The Retreat York – The Children and Young People’s Therapeutic Service
The value of therapeutic play for children
All children love to play. They are immensely creative, and play can help them process difficult experiences and explore possible solutions to challenges that they are facing. When children are absorbed in play they are in the present moment, they are transported into their imagination, a make-believe world in which possibilities are endless!
As adults with busy lives the present moment can be difficult to find – parents are busy cooking meals, doing online banking, worrying about elderly relatives, meeting timescales for work, and delivering home schooling. Many parents have been exhausted since the outbreak of COVID-19. The “To do list” is endless. And let’s be honest, do we know any parent who has been able to get through their “To do list” by the end of the day? We need to do what we can, be kind to ourselves and acknowledge what we have achieved or enjoyed every day. I think parents need to do this for themselves and it also great modelling for their children.
How can parents engage in therapeutic play with children?
In order to play therapeutically with children, we ourselves need to be in the present moment. We need to let go of worries about the past and the future. We need to be aware of our breathing, to come into our body and be aware of our senses.
Make some uninterrupted time to play with your child (ren.) It’s important for you and your child(ren) to know that this is special play time. It could be an hour or half an hour, once or twice a week. Ensure your phone is turned off and let others in the house who are not joining in know that this is special play time.
Decide on a play activity that you think your child will like. You could do some drawing or painting together? Playing with miniature figures or dolls house characters? Many children begin playing the story of film, book or TV series, but as their story develops, they often adapt the story and make it their own. When they do this, then we know their story is therapeutic for them. It may be providing them with some internal relief from a stressful situation, they may be having some fun and relaxation time which is important in their relationship with you.
Therapeutic play with children is about noticing what your child is doing and being aware of their expressions and body language. You could say “I wonder what that character is doing now? That looks interesting.” Therapeutic play is different form educational play. For example, when painting we don’t teach the child how to mix colours, but we may wonder what happens when different colours are mixed together, and we go on a journey of exploration with them.
The Children and Young People’s Therapeutic Service at The Retreat provides therapeutic support for children and young people and support and advice for parents who may be experiencing a range of difficulties including stress, low mood, issues with anger, eating difficulties. If you would like to make a referral or simply find out more please look on The Retreat Website www.theretreatyork.org.uk or give us a call on 01904 412551, Option 3. We would be happy to speak to you.