“The activities that are the easiest, cheapest, and most fun to do – such as singing, playing games, reading, storytelling, and just talking and listening – are also the best for child development.” – Jerome Singer (professor, Yale University)
“The activities that are the easiest, cheapest, and most fun to do – such as singing, playing games, reading, storytelling, and just talking and listening – are also the best for child development.” – Jerome Singer (professor, Yale University)
Questions about “must have” toys get asked so many times by clinicians new to the field of play therapy. And, the answers can vary widely. I’ve given parents some of my favorite toys in the past.
The foundation for play therapy training for a lot of clinicians is Dr. Garry Landreth and Child Centered Play Therapy. He advises that play therapists include several toys from each of three categories. Note that this list does not include everything that would fit into each category (they are just examples) and also that you do need everything on any list
When doing more structured or directive play therapy interventions, you usually need things like:
It can be quite easy to find excellent toys everywhere you go. And Dr. Garry Landreth reminds us all to beware of the urge to get everything. He says in his book, The Art of the Relationship, “Toys should be selected, not collected.”
And I created this infographic to summarize my thoughts on creating the perfect play therapy space that you might find helpful.
But, I just recently heard it explained in a wonderful way by a colleague, Dr. Jessica Stone, who responded to this very question during a discussion board about the Play Therapy Summit. She gave me permission to share it with you:
Hi all, I like to take an approach of collecting gems along my way in this field. I am not sure I could identify the one thing my office couldn’t live without. It is complex. Is that my personal favorite thing? Or my client’s? Or the majority of my clients? What comprises a favorite thing?
I believe what we have in our offices needs to be a balance of 1) what is congruent with who we are, what we believe, what our theoretical foundation is, what our space allows comfortably, etc. and 2) what speaks our client’s language, what helps our clients speak, what speaks to our clients, what allows them to experience feeling heard, seen, important, and understood.
I like to take a gem from Maria Montessori and think of the tools in my office as a way of scaffolding within the office. There are items that fit where they are in this moment, items that help them move forward, and items that work when they need to regress a bit.
Sometimes these tools aren’t our preferred or favorite. Sometimes they are. As I look around my office in response to your question I think about the clients who use the majority of the tools in my office on any given day but I also think about that one client, the one who found the tool that meant the most to them and they used it in the most amazing way – whatever that meant for them – Jessica Stone, Ph.D., RPT-S”
As I was packing up my office to move out of the state this week, I found Dr Stone’s words especially helpful. I usually play loud music when doing tasks like this, but this time, I held each of the toys and remembered the children that used them and how they used them. It was a mix of joy and sadness as I reflected on all of those shared moments in this specific playroom.
In the end, I would recommend selecting a few items from each of Dr. Garry Landreth’s categories and then considering Dr. Stone’s advice about seeing the value of all the different toys in the playroom. But, know that whatever you have is enough. As long as you are in the room, focusing on the relationship with the child and responding in an authentic manner
**The post What are the “Must Have” Toys for a New Play Therapist? appeared first on Jennifer Taylor Play Therapy.
“Men should learn to live with the same seriousness with which children play.” – Nietzsche (philosopher, writer)
Netflix has released an original show about teen suicide. 13 Reasons Why is about a teen girl who commits suicide and how she choose to share her decision with her peers and family. The show has been praised and criticized for it’s portrayal and highlighting of the tragic issue of teen suicide. If you have a child/teen who has seen, is watching, or is interested in watching the show, Jennifer Taylor has some tips on how to put the fictional show in perspective and discuss with them the key points of the story. Read Jennifer’s full article here!
Racial tensions in America are high as opposing movements are vying to be heard. It is so important to discuss these matters with your children so they understand what racism is, and how to cope with it. According to Erlanger Turner, Ph.D., children often model adult behaviors, so it is also important to understand your own feelings on the issue of racism, and present ways to cope with disappointment or anger. Read the full article here!
