Play Therapy

According to Jean Piaget, “play provides the child with the live, dynamic, individual language indispensable for the expression of [the child’s] subjective feelings for which collective language alone is inadequate.” Play helps a child develop a sense of true self and a mastery over her/his innate abilities resulting in a sense of worth and aptitude. During play, children are driven to meet the essential need of exploring and affecting their environment. Play also contributes in the advancement of creative thinking. Play likewise provides a way for children to release strong emotions. During play, children may play out challenging life experiences by re-engineering them, thereby discharging emotional states, with the potential of integrating every experience back into stability and gaining a greater sense of mastery.

Play therapy refers to a range of methods of capitalizing on children’s natural urge to explore and harness it to meet and respond to the developmental and later also their mental health needs. It is also used for forensic or psychological assessment purposes where the individual is too young or too traumatized to give a verbal account of adverse, abusive, or potentially criminal circumstances in their life. From Wikipedia Play therapy

Play Therapy as we utilize it is built on Jean Piaget and Virginia Axline. We utilize indirective and directive play as needed.


Learned Behaviors

During this time of social distancing, I have noticed fear overtake the area and even our postman has shown a little fear with signs on his truck 10 feet away. He becomes agitated and angry when someone violates his space. His fear overtakes his duty and sanity.

Learned behaviors are demonstrated in many ways. He has learned to react to danger in a socially acceptable way. However, at times our basic instincts kick in and flight, fight, or freeze take over rational thinking and socially acceptable behaviors. 6 feet is the social distancing required by the government now during this pandemic. It is not a bad habit to adopt as most illnesses are contacted by personal contact to something. I wonder if 6 feet will be the new norm- our new learned behavior to keep us safe. It will be inground into our minds 6 feet is a safe distance- no longer is it my bubble but my 6 feet.

On a different note is homeschooling. Learned behaviors while learning. Our children have adopted certain learned behaviors to accept normalcy while in a school setting. They have adapted to sit quiet, be quiet, don’t touch, don’t distract. While at home we allow our children to be themselves. Society says we want individualism, our children should be themselves, they need independence. But in a public school do they receive that? I wonder how many learned behaviors they adopt while in a school setting. Are learning academics or conformity?

I have noticed during this time of homeschooling children are able to be their own person. They learn at their own rate. They have the opportunity to go back and catch up where it was hard. They are learning how to do the work they were told they failed at in the past. They are gaining confidence and true education. They become connected to family, learn to enjoy their home, and try new activities.

It may be scary for some but for others, it is a new learning experience that is developing into a new way to learn social acceptance. My neighbor’s daughter is home doing schoolwork in the morning by lunch she is out riding her bike and playing like a tomboy- she is free to be who she is. She is always smiling and laughing.

Learned behavior can be unlearned. It is a habit something we learn to do- like any other habit we can unlearn it. Can our children learn to use fidgets to keep focused while taking a test or chew gum for anxiety and sensory overload at school? This only happens if they have an IEP. What if it is not put into their IEP or if their parents do not understand the types of coping skills and items they can add to an IEP. While at home these children are free to listen to music, chew gum, take short breaks, and play with fidgets while working. Is their work suffering? I would say no. I would say the reason they can not have it in school is for a teacher or peer convenience.

Learned behaviors are to make other people happy. We learn to comply. We learn to conform. During this time of social distancing, I hope we learn acceptance and a renewed love for family.


For anxiety each child is different; however, some techniques may work for all children. Loose as a noodle and stiff as a board is something most of my clients enjoy. As stress and anxiety build up in our emotions it also builds in our bodies. It will keep our muscles tight which makes it difficult to relax or move around freely. This game is fun for all ages making it something all groups, classrooms, or individual clients can use. It is also enjoyable and silly. If you can get the child to move freely while swinging their arms back and forth they will actually hit pressure points while being “loose as a noodle”

Children with sensory needs may have meltdowns due to the sensory input or output and not actually a tantrum. In a classroom or outing the child with special needs (and all children have them) many just need a place to be quiet, play with a fidget, or smash something ( I mean like clay…haha). Allowing them time to self-regulate or helping them to co-regulate may avoid a meltdown or embarrassing situation for the child. We hear a lot about children with different diagnoses and on this or that spectrum; however, when I was in private practice I had some on the opposite side of the scale- the gifted.

Gifted children need as many breaks for different types of sensory issues, mental breakdowns, or overloads as our children on a spectrum. These special needs children are usually missed due to their intelligence and grade point average; however, they have their own unique struggles which anxiety can exhibit itself in defiance, low self-esteem, high achiever, or low achiever.

Anxiety can be a lifelong struggle for many. If we acknowledge our child has these struggles we can determine the plan of action which will work best for all the parts of their day. We can help them to live long over-comers. Not all children need medication for anxiety: some simple activities or items bring self-regulation and allow them the opportunity to be successful.

A few thoughts would be learning to tap, breathing, taking sensory breaks, time on a swing, or simply using a rocking motion. They also can use sensory toys: clay, slime, playdoh, sand, or fidgets. All of these items/skills can help them find their own voice allowing them the opportunity to communicate to others know what helps them to relax so they can carry on with their day without judgment or embarrassment.

Making our children aware of their needs, struggles, and yes diagnosis will help them to be an advocate for their success. In my initial sessions, my clients play- we just play. We find out what they enjoy, what gives them joy, and what causes stress. We use sensory items when discussing hard issues and find what would be a good sensory box for them at home. All my clients choose clay, playdoh, sand, Legos, fidgets, and bendable pencils as a beginning sensory box. Each client will add their own: some like quiet spaces to roll around, others like a yoga ball, some enjoy a crash pad.

I had a nonverbal young man when I started with him and he loved puzzles. Anxiety in children can be dangerous but as caring adults in that child’s life, we can help them to cope in a healthy and successful way.

Using the 10 -minute rule for Therapy

Jerry runs into the therapist’s office, screams as he throws himself on the floor. “You will take my toys away I know it!!!” He thrashes on the floor as he rolls into a ball. He moves from one end of the office to the other. His father stares with mouth gaping. He shakes his head…

Building Working Memory

Games for increasing Working Memory 1. Have your child be the teacher. Let them tell you how to complete their math problem or teach you a new game, story, or recipe. Allow them time to visualize the problem, they can use toys or a visual cue to learn new information. 2. You can build your…