilience.

Tell Me a Story

  • This activity is all about storytelling. It can be done in two ways:
  1. 1) You tell a story with characters and conflicts, and then you provide a moral lesson to the kids. You can make it interactive by having them think about solutions to conflicts as you go about your story
  2. 2) They tell you a story and you provide solutions to conflicts
  • This can help teach them critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well as give them ideas on good morals
  • You can either read from a children’s book or make up your own. The same goes for them. If they are making up their own stories, give them the time to do so and prepare.

Tearing Paper

  • Hand your kids pieces of paper and have them write down all the things that make them angry. Then, have them tear the paper and throw the pieces into a trashcan. This is a good opportunity for them to learn how to let go and throw away their anger without having to resort to unfavorable methods of coping.
  • This is not exactly environment-friendly and can be a waste of paper depending on how you see it, so we only recommend this if you think this might be good to add to your Play Therapy program.

Worry Dolls

  • This is similar to the Tearing Paper, but without ripping anything.
  • This requires you to buy a set of stuffed toys. Kids will write down their worries on strips of paper and attach them to dolls using a clip or tape.
  • After attaching their worry strips to the dolls, they place the dolls in a box and act like they are leaving them behind.
  • This aims to teach kids how to leave behind their worries because worries can lead to anxiety and other things that may impact them for an entire day or more. It’s also a way to teach them to let go in general. Think Toy Story 3.

Bubble Blowing and Popping

  • This is straightforward. The little tykes simply need to blow bubbles and have fun popping them! It’s a simple way for them to release stress.

Emotional Thermometer

  • We recommend using this when you have bonded with the kids enough that they trust you and are open to speaking about their emotions.
  • Create a makeshift thermometer with a rating of 0 - 10. 0 stands for “absolutely happy” while 10 stands for “really sad.”
  • Have them talk about significant experiences in their lives, ask them to rate these experiences based on if it makes them happy or sad, and then have them explain why they rated an experience a certain way.
  • This should help teach them how to articulate their feelings better and help them learn how to establish rapport and trust.
  • Take this a step further by also talking about your own experiences (but don’t go too deep because you don’t want to trauma dump on your kids). This is an opportunity for them to learn empathy.

Create a Vision Board

  • Buy corkboards and pins. Have your kids fill their respective corkboards with things that represent what they want in life, what they would like to be in the future, their hopes and dreams, and what goals they want to achieve. They can do so through magazine cutouts, drawing, or even through writing. They just need to pin them on their corkboard.
  • Have them talk about their corkboards to you (and others, if you are conducting this as part of a group). This encourages goal setting, plus, having them verbalize what they want might inspire them even more to achieve the things they want in life. This might help them build confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth as well.

What are the benefits of Play Therapy Activities?

It can help therapists better treat their younger patients.

  • Just to reiterate, talk-based therapy may not be the best way to get kids to open up during therapy sessions. They are kids and are not necessarily old enough to fully understand the world around them and what they are feeling, so they might have a difficult time articulating themselves.
  • Play Therapy seeks to create a safe, non-judgmental, and nurturing environment for them to be able to articulate themselves by doing what they do best: through play. As kids enjoy themselves and partake in engaging activities, they might reveal things about themselves that therapists should be on the lookout for. These can help them understand the children better and determine what should go into their Play Therapy Program.

It can help children develop essential skills.

  • Play Therapy is more than just providing children with a safe space where they can play, be themselves, and express themselves in healthy ways. Play Therapy is also an interactive way to teach kids essential skills that will help them confront the challenges they face and will face as they grow older. These skills include critical thinking, problem-solving, healthily coping and processing emotions, building rapport and trust, and developing empathy.

It can help parents better understand their children.

  • We highly recommend that you schedule sessions with the patients that involve their parents. This is so they are aware of your methods, what their kids are like when engaging with these activities, learn how they deal with their feelings, learn what they think of certain experiences, and find out what they want in life.
  • Seeing and learning all these things could lead to better family dynamics and overall happiness because they can continue the work that you do in your clinic back in their home so that significant progress is made and maintained.

How can Carepatron help with Play Therapy work?

Whether you are a therapist interested in learning about Play Therapy or you are already a certified play therapist, Carepatron is here to help you with your work!

We have guides such as this that provide you with general information about certain topics, and we also provide tools that you might find useful!

We’re all about streamlining and improving your output, so if you need, we house a wide variety of therapy and counseling-related worksheets, assessments, general treatment plans, and more! Browse our resource repository and download as much as you want if you believe that they will help you with your practice! Who knows? By using worksheets and assessments, you might be able to cover more ground with your Play Therapy Activities!

Now, given that you are a therapist, psychologist, or counselor, you obviously keep records of your sessions with patients, detailing your observations, comments, the next steps in a program or treatment, etc. What if we told you that you can create backups of your documents through our platform?

We have a secure storage system that allows healthcare professionals such as yourself to store clinical documents in a HIPAA-compliant manner, plus, you get to assign who else gets to access them besides you.

Not only do you get to improve your work with Carepatron, you get to preserve it!

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Commonly asked questions

Are there any risks involved in Play Therapy Activities?

Generally, no. Though, there are some activities that may require scissors, so make sure to supervise the kids when they are using them. Keep it out of reach unless they will make magazine cutouts or similar things. As much as possible, refrain from including sharp objects.

Some play therapists include activities like going on field trips to see nature. If you’re going to take them on a nature trip, don’t take them to places where they can get lost easily, plus, avoid places with precarious areas.

If therapy is supposed to help people confront their problems, how come play therapy encourages the use of the imagination for some types of activities rather than tackling the problems head-on?

For one, they are kids. They might not have developed the emotional capacity and intelligence needed to properly process the challenges they face or problematic experiences they have had. You can’t expect or demand them to just talk because you might put unnecessary pressure on them.

The reason why some activities encourage the use of their imagination is that it is a way for them to express themselves. They might learn how to actually process their emotions and experiences through fiction and acting. Through such activities, they might reveal things they normally wouldn’t when just simply conversing.

Is Play Therapy really just for kids?

Primarily, yes. However, adults can also take Play Therapy, if they wish. Adults taking this type of therapy are rare, though, it wouldn’t hurt anyone to try. Who knows. Maybe getting in touch with your inner child might just be what you need to get better because it’ll remind you of simpler times, about things that you loved doing, about things you looked forward to. Whatever you are reminded of might help you find the path you need to take to get better.

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