Adults are no strangers to stress. we face stressors and challenges everyday, and hopefully, we know how to cope and combat that stress. Children also experience stress, but it may manifest itself in as a physical affliction rather than emotional distress. Stress in children is often misinterpreted as illness or bad behavior. The Psychology Foundation of Canada has some tips and signs to help you identify when a child is stressed. Read the full article here!
As with any publicized violent or traumatic events, it is important to discuss with your children what it means and why it happened. The events in Charlottsville, VA. have sparked many concerns and discussions. LA Times reporter Sonali Kohli discusses tips from professionals about how to broach these difficult topics with your children, and why it is important to do so. Read full article here!
Aggression or bullying can be defined as any action that inflicts physical or mental harm upon another person. Girls usually differ from boys in the type of aggressive behavior they exhibit. While boys tend to inflict bodily pain, girls most often, though not exclusively, engage in covert or relational aggression. Girls tend to value intimate relationships with girls, while boys usually form social bonds through group activities. Aggressive girls often gain power by withholding their friendship or by sabotaging the relationships of others.
Relational aggression is calculated manipulation to injure or to control another child’s ability to maintain rapport with peers. For example, a relational aggressive girl may insist that her friends ignore a particular child, exclude her from their group, form secret pacts to humiliate the child, call her names, and/or spread rumors about her.
Examples of manipulation include, “If you don’t play this game, I’ll tell Sara that you called her stupid,” or “You have to do what I say, or I won’t play with you.” Children in preschool have been observed excluding peers by saying, “Don’t let her play,” or using retaliation, “She was mean to me yesterday, so she can’t be our friend.” In older girls, the gossip can be more vicious, for example, “I saw her cheating.”
Though often subtle, nonverbal communication of an aggressive girl is unmistakable. For example, she may roll her eyes, glare, ignore, turn away, point, or pass notes to a friend concerning the rejected child.
In 1995, Crick and Grotpeter found that members of groups run by aggressive girls appeared to be caring and helpful toward each other. However, they also observed a higher level of intimacy and secret sharing in these groups. This closeness puts followers at risk because the aggressive child is privy to personal information that she can disclose. They also noted a higher level of exclusivity in groups run by relational aggressive girls. In other words, the followers usually have few other friends to turn to if they are rejected by the aggressive child, hence they continued to conform for fear of being isolated. They found a higher level of aggression within these groups.
Girls often feel pressured to be compliant and not show negative emotions. When they cannot assert their true feelings directly, resentment lingers and their anger manifests itself indirectly. Excessive relational aggressiveness can become a habit that can cause a lifetime of problematic relationships. Therefore, a girl who exhibits this behavior needs adult intervention and guidance. It should be stressed that these girls often have leadership ability, but they need assistance to channel it in a positive direction.
Relational aggression in girls has a negative affect on school climate and culture, as well as on the perpetrators and their victims. According to Crick, relational aggressive girls are disliked more than most children their age. They exhibited adjustment problems and reported higher levels of loneliness and depression. These girls often have difficulty creating and sustaining social and personal bonds. Ridiculed children have adjustment difficulties, as well. The rejection and hurt they feel can last a lifetime. They are more likely than peers to be submissive, have low grades, drop out of school, engage in delinquent behavior, experience depression, and entertain suicidal thoughts.
Leah Davies received her Master’s Degree from the Department of Counseling and Counseling Psychology, Auburn University. She has been dedicated to the well-being of children for over 44 years as a certified teacher, counselor, prevention specialist, parent, and grandparent. Her professional experience includes teaching, counseling, consulting, instructing at Auburn University, and directing educational and prevention services at a mental health agency.
“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul”
– Friedrich Froebel (founder of the concept of kindergarten)
Parenting a child with obsessive compulsive disorder can seem like an impossible task at times. Children with OCD can have a difficult time understanding why they have the impulses they experience and how to manage them. For parents, it can be hard to answer their questions and help them navigate the unknown. Natasha Daniels has shared some great tips on parenting children with OCD; how to help them understand the disorder, and actions to help manage it.
