Play Therapy for Traumatized Children

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Playtime is essential for the emotional and mental wellbeing of a normally developing child; this is especially true for children surviving hostile home environments with difficult family life, which may be due to several reasons such as poverty, housing, genetic conditions, mental or physical conditions, and so on.

Play therapy is one of the most common ways to help a child overcome a hostile environment at home, allowing them to create complex neural connectivity which is essential for the development of the child. This development typically occurs within the first five years. The complex neural connections are essential for the child making significant emotional development, social connections, gathering knowledge, and memory.

What is play therapy?

Play therapy is streamlined to create a safe and secure environment for children, who experience challenges at home, either for an environmental reason or due to interpersonal relationships at home. Unlike adults, children have a difficult time experiencing themselves during therapy, which is when play therapy is necessary to help them disassociate from their trauma and encourage healing over time.

Toys for therapy

Therapy toys are not very unlike regular toys for children of the same age and can include DIY projects for kids. Therapists usually will stock a plethora of toys in their offices to provide ample scope for the child to express themselves. Exploration of a variety of toys facilitating communication of the trauma or abuse at home is encouraged for them to be able to overcome the detrimental effects through play.

The most common types of trauma that a therapist can explore are the family relationships and nurturance, sexualized play, safety and control, mastery and exploration, safety and interactions; these are the most common themes that are worked upon. The children choose the relevant toys to provide the therapist with a conclusive idea about what they are working through with the child.

Criteria for toy selection

The main criteria for selecting the right toys for the play therapy will address the above-mentioned factors, enable the child to enjoy themselves, and foster and nurture security through the connections established with the therapist.

One of the main factors that can lead to problems is the inability to express their emotions and personal needs due to less than ideal situations at home, limiting their communication severely. Most toys that are made available at the therapists will be ones that instil confidence in the child during therapy. This may be through individual or group therapy, promoting setting boundaries and developing self-control.

The toys

The toys that the therapists can provide will differ from one child to another. However, the therapist can ascertain much through the toys that the child avoids and selects.

Games that are usually used will promote social interaction with the therapist and also allow the child to express the conditions at home; this may be through dolls, medical kits, science kits, building blocks, puppets, kitchen equipment, and toys that imitate cleaning and household activities.

Play therapy that uses puppets and dolls can be used to express conflict at home with various examples and settings. Often, children use such toys to role-play similar situations as they experience at home.

Toy instruments and art supplies are another great way for the child to communicate their feelings and fears. Many choose to simply show their emotions through paintings, drawings, figures, and sculptures which can be tell-tale signs of their experiences at home. Sand trays provide the child with tactile exploration, creating figurines, tools, and other relevant items.

Play therapy is streamlined to ensure security and comfort for the child, alongside fun and enjoyable session that builds trust and establishes a relationship with the therapist. Therefore, whether it is with puppets, DIY projects, stem kits, or play-dough, children communicate in different ways via their choice of selection and avoidance of the toys.

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