First of all, what is Play therapy? Simply put, it is a type of therapy where a therapist uses play, toys, and games to help the child explore, express, and safely experience the difficulties they are working through. Remember, the "play" is a tool, a method of sorts. Your child's therapist has been trained to pick up and uncover insights about your child's inner world that you wouldn't otherwise recognise.
This is what makes Play Therapy the most accessible for children ages 3 all the way to 16 years old! It is the most developmentally appropriate type of child therapy available. I am sure, you cannot imagine your three-year-old sitting in a therapist's office, lying down on a sofa, and sharing their feelings fluently. Lucky, the alternative allows the therapist to meet your child at their level, to assist with cognitive, emotional, and behavioral challenges.
Play therapy focuses on relationships and experiences to create positive changes in the brain. While your child explores their concerns, the therapeutic relationship helps regulate their emotions, which then allows the brain to make important structural changes. So how does it help to build confidence in your child?
How does it help my child build confidence?
Well, Play Therapy begins by helping children express their feelings and assume responsibility for all of their behaviours. It also teaches them how to develop their problem-solving skills. As parents, it is important to keep in mind that Play therapists are trained mental health practitioners specializing in helping young children. Play therapy in itself offers a lot of benefits for young children. As children learn about the world around them through exploring, having plenty of sensory experiences gives your child the chance to discover and share what they've seen, heard, smelled, touched, or tasted. New and frequent experiences create connections in your child's brain that improve their ability to do more complex learning activities and enhance their memory skills. Thus giving them a great big confidence boost in the classroom!
Sensory play also involves lots of action, for example, lifting, throwing, splashing, squeezing, etc. While these actions may seem small to you, they do wonders to support your child in developing different muscle groups and help them to strengthen their fine motor skills. For most children, sensory play can often be very calming and can help them work through troubling emotions such as anxiety and frustration. It also helps them to self-regulate.
Your child will have no shortage of opportunities to communicate during sensory play, both verbally and non-verbally – whether they describe what they are feeling, hearing, seeing, smelling, or experiencing through body sensations. Practicing their communication skills in a safe and judgment-free zone. Taking away the pressures of performance in a classroom, allow your child to make mistakes they can learn from!
Another great confidence booster is learning who you are as a person. Children are no different. Since we all like and dislike different things – a great way of finding out your personal preferences is through firsthand experience! Through sensory play, children explore and communicate how they feel and learn that their feelings are valid – whether they love the smell of lemons or hate the feeling of slime. It leads to a greater sense of self.
Children need to explore, experience, and receive feedback from their actions on objects to progress according to their cognitive development level. The environment is a crucial factor, as children construct knowledge by handling tangible things and using their senses to learn through hands-on experiences.