Staying Connected with our Children Through Therapeutic Play

Staying Connected with our Children Through Therapeutic Play

Some of us are really struggling at home. Others are having a wonderful time. In fact, there are a group of anxious children who are not even symptomizing right now because they are so happy to just be home with their loved ones. They feel safe and cared for, and they are relieved from the pressures of their busy and possibly over-scheduled everyday lives. This can be the perfect time to introduce therapeutic play to your children, regardless of which category they fit in.

Fact is, we have time at home, and we have time to play. So how do we get ourselves to play, and how do we play in a way that is therapeutic to everyone involved?

If you don’t enjoy playing with your children, don’t despair! You are not alone. Playing with children is very important, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Don’t get stuck on overthinking this. Rather, think about something that you do enjoy doing. If you had to play something, what would it be? Your child will enjoy it because you enjoy it. So, do this thing, albeit kicking a ball, playing marbles, a board game you like. Be true to yourself, and soon your child will all about it too. Because honestly, they mostly just want to be with you!
If you’re still out of ideas, there are a number of things that you can do with your child, such as the activities listed below. These are Theraplay-based activities.

To learn more, here is a link to The Theraplay Institute’s website:

Here is a link to their Activities book

I wanted to demonstrate some of these Theraplay-based activities with my 6-year-old daughter. It feels really good as a parent to be spending this kind of quality time with her, and I can feel the connection between us as we laugh together, and share these special moments! I also notice how her behavior changes because her love tank is filled up with this one-on-one play time.

Click on each game below to see the demonstration video:

-> An Airplane Ride
-> Peanut Butter & Jelly
-> Animal Kisses
-> Row, Row, Row your Boat
-> Arm Squeezes
-> ‘Round the Garden
-> Copy My Face
-> Poking Cheeks
-> Making Pizza Massage

These games can be played with children of different ages. Try them and see which ones you enjoy!

I also asked my 11-year-old son to make a scene in the sand about Coronavirus. He created a double-sided scene and asked me to guess which side I thought was the virus. Reluctantly I said the bigger, scarier side and he replied “Yes!” Towards the end of our time I asked him what he would do if he could change one thing. He proceeded to punch the virus and destroy that part of the scene. He looked so powerful as he did this.

Letting him create this scene helped me to know how he was viewing the virus. From there it led to a longer conversation between us, but it all started with simply observing his artwork and commenting on what I saw. 

Play doesn’t need to be long and complicated, it can simply be bringing your child to do something you love together, giggling over some games, or creating a scene to see how they view the world. Hopefully this helps give you some ideas to do together when the days seem extra long, and create some positive bonding memories in the process!

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Stages of Play- Helpful Online Graphics

Stages of Play- Helpful Online Graphics

There are tons of helpful “Stages of Play” graphics online. Hopefully these are helpful for parents to navigate and translate your child’s play in the various stages!

These stages are integral for a child’s development in all areas, especially social skills. However, every child develops at their own pace. I invite you to contact me if you have questions about your child’s behaviors at any stage- I’m happy to help!

  • Unoccupied Play (Birth-3 mos): A baby in this stage makes alot of body movements, discovering how to move their body and arms and legs.

  • Solitary Play (Birth-2 yrs):A child seems totally content playing by themselves without the involvement of others.

  • Spectator/ Onlooker Play (2 yrs): A child begins to watch others play, but still is content playing alone.

  • Parallel Play (2+ yrs): A child starts to play next to, or alongside others, but does not necessarily join in.

  • Associative Play (3-4 yrs): A child starts to interract with others while playing, however, they may all still be doing different things. This article gives an example of all the kids playing together on a jungle gym- but they may be doing different activities within that jungle gym.

  • Social / Cooperative Play (4+): When a child starts to not only pay attention and alongside other children in an activity, they are actively aware and playing with the other children involved.




Play alone little interaction with others. spectator. 2-21/2. Watch other children but do not join in. parallel. 21/2-3. Play alongside others but not together. associative Interact with others, preference of people, mixed sex groups. Co-operative. 4+ Play together and share goals, single sex groups. A=stages are not necessarily separated.

Play Therapy Themes

Play Therapy Themes

If you’re wondering how play therapists choose their toys, it’s according to these Play Therapy Themes.

It doesn’t matter how many toys you have, but that you have toy in each category. This gives your child a wide toy choice so that they can express what they need to. If you watch carefully, you might also start to notice different play themes coming out in your child’s play. Look for one of these:

Power and Aggression Themes

Good Guy vs. Bad Guy

Aggressor-Victim (Child as Aggressor or Victim)

Generalized Aggression



Power Overcoming Weakness

Seeking Power/Authority/Wisdom


Family Relationship and Nurturance Themes



Nurturing Others


Failed Nurturance

Self-Neglect or Punishment

Lack of Attachment/Detachment



Exits and Entrances to Family System

Control and Safety Themes





Burying or Drowning











Exploration and Mastery Themes

Sensory/Environment Exploration





Interaction Themes

Building Relationship With Adult

General Positive Interactions

General Negative Interactions




Sexualized Play

Sexual Activities

Sexual Behaviors Directed at Adult

Sexual Curiosity

There is so much when it comes to playing. It’s the beginning of a whole new world. Enjoy it, watch carefully and learn about your kiddo!

When Play Becomes Therapeutic

When Play Becomes Therapeutic

Playing with your child, is one of the most important things that you can do.

It doesn’t matter what exactly you do. What matters more is that you get into the moment, enjoy yourselves together, and share a special moment.

Carl Rogers was a famous psychologist, and he transformed the field of psychotherapy, from that of analyzing a person’s past, to just being in the moment with them. Here’s something he said that inspires me today, when I am playing with children

“…as he finds someone else listening acceptantly to his feelings, he little by little becomes able to listen to himself.” “As he becomes more open to what is going on within him he becomes able to listen to feelings which he has always denied and repressed.” p63. (Becoming a person, 1940)

Carl Rogers also went on to say that, ”.. I enter the relationship not as a scientist, not as a physician who can accurately diagnose and cure, but as a person, entering into a personal relationship. Insofar as I see him only as an object, the client will tend to become only an object.” p201

Love this graph from of how much activity children need!