Cognitive Restructuring is an effective tool in play therapy. It is a combination of play therapy techniques including games, art, and bibliotherapy, paired with discussions about the child’s feelings throughout the process. Donna Hammontree explains how using cognitive restructuring helps children better understand their own thoughts and feelings, and shows them how those thoughts and feelings effect their actions.
What is Play Therapy anyway? Play Therapy (PT) is a specialized practice defined by the Association for Play Therapy. This article helps define play therapy practice with information on the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, and why’s. “PT uses the child’s natural inclination to learn about themselves, relationships and his or her environment. Through PT, children learn to express feelings, modify their behavior and develop problem-solving, communication and social skills, ” says registered play therapist Adrianne Albarado Ortiz.
Brigham Young University is working to research autism with the goal to better the lives of the families that touched by the disorder. BYU uses a combination of disciplines to research autism from different angles including psychology, physiology and developmental biology, statistics, molecular biology, BYU’s Counseling Center and BYU’s MRI Research Facility. “The work is often painstakingly slow, ” says Cynthia Glad of BYU. “The sessions aren’t always successful, but when they work, the resulting images are very valuable. Findings are presented internationally and at the BYU Autism Translational Research Workshop.”
Counselors of Child Protective Services are undergoing a more rigorous psychological evaluation to ensure that they are fit to work and protect the children in the communities they serve. There is no higher priority than the safety of the children, many of whom have gone through traumatic events leading up to the intervention of CPS in their young lives. “The new testing regimen involves a more rigorous psychological test than that relied on in the past, as well as a face-to-face interview with a forensic psychologist,” says reporter Lauren Novak. “They will set a ‘high bar’ on traits such as empathy, maintaining appropriate boundaries with children, managing anger and stress and a proper understanding of the impact of abuse and neglect. The process also screens for indications of inappropriate sexual proclivities.”
Want your child to fess up? Try not showing anger. Sounds obvious, but it can sometimes prove easier said than done. But a new study shows that children are more likely to confess their misdeeds when they know their parents will show understanding and calm evaluation of the issue, rather than un-managed anger. “Convey that you’re going to listen without getting angry right away,” says researcher Craig Smith. “As a parent, you might not be happy with what your child did, but if you want to keep an open line of communication with your child you can try to show them that you’re happy that your child has told you about it.”
It’s no exaggeration to suggest that the self-esteem of children with ADHD, over the span of their childhood, experiences a thousand cuts. Even in the presence of well-meaning and supportive adults an individual with ADHD is constantly reminded that they’re not quite making it: forgotten homework, incomplete chores, poor grades, reminders to be quiet, lost or misplaced shoes, gloves, jackets and school materials, and tardiness, to name just a few of the negative behaviors displayed by someone with ADHD. And then there are the comments: “how many times do I have to tell you?” When will you learn?” How hard is this?” “Why can’t you get this?” and “Just be quiet!” Then there is the endless parade of negative consequences: time outs, lost electronics, no recess, no play time, frowns, irritation, and disappointment from parents and teachers, and in some cases much worse consequences. Humans are resilient. A single cut, and the body heals itself. Multiple cuts, spread over a life-time, and the body heals itself. But a thousand cuts massed over a short time period, and the body dies.
In their book, “Death by A Thousand Cuts” Brook, Bourgon, and Blue note that the purpose of this type of execution isn’t just about inflicting physical pain and death. It was also meant to deny the victim hope of life after death, and inflict shame. The thousand cuts experienced by an individual with ADHD often has a similar effect, the infliction of shame and the loss of hope, not for a life after death, but a decent life while they still have breath. Adults with ADHD are disproportionally represented in incarcerated populations, experience more academic failure, more employment disruption, and more marital conflict.
What to do? First, we need to make sure we understand ADHD. It isn’t just about being hyperactive, impulsive, or inattentive. Individuals with ADHD experience a complex set of difficulties including emotional sensitivity, executive functioning deficits, social skill deficits and challenges regulating their attention. Individuals with ADHD can pay attention if the thing they are attending to is intrinsically interesting to them, or they have been offered a big enough carrot. The challenge for an individual with ADHD is arousing themselves to attend adequately to things that are tedious and monotonous. Additionally, individuals with ADHD may over-focus and have difficulty disengaging from what they are involved in.
