People are always asking me for play therapy tools and resources. Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting a continuing education topic on play therapy and trauma to a group of school counselors. As part of that presentation, a few of my favorite play therapy tools kept coming up. So, I thought I would put them together into a handy dandy list.
All copyrights to the authors/creators. Photos are of my personal copies of each item mainly to show you that I really do have it and use it.
The Out of Sync Child Has Fun $10.84 on Amazon
Why I Love It: This book was designed for children with sensory processing disorder, but it is good for all ages. It talks about why children need to move and be in touch with all five senses as part of their learning. I love it because it has tons of specific activities that you can do with your children. Example: put a piece of masking tape on your child’s wrist (sticky side out) and go on a nature walk. Let them collect leaves and other items to stick to the tape and make a nature themed bracelet.
In Sync Activity Cards $20.53 on Amazon
Why I Love It: Simpler than the book, these laminated cards have exercises that you can do in session to get kids moving. You can pick a few to practice sensory related brain breaks or to use as relaxation prompts. Example: Sit in a chair and push your bottom off the seat with your arm muscles, hold and then relax back down.
The Whole-Brain Child Workbook $19.08 on Amazon
Why I Love It: Any book by Dr. Daniel Siegel is a fantastic resource. (No Drama Discipline, The Whole Brained Child), but this one is the best because it walks parents through specific tasks and things to learn. Example: how to engage the “upstairs/downstairs” brain to manage meltdowns.
The Mother Bridge of Love $7.99 at Barefoot Books
Why I Love It: This book combines a well thought out discussion about the love of each mother involved in an adoption (birth mother and adoptive mother). With the main character from China, it also helps support children from international adoptions. All children in my private practice that are in foster care or who have been adopted report that they love how it talks about the love of each of their mothers.
Emily’s Tiger $7.99 at Barefoot Books
Why I Love it: A simple and fun book about anger, this book is great for talking about the ways our bodies change when anger takes over. It inspired one of my clients to write her own book about anger during a therapy session. The illustrations are fun and kids really understand the metaphor of an angry tiger.
The Boy Who Grew Flowers $8.99 at Barefoot Books
Why I Love It: This is a great little book about being different and finding ways to accept yourself first. While not just about learning to fit in, it really talks about how to be yourself and allow others to be attracted to the authentic you. I love that message and the way it prompts a discussion of accepting our own inner weirdness.
Hoot Owl Hoot $17.99 at Barefoot Books
Why I Love It: This cooperative board game means that everyone either wins together or loses together. But, it also teaches about strategy, planning ahead and the consequences of your decision. And it’s not that easy. I like playing with kids and seeing how many tries it takes for them to figure out the best strategy. Kids who don’t win the game come back the next week eager to give it another shot. Example: Is it better to get one owl around at a time the fastest or keep all six owls close together?
Would You Rather $15.99 on Amazon
Why I Love it: This is not your typical therapy game about feelings. Best in groups, it requires you to come to a consensus with other players. This promotes discussions about pros and cons and also helps with conflict resolution. It appeals to older kids and especially to boys because some of the questions are just plan gross. Example: would you rather have bird poop land in your mouth or in your eye?
Flip Flop Faces Emotions in Motion $30.00 at Discovery Toys
Why I Love It: This game requires you to use colored bean bags to flip over matching bowls with feelings faces. There are so many options here for all ages. From a simple matching game to a (pretty) difficult competitive game, the opportunities to make faces and talk about those related feelings are endless. And the fact that it’s not as easy as it looks makes it appealing to older kids as well. Example: Flip the mad face bowl, make an angry face and tell me about something that makes you mad.
The Thought Kit For Kids $44.00 on Ana Gomez’s website
Why I Love It: For those trained in EMDR (a trauma therapy), you will love how these flashcards help kids identify both negative and positive cognitions. It will make your EMDR processing sessions 100x better. For those of you not trained in EMDR or for those who are wondering what the heck EMDR even is… this kit is great for you too. It has a bunch of negative thoughts that are common in all people and you can use it to learn about your client (especially teenagers) and all the terrible things that they believe about themselves. Examples: It is my fault, I should have done something, I am ugly.
There are endless resources about tools that you can use in therapy with kids. In the end, I stick to a mainly non-directive approach. That means that I allow a child to lead the session. If they specifically ask, “What’s this?” then I will explain how these games/books are typically used. If they continue to show interest, then we will use it. If not, then I don’t push it. If a child seems stuck in a certain area, I might offer, “I have a tool that sometimes works for kids.” Again, if they agree, then we test it out. If they are not interested, then I let it go.
**Note, these links are for informational purposes only and to aid in your shopping experience. I receive no financial rewards if you purchase any of the items in this post. However, the three kids books that I mention were kindly donated to me by my friend and Barefoot Books rep, Brittany Mackey).
Have you used any of these tools in your work with children? What is your favorite tool in your toolbox?
Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org
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