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  • This Type Of Play Encourages Positive Behavior And Makes Kids Happier, Say Experts

    Let your child’s brain, body, and social skills thrive with play therapy.
    by R.M. Mauhay .
This Type Of Play Encourages Positive Behavior And Makes Kids Happier, Say Experts
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Play is one of the best ways for kids to learn. Apart from honing different sets of skills crucial for their development, it is also a way for them to discover and experience things for themselves. It can also be used as a psychotherapeutic approach to let children freely express their thoughts and emotions. This is called play therapy.

    READ THESE STORIES ON THE BENEFITS OF PLAY

    What is play therapy?

    Play therapy is a form of therapy that is primarily used for children ages 3 to 12. Kids, especially at a young age, may find it hard to process and articulate their thoughts and emotions to adults, so therapeutic play allows them to learn how to express themselves in healthier ways. It can also encourage positive behavior, like becoming more respectful and empathetic, and help them discover new ways to solve problems, according to Psychology Today.

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    Why is play therapy important?

    A child who has experienced trauma or have behavioral issues can benefit from play therapy. It can also help those who have undergone medical procedures or have to deal with chronic illness, children with learning disabilities, anxiety, eating disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and those with autism spectrum disorder

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    Play therapy is done in a safe, comfortable space with very few rules and limits, and where a therapist can observe a child's playing style, his decisions and choices. As he plays, he might let his guard down and be more open about sharing his feelings, according to Healthline. The therapist can then help him learn various coping mechanisms and redirect inappropriate behavior.

    What are the benefits of play therapy?

    Research shows the role of play in improving children’s abilities to plan, organize, socialize, and regulate emotions. It also helps with language, math, and even coping with stress.

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    With play therapy, parents can expect positive behavior in their child including:

    • acknowledging responsibilities
    • learning creative ways to problem-solve
    • respecting oneself
    • empathy
    • respecting others
    • managing anxiety
    • becoming more expressive
    • improved social skills
    • improved relationships with family and friends

    Samples of play therapy

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the mutual joy and one-on-one interaction that happens during play can manage the body’s stress response. Different types of play have different benefits for children.

    Here are some toys and methods of play that a therapist may use on your child, according to Play Therapy International:

    • creative visualization
    • therapeutic storytelling
    • drama or role-play
    • puppets and masks
    • sand play
    • water play
    • drawing or arts and crafts
    • musical play
    • dance and movement
    • clay manipulation 

    You can also try to incorporate play therapy methods at home. Here are some activities you can try.

    Toys and object play

    When playing with an object such as a toy, babies are using their sensory-motor skills to explore its properties and conduct "experiments" like a tiny scientist might. To learn if an object is solid, for example, they might bang it on the floor.

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    Preschool-age children also use objects to develop abstract thought and concepts like symbolism, using a banana as a telephone, for example, along with sharing and taking turns.

    What you can do:

    • Give your child blocks, empty containers, wooden spoons, and puzzles
    • Play with your baby!

    Physical play

    Physical fun such as free play helps develop children's motor skills, prevent childhood obesity and build emotional intelligence. The gentle thrill of a playground slide, for example, lets a child build confidence as they take risks in a relatively safe environment. Games such as duck-duck-goose and tag also help children build other socio-emotional skills such as empathy as children learn to be careful not to hurt others by tapping someone too hard, for example.

    What you can do:

    • Try a parent-supervised playdate
    • Introduce age-appropriate games like Simon Says
    • Encourage your child to tray a variety of movements in a safe environment i.e. hopping, swinging, climbing, and doing somersaults

    Outdoor play

    This is important because it lets children use all their senses to build skills like spatial awareness and balance. It can also improve a child's attention span. Studies suggest that young children in countries where schools allow more time for recess see more academic success as children get older.

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    What you can do:

    • Offer unstructured playtime
    • Let your child take the lead and follow their curiosity

    Pretend play

    This type of play lets young children experiment with different social roles and learn how to cooperate. Dress up, make believe, and imaginary play also encourage creativity and builds more complex negotiation, communication and language skills.

    What you can do:

    • Allow your child to move between make-believe games and reality — for example, playing house and then helping you with chores
    • Give your child time and space to act out imaginary scenes, roles, and activities
    • Read regularly to and with your child. Encourage pretend play based on these stories
    • Provide opportunities for make-believe play — for example, pretending to drink out of an empty cup or offering toys that enable pretend play
    • Limit screen time to healthy levels
    • Encourage social interactions

    READ THESE STORIES ON THE BENEFITS OF PLAY

    Looking for therapists? Click here for a list of centers that offer free counseling.

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