What else? Let’s stop trivializing the diagnosis. ADHD won’t physically kill you, but it does contribute to a great deal of emotional distress and a lifetime of challenges. And, let’s start diagnosing it correctly. Take the time to get a thorough history, review school records, and get standardized questionnaires completed by parents and teachers. We also need to acknowledge that ADHD is a neurological problem that doesn’t fix itself, and doesn’t get fixed with psychotherapy. While therapy is often an important component of treatment, parents and children with ADHD need to be educated (constantly) about ADHD, individuals with ADHD frequently need increased structure (e.g., 504 plan, regularly scheduled homework time, bedtime, and mealtime), increased support (homework assistance, tutoring, organizing their backpack) and finally medication. We need to get educated about medication and quit being afraid of it. Enlist the support of a good psychiatrist or pediatrician, and a good psychologist if the diagnosis is not clear, or there are multiple diagnoses to be ruled out.
By acknowledging the emotional distress experienced by individuals with ADHD over their lifetime, we increase our ability to respond empathically and appropriately to our clients with ADHD, and put them in a better position to lead successful and fulfilling lives.
Theme: Identifying Feelings, Empathy, Understanding those with limitations, Sympathy vs. Empathy, Empathetic Responses
Recommended Ages: 4th grade +
Goals: To develop an awareness of the daily struggles encountered by those with limitations.
Identify the difference between showing someone empathy vs. sympathy.
Learn how to articulate an empathetic response.
Copy of poem “Nine Gold Medals” (below)
Cotton balls, or noise canceling headphones
List of Disability Stations (below)
Description: This activity is designed to help students develop empathy. It begins with reading a short poem, “Nine Gold Medals.” (below). The poem is about a Special Olympics race, where one of the athletes tumbles and falls, crushing his dreams of being a medalist. Knowing what it must feel like to have those dreams crushed, the other Olympians stop the race, turn around, and help the fallen Olympian finish the race. In a collective effort, they all cross the finish line at the same time, ending in Nine Gold Medals instead of one.
Nine Gold Medals (By David Roth)
The athletes had come from all over the country
To run for the gold, for the silver and bronze
Many weeks and months of training
All coming down to these games
The spectators gathered around the old field
To cheer on all the young women and men
The final event of the day was approaching
Excitement grew high to begin
The blocks were all lined up for those who would use them
The hundred yard dash was the race to be run
There were nine resolved athletes in back of the starting line
Poised for the sound of the gun
The signal was given,
The pistol exploded
And so did the runners all charging ahead
But the smallest among them, he stumbled and staggered
And fell to the asphalt instead
He gave out a cry of frustration and anguish
His dreams and his efforts all dashed in the dirt
But as sure as I’m standing here telling this story
The same goes for what next occurred
The eight other runners
Pulled up their heels
The ones who had trained for so long to compete
One by one they all turned around and went back to help him
And brought the young boy to his feet
Then all the nine runners
Joined hands and continued
The hundred yard dash now reduced to a walk
And a banner above that said, “Special Olympics”
Could not have been more on the mark
That’s how the race ended, with nine gold medals
They came to the finish line holding hands still
And a standing ovation and nine beaming faces
Said more than these words ever will
After the poem is read a discussion takes place. Topics that get discussed include learning how to ask questions, listening to the other person, and expressing oneself appropriately. One way to strengthen empathetic response is by sharing similar experiences with someone. After the discussion participants are asked to participate in the Disability Stations (see below).
