Play Therapy Techniques, Toys, and Activities
Start With Play
I start the day by taking my girls outside and playing with them. We run in the grass, we dig in the dirt, we color the sidewalks with chalk, and then we head inside for baths, ready to start the day. I have noticed less whining and clinginess since we started this routine.
Toys That Help
Both of my girls adore puppets, which can redirect their emotions when they’re angry or sad. I transform my hand into a puppet character that can swoop in and intervene whenever it is called upon. A hand that talks in a silly voice gets my children to smile -- and to reframe an upsetting situation.
Shake It Out
When mean words start flying, I say to the grouchy child, “Oh, no! Listen to those Meanies coming out of you. Let’s just shake them all out right now!” Then I scoop her up in my arms, flip her upside down, and gently shake the crankies away. Neither of my girls can resist it -- and the one who wasn’t being grouchy usually wants a good shaking, too!
One day our two-year-old was angry about not being able to go to the zoo. Instead of trying to explain that it was too hot for the animals to be out, and we would all be cranky and disappointed, I said, “I wish we had a zoo in our backyard. Wouldn’t that be so cool? What animals would you like to have in a backyard zoo? Oh, yes, definitely crocodiles. How about giraffes? Yes, and hippos, too! Hey, let’s draw a picture of our backyard zoo!” Creating a fantasy smoothes over feelings of frustration and disappointment that are often the source of unpleasant behaviors.