What Type of Games Can Be Used in Therapeutic Play?

Internationally recognized child psychologist Lawrence Shapiro states, “There is virtually no game that children like to play… that can’t be adapted to some therapeutic purpose.” Any game the child enjoys can be used, for the real “magic” of therapeutic play takes place when a loving adult establishes a bond of trust with a child, and uses the game to nurture, communicate and teach.

Games are a handy multi-purpose tool, and how you use them depends on the needs of the children. They can be used to break the ice and bond with a new class or group. They are an effective means to win a child’s confidence through mutual play, so that he will talk to you about deeper issues troubling him. Action packed games can provide emotionally stressed children with a constructive outlet to burn energy. Quiet, communicative games can be used to help withdrawn children gain confidence. Games provide valuable ways to teach an array of positive character building traits, from team-working and camaraderie, to self-reliance and endurance.

Look for “teaching moments”, those special times when you sense that you’ve caught the children’s interest and attention, to use the game to convey the message you want to communicate. The game can become an object lesson, to illustrate a principle you wish to convey. Every good teacher learns to sense these moments and “read” their students. Like a treasure hunter, you search for clues to what the child needs. During those golden moments their minds and hearts open like rich plowed earth waiting for a seed to be dropped.

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