Discussion: In order to truly support someone, we need to empathize and understand them. No two people are alike, and everyone’s situation is different. When we experience someone having a difficult time we often feel sympathy for that person. However, what most people need is empathy. The majority of people do not want to be pitied, or felt sorry for, they simply want understanding. They want others to be genuine with them, and take time to fully comprehend their situation. The disability stations help participants experience some of the things others struggle with. For example, participants will experience manual dexterity difficulties by placing gloves on their hands and trying to perform a simple task such as writing. Blindfolds are used to help understand the difficulty associated with engaging in activities without being about to visually respond to them. Hearing loss is experienced through the utilization of cotton balls and/or noise cancelation headphones. Articulation challenges can be demonstrated by not being able to move the tongue while talking. These stations in no way give participants the right to think they fully understand how someone with these limitation feels, but an appreciation and empathy can be fostered.
Disability Awareness Stations
Station #1: Articulation
Station #2: Manual Dexterity
Station #3: Non-verbal Communication
Station #4: Hearing Loss
Station #5: Blindness
Thanks again to Brandon for another great idea!
Statistics from the CDC suggest that dating violence among teens is at epidemic levels. A 2013 survey of violence among teens found that approximately 10% of high school students reported physical victimization and 10% reported sexual victimization from a dating partner in the 12 months before they were surveyed. A survey completed in 2011 found that 23% of females and 14% of males who ever experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age. The CDC defines teen dating violence as “the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner.” Other terms used to describe dating violence include relationship abuse, intimate partner violence, relationship violence, dating abuse, domestic abuse, and domestic violence. Sadly, as most mental health professionals know, many teens do not report dating violence to their friends or family out of fear. We also know that dating violence is more widespread than most people (including parents) believe and has serious long-term and short-term effects. Teens subjected to dating violence may experience depression and anxiety, begin engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco, drug, or alcohol use, become involved in antisocial activities, and have thoughts of suicide. And, as noted above, victims of teen violence are at higher risk in the future for victimization.
It is important for parents, teachers, counselors, and others to teach adolescents to protect themselves against dating violence as much as possible. Teens need to learn to appropriately communicate uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy. Teens need to be encouraged to treat others with respect and expect the same for themselves. Adults should be alert for risk factors associated with dating violence. These include a belief that dating violence is acceptable, the presence of anxiety, depression, or a history of trauma, aggressive behavior, use of illegal drugs, early sexual activity and multiple sexual partners, having a friend involved in dating violence, conflicts with a partner, and being a witness or experiencing violence in the home.
We have recently discovered an excellent resource that will contribute to the education of girls at risk for dating violence – a card game titled Jerky Johnny. Jerky Johnny teaches girls to recognize the signs of a dangerous person and to teaches them that they have a voice. This wonderful card game may be played by girls 12 and older. It can be used by girls alone, and by parents, teachers, counselors, and mental health professionals. It was designed by a mother, Dara Connolly, who is also a professional self-defense instructor. Jerky Johnny is an excellent tool for promoting conversation, awareness, and assertiveness. After reviewing the cards, It seems to me that this might also be an excellent resource for building awareness among boys, and is a great conversation starter.
It is expected that the ability to play a game, and tolerate the frustrations that go along with playing a competitive game, will emerge between ages 6 and 11 (Oren, Ayala. The Use of Board Games in Child Psychotherapy. In Journal of Child Psychotherapy, Volume 34, No. 3, 364-383). A socially and emotionally competent child will enter a competitive game with a desire to compete on equal terms, and will enjoy winning when playing by the rules. Failure or losing is not experienced as destruction, and rather than being anxious the child will experience tension. If they lose the game, the fully functioning child will not feel lost or inferior, but sad. The experience of losing is not generalized outside of the play situation.
I’ve been working on developing a chart to map out developmental expectations and behaviors of children while in counseling. Input is welcome!
|By age 4 we expect a child can regulate aggression and play simple games like chase, hide and seek
Children at this stage will show little interest in board games, or games that require following more than one or two rules.
|The regressed child may demonstrate disorganized play, be unable to take turns, or appreciate the give and take of even a simple activity like chase.|
|Between ages 4 & 6 children are learning about rules and developing their cooperation skills
Frustration tolerance is emerging.
