I just read an article entitled “The Science of Play Therapy” and I want to share four highlights from it concerning how play therapy aids in healthy neuro-development.
Impact of Play therapy
Play therapy allows a child to explore emotions, worries and imagination, as well as gain and practice coping strategies. While exploring the brain is developing new healthy pathways in a positive environment. This therapy incorporates elements that help change dysfunctional thoughts, feelings and behaviors into healthy emotional, cognitive, and social skills that strengthen resilience.
Children often think that some feelings are “good,” and others are “bad.” For instance, some think that being joyful is acceptable and being sad in not tolerated. Through play therapy the integration of all feelings brings about emotional wellness and increases resiliency. We have written about Dan Siegel before and one of his claims is “If you can name it, you can tame it.” Play therapy provides a developmentally appropriate opportunity for children (and their families) to “name” their emotions and be more in control of their feelings.
Partnering with caregivers
Play therapy not only works with the child, but also the family in which the child lives. Explaining the basics of the brain to caregivers provides them with an understanding of what their child may be experiencing and can help the family respond more effectively when a child displays inappropriate behaviors. Caregivers who understand mind, heart, and body information are not only able to encourage that kind of communication at home, but also better equipped to be aware of the information in their personal lives.
Meta-cognition is “thinking about thinking.” Play therapists are trained to identify barriers in children’s growth (cognitive, social, or emotional). Play therapy encourages children to identify their own thinking patterns and explore what they are thinking. Sand tray, games, and other aspects of play therapy encourage neuro-plasticity through connections of thoughts. Practice of new thoughts and experiences allow children to change their pattern of thinking which brings about changes in behavior.
If you would like to read more about the Centers approach with children please click on the link below.