Play Therapy with Children

Play therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which the therapist uses a method of play as a medium to communicate and understand the child. Therapists strategically use play therapy to build a rapport with the child and to help the child to express what is troubling him/her when they don’t have the required verbal abilities to express their thoughts and feelings clearly.


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Play therapy is used to treat problems that are interfering with the normal development of the child. Play therapy is used to resolve these problems and help steer the child towards a better growth and development, social integration and emotional modulation.

There are many play therapy techniques which can be used depending upon the problems and circumstances of the child.  Let’s have a look at some of the play therapy techniques which can also be practiced at home with children to resolve some of the common issues like sibling rivalry, helping the children to express their blocked feelings, desires and needs and resolve any emotional conflicts.

  • The playing baby game-The playing baby game is used to reduce the feelings of insecurity and resentment of the older child caused due to the arrival of a younger sibling. The playing baby game consists of the mother setting aside 15-30 minutes a day with the older sibling so that the child and the mother can play as if he/she is a baby again. During the special time with the child the mother devotes her complete attention to the child. During this time the mother and the child indulge in activities that are fun and enjoyable to both of them.
  • Feeling balloons game-This activity can be done with families and individuals. This technique was developed to give a child a visual prop to identify, express and own his/her feelings. In this technique the child is given a plain paper and is asked to draw three balloons. In balloon number one, all feelings that the child knows are verbalized and placed in the balloon named ‘all kinds of feelings’. The additional balloons are also given names, such as ‘mom and dad’ balloon or any other name as needed to fit the issue needing to be addressed. From ‘all kinds of feelings’ balloon, feelings are placed in the ‘mom and dad’ balloons. The child expresses and discusses the feelings. Anxiety is reduced and the child begins to feel relaxed as the child begins to understand what he or she is feeling.
  • The spy and the sneak– this technique can be used to transform negative interactions in the family into positive ones. The therapist meets the child first and discusses sneaky positive behaviors that the child can do to surprise his or her parent. The therapist and the child then decide on 3-5 good behaviors that the child can engage in. The therapist then talks to the parent and explains her role as a spy. She is to make a list of all the good behaviors of the child over the week. The parent and the child are asked not to discuss it until next session. The next session, the therapist meets with the parent and child again and discusses what happened. The therapist facilitates a discussion of how the child and parent feel when the child engages in these positive behaviors. The game continues for several sessions. Often, the parent will notice more positive behavior than the child initially planned. The child enjoys the positive attention that is showered on him or her by the parent as well as surprising his or her parent. It is preferable to do this technique in conjunction with the therapist, but you can also practice this at home with one parent playing the role of a third person monitoring and working to come up with the sneaky positive behaviors.

At Pause for Perspective, we offer psychotherapy involving play therapy for children, family counseling, counseling for children with Conduct disorder, ADHD, Anxiety related issues and behavioral issues. Please call us at 9490708947 for assessment and therapy.


Heidi Kaudson and Charles Schaefer, 2004, 101 Favorite Play Therapy Techniques, New York, Rowman and Littlefield publishers.

Tara M. Hall, Heidi Gerard Kaduson, Charles E. Schaefer, 2002, Fifteen Effective Play Therapy Techniques, Retrieved from

This post is written by our inhouse counseling intern.

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