Play Therapy For Children: 17 Benefits
By: Samantha Dewitt
Updated March 07, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
Have you ever thought about therapy for your child but weren't quite sure if it was a good idea? Maybe you thought that all therapy was like what you see on TV and you weren't sure that was going to work for your little one. Well, there's an entirely different type of therapy for children, called play therapy. This type of therapy gives them the ability to do just that, play, and express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions through that play, whether it's structured or unstructured. Even better, there are several different benefits that children can experience as a result of this therapy.
- Safe Place. Children don't always feel like they can talk about their thoughts and feelings. Play therapy gives them a safe place where they can do both of these things. But it also takes away the direct aspect of having to explain how they feel. Letting them play allows them to express themselves more subtly and even the child may not realize what they are expressing to their therapist.
- Self-Esteem Building. Because your child can express themselves and be heard, they are building up their self-esteem and their ability to express themselves in different ways. They're learning how to feel important on their own and being their person.
- Problem-Solving Skills. As your child plays they learn how to solve problems on their own. They set up their own stories with their toys and with their games and will work toward resolving minor or major problems. A therapist may also present them with a problem, and they will be tasked with figuring out the resolution on their own.
- Coping Skills. Working through therapy means that they're going to learn how to deal with some of the negative things that they may have experienced or may be feeling. They'll learn different skills that will help them to cope with problems that happen in the world later in their life as well. These skills prepare them for their future.
- Emotional Healing. The main foundation of therapy is to help with any problems or traumatic experiences that your child may have faced or been facing. Through the process of attending therapy, they will learn more about themselves and about the situation they're in. They will also learn more about their own emotions and will reach a better place in healing after those negative emotions.
- Decision Making Skills. Learning how to make decisions is part of growing up, and it's an important aspect of play therapy as well. Your child may experience choices through the course of their free play, or their therapist may present them with choices to help them understand what it takes to make a decision and to weigh out choices.
- They are accepting Responsibility. Through making decisions and through different types of play your child will also learn how to accept responsibility for the things that they choose to do or that they engage in but will also learn about not taking the blame for things that are not their fault. They will learn where responsibility should lie and when they should accept it or not.
- Social Skills. Learning how to talk to people and how to interact with those older than them and their peers is important for children of all ages. Through therapy and playacting, they can learn more about how to interact with others positively and healthily.
- Make Friends. Through the development of social skills, your child will be able to learn more about how to make friends and what it takes to maintain those friendships as well. This can be especially important for children with social anxiety or who seem to be very shy.
- They understand the World. Children learn how to understand the world through play. They reenact things that they see or that they experience as a way to help them figure it out and understand what it means for their life. By playing in a structured environment, they can understand even more about their world, both in a small sense and a larger sense.
- Discover Their Innate Healing. Children will be able to learn more about how they can take care of themselves and how they can heal through their internal methods. This relates to learning how to self-soothe in a sense where children can create their methods of recovering from hurt feelings or negative encounters with peers.
- Build Confidence. As your child comes to understand more about themselves and their place in the world it makes them feel more confident and comfortable expressing themselves. Learning how to socialize makes the more confident around others, and through play therapy, they will learn a great deal more about their capabilities.
- Increase Focus. Directing children to a specific situation or a specific activity can help them build their focus and learn how to pay attention to specific things at a given time. This can help them throughout their life and definitely throughout school and beyond.
- Encourage Imagination and Creativity. Play always helps children to express themselves more fully and to be more imaginative. It encourages them to explore entirely different situations and different worlds to create something new and fun for them to explore. It's also going to provide them with new ways to showcase their thought process and the things that interest them.
- Process Emotions. When children play, it can help them to express their thoughts and feelings, which will help them learn more about those emotions themselves. Their therapist will be able to help them learn how to express their feelings and to learn how those feelings can affect them or how they can choose not to let them affect them.
- Decrease Undesirable Actions. Many children express themselves in undesirable ways because they have no way of expressing what they are thinking or feeling. As a result, they act out in any way they can to try and get the response that they want (even if they don't understand what it is). Being able to express themselves and further understanding the consequences of the things they do will help decrease these actions.
- Building Familial Relationships. Part of play therapy is also going to be interactions between the parent and child. This means that you'll be building up relationships with your child and you'll be helping to implement different strategies and methods of support at home as well as in the therapy sessions.
Does Your Child Need Play Therapy?
Maybe you're not sure that your child needs therapy or that this is the right type of therapy for them. The truth is, children do well when the focus isn't directly on talking and trying to express their feelings and thoughts. That's why this type of therapy focuses on letting them play and enjoy themselves rather than trying to get them to open up. When they're trying to talk with a therapist, it can be uncomfortable and even scary for a child who doesn't know what the adult in the room is expecting or asking for. By playing, they don't have to worry about this.
As for who it's best for, just about any child can benefit from play therapy. This type of therapy and therapy in general, allows them to express themselves and to feel like more of a part of their own family and world. It allows them to 'talk' about their thoughts and feelings in a way that they don't know how to express otherwise. All of this together makes it a great way for them to continue to learn new skills and to grow as individuals.
Where To Find Help
Your child can get professional help in several different ways, but one of the best things that they can do is definitely to engage in online therapy. This type of therapy allows them to remain in an environment they're already comfortable in, their own home, and it allows them to interact with someone that you and they can feel comfortable with. Engaging in therapy in a completely new location can make it difficult for the child to feel like opening up and can also make it difficult to get them to sessions.
Online therapy, like with BetterHelp, allows your child to be comfortable and more confident even when they start the therapy sessions. It also allows you to have access to even more therapists, located around the world. That way, they can get the best possible help rather than settling for someone who is located nearby. If your child needs therapy or if you think that it might be a good way to help them learn some valuable skills for their life, this is a great way for you to do just that.