Play therapy is widely used throughout multiple types of therapy, such as speech and language. It is the concept that children learn through play. It is the basis of how they learn about the world around them and is often referred to as “playing with a purpose.”
At Lexington, therapists will use play therapy to take what children naturally know , aka playing and combine it with their goals and with what therapy they may need. Play therapy is almost always used for children under the age of 4 and can be used even in their teens years.
Lexington offers play therapy at their facilities, but this type of therapy can also be used at home between parents and their children. Here are a few practical ways to incorporate play therapy in your home:
A verbal routine can be incorporated into any simple play routine. The repetition of words combined with the movement of a toy will allow the child to associate the movement and the word together and develop their language skills. For example, a child with a toy car and a ramp. The child likes to roll the car up the ramp, then lets the car roll back down. The parent can take the car and say “the car goes up up up up up” then the child can repeat the phrase while moving the car up the ramp.
Music is another great form of verbal routine. Repetition in children’s songs allows them to learn rhythms, rhymes, and develop their language skills.
Role-play is great to do with older children as it can help develop social skills. Costumes, stuffed animals, dolls, and puppets can be used to play out certain situations and how they feel and respond to them. For example, the parent and child pretend to be a teddy and pig playing together. If the parent sabotages the situation, this allows the child to process and express how they feel. This then turns into social interaction, teaching the child how to react in this type of situation.
Communication temptation is as it sounds, tempting your child to communicate with you through toys and play. This can be done by putting a toy in a place where they cannot reach, encouraging them to ask for your help.
Another way you could do this would be to give your child a new activity and encourage them to ask how it is done or played. This sets up the home for communication and a relationship between the parent and child because of their need for them.
Setting up an obstacle course is great for motor skills and planning. Allowing children to jump, climb, roll and other physical activities bring out the fun, playful side while also having children remember a sequence to get to the end of the course. An obstacle course can be made with pillows, tricycles, furniture, or even a physical exercise like jumping jacks.
Lexington is happy to provide play therapy in the form of their sensory gym in certain locations. The sensory gyms give children a chance to swing, climb, jump, and play in a supervised environment. It is also a great opportunity to incorporate an obstacle course and use that venture of learning and play.
Playing with Play-Doh is great for both fine motor development and language. Action words can be incorporated with the Play-Doh, such as roll, push, rip, or cut. Associating these words with actions allows for development in many different areas while allowing creativity and freedom.
Some parents may only see play therapy as a session for children to just play. As mentioned earlier, play therapy truly is “playing with purpose.” It is giving the child an outlet to express their feelings through toys when words are not enough. It is also the opportunity to observe the child and see where certain behaviors come from.
Incorporating play therapy into everyday activities is great for language development and social skills and allows children to learn and develop the best way they know how by playing.
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