Children will demonstrate inconsistency in their ability to cooperate and engage in a structured activity like a game. Simple games such as Cootie and Candy Land start to become interesting.
Children can usually play a cooperation game like Bambino Dino by age 6, but younger children may also be able to play this game.
|The developmentally delayed child may show little interest in reciprocal play, have low tolerance for turn taking, and may not understand or be able to appreciate the value of an interactive, turn taking, game.
|By age 6-7 we expect a child will be able to understand the rules and have the ability to play according to the rules. Some children are able to start participating in games specifically developed for therapy.
By age 7 some children are asking for games specific to their challenges, like The Angry Monster Game.
Children are beginning to take an interest in competing under equal conditions with others.
Children are learning to “wait their turn” and delay making a response.
|Children who are delayed may reject a game, act out, try to cheat, argue about the rules or make up rules.
Increased anxiety or stress may result in the child being less able to compete equally with others, and they may refuse to play a challenging game, cheating, or prematurely quit.
|By age 8-9 we expect the child won’t be unduly anxious about losing; they’ll understand the difference between a skill game and a game that involves chance. They’re developing a preference for games that involve some skill.
By age 8-9 the child understands that you are playing for yourself, and not for them. You won’t bend the rules, and they won’t try and move for you. They experience you as an opponent and don’t have a need to aggress against you.
By age 8-9 a child may feel a blow to their self-esteem if they lose a game, but it won’t last long. They are able to maintain a positive relationship with their opponent.
|Children who are delayed may prefer simple games of chance such as Candy Land; they may prematurely terminate a game, cheating and changing rules may still persist. They may over-estimate their skill in a game of chance.
Some children will reject games that they perceive as having a specific therapeutic component.
A child who is delayed may tell you how to move, try to move for you, or become indignant if you take the lead, or become passive aggressive.
Children who are delayed may resist game play; they may brag about their success outside of the session with a game they lost; blaming may occur.
|By age 9 children are able to cooperate and tolerate any type of game. They are able to generate reasonable responses to prompts presented in a game. The may reject a game like Candy Land that is entirely based on chance.
|A child who is delayed at this age may draw a blank, or frequently say I Don’t Know when a response is required during a therapeutic game. The therapist may have to be more active and provide many more suggestions than they would with a typical child.|
|Age 11 and up – The typical child will enjoy a game that challenges them and appreciate the goals of therapy and the purposes of the game. They’ll be able to talk about their issues and challenges. They are less inclined to play in the play room and appreciate the opportunity to play an age appropriate game.
|A delayed child may gravitate to games for younger children, and avoid games that seem explicitly therapeutic. Some children won’t play games at all.|
|By age 12 nearly all typical children have accomplished all the skills noted above.
|Teens – Typically enjoy therapeutic games and a challenge. They show some insight and appreciate the process of therapy. They acknowledge explicitly developmental issues such as sexual identity, drug use, responsibility, …||A delayed or defensive teen may focus on what a waste of time it is for them to come in and play games and may complain about therapy being a waste of money. They may give superficial responses, draw a blank, or ask to play a game that doesn’t include an obviously therapeutic component.
It is important to be attentive to where the child is developmentally. A child who has not yet developed an adequate self-concept is going to require more nurturing and support than a child who has a good sense of who they are and good self-esteem. It will be important for the therapist to have predetermined in advance, how they prefer to deal with various issues in therapy. For example, I have a rule that objects in my play room cannot be broken, and no one may hurt anyone. No one is allowed to hurt my client, and no one is allowed to hurt me. The first infraction comes with a warning, the second infraction results in the session being terminated. I do not expect all my clients to be able to follow the rules of a game. Devising and implementing new rules, self-serving or not, are treated the same way any activity in play therapy would be treated (see section on cheating). Some children will rationalize their “cheating,” losing, and minimize any success the clinician may have during a game. These behaviors become “grist for the mill.” Anxiety, which can be manifested as worry, aggression or fear, may need the support of the therapist in order to be contained. For example, a game may be discontinued, and only non-competitive games played, or only games the client is very good at may be played for a time.