Play Therapy is an expressive creative intervention that aims to assist children with emotional, behavioral or social difficulties. The play therapy room is equipped with a variety of expressive mediums, which intend to assist children to project and express their inner world and their emotions. The play therapy toolkit includes elements such as art material, musical instruments, sand play, puppets, drama & role-play and more. Working therapeutically alongside with the supportive therapist shall lead to resolution and improvement of the child’s well-being.
Play Therapy intervention thus provides children a special time and space to express themselves. The therapist strives to allow the children to play and create freely. However, some boundaries will be established in this environment. These boundaries are one of the therapeutic method’s pillars. Boundaries will include safety matters, such as making sure everyone is safe in the playroom (child, therapist, and toys).
Another pillar is consistency. The therapist provides a consistent framework for the child. The play therapy sessions will be conducted on a weekly basis, on the same day and time agreed with the parents. The therapist will make sure sessions start and end on time. Before a session ends, the child will have an advanced notification that will allow him to mentally close the session. This structure allows creating and supporting consistency and safe framework for the children. Consistency and boundaries are significant to the therapy success; this allows the child to know what to expect and it reduces anxiety.
If you notice your child struggling with changes or transitions, he or she might benefit from consistency in their environment.
So the question is: How can parents cultivate this at home when the daily routine might be changing, and some flexibility is needed?
Many children can benefit from a visual weekly schedule. In this schedule, you can display the daily routines (morning, evening) as well as planned activities for the week (school, play-dates etc.).
You may consider presenting the activities in illustration or drawings (rather than words) which will increase the child’s conceptualize understanding. For example: morning routine may include drawing of a toothbrush, shirt & pants (for getting dressed), cup and plate (breakfast); if the child attends preschool/school it may be drawn as a building, teachers & kids, books etc.; evening routine may be represented in a bathtub, plate (dinner) toothbrush, and a bed.
Afternoon activities should be adjustable according to the child’s after-school activities, for example, if he attends enrichment classes (sports, drama, music, reading, math etc.), include ‘home time’ or ‘playground time’ as it’s a part of their day! When you have a special activity on a certain day – it should be portrayed as well! It is recommended that the weekly schedule will have a morning, afternoon and evening parts, at least.
The visual schedule will assist your child to know what to expect from his day and reduce uncertainty. This can support the child to be more regulated around transitions and changes during the day, as he can remember visualizing them together with the parent. This can also facilitate accepting ‘special events’ such as the absence of a family member, due to travel for example, which can be illustrated in the schedule. The child can ‘see’ when his parent is traveling and when he/she is expected to return back.
It is advised that the parents will review the visual weekly schedule with their child every morning. For children that need more support in this area, you may review the calendar once more in the early afternoon hours to prepare them for the following day.
We live in a visual world and for some children, they need visual support in order to carry out their day to day activities efficiently and effectively.