The Use of Play in Therapy

July 7, 2021
The Use of Play in Therapy

Written by Psychologist Lisa Jones

Many therapists incorporate toys, games and play activities into their therapy to support children with a range of difficulties and to reach a variety of outcomes, and whilst it may seem like all fun and games, there are some great reasons why play is an effective method of therapy 


  • Does not rely on language 
  • Is a way of learning and communicating 
  • Can allow a child to ‘act out’ problems or dilemmas they may be facing and develop solutions 
  • Is creative and fun 
  • Allows the child to express their interests and personality 
  • Is a natural and developmentally appropriate way to engage with children 
  • Is non-threatening and much less confronting than alternatives such as talk therapy 
  • Allows for curiosity and exploration 
  • Incorporates many aspects of the child’s development, including their cognitive skills, social skills, motor development, sensory skills, and language skills  
  • Can allow a child a sense of autonomy and control over the session and activities 
  • Is familiar to most children 
  • Helps to create a trusting therapeutic relationship between the child and therapist 
  • Can support a child’s creativity and create a positive therapeutic experience 

Using play as a form of therapy is a great way for your therapist to build a relationship with your child in a safe and familiar way. Your therapist may use toys or games to encourage your child to act out feelings that they may not otherwise be able to speak about. Play can be a useful way to support children who may have limited language skills, who may struggle to talk about their thoughts and feelings, or who might be anxious and need a sense of control over the session. Including play in therapy allows for skills to be learned in real-world situations and encourages children to think of therapy as fun.  

Play therapy is suitable for all children and can be tailored to meet the personal and developmental needs of the child. Play can be used alongside a range of other traditional approaches and can be useful to incorporate your child’s interests and their own personality into the sessions.  

Using play in therapy is also a great way to ensure you can practice the skills at home, using resources you already have. There are a number of ways you may encourage your child through play, but to start, one of the best ways is to allow the child to lead the play. Take an interest in what they naturally play, copy what they are doing and repeat some of the words or phrases they may say. Try and add a few more words to extend the child’s vocabulary, and watch as your child grows and develops.  

For more information about how our therapists use play in their sessions, or to understand more about how to use play as a tool at home, speak to our friendly staff.