February 3-9th is National Play Therapy week. There are so many reasons that play therapy and play-based interventions are a powerful tool for therapeutic work with children. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Children learn through play.
It's easy to forget that children are still learning so many skills that we take for granted. The world is still incredibly new to them, and play is how children explore, try new things, learn how to interact with others, improve motor skills, develop a sense of cause and effect, try out different roles, and so much more.
The beloved Mr. Fred Rogers says it best: "Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning."
2. And, children learn more QUICKLY through play!
Play involves "doing" rather than simply listening or observing. Play is engaging. Play is social. All of these things put the brain in a state where learning occurs more quickly.
Karyn Purvis, the creator of TBRI, stated, "...It takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synpase in the brain - unless it is done with play, in which case, it takes between 10 and 20 repetitions!"
3. Children LOVE to play!
Play is an inherent part of childhood. Animal babies spend their time tumbling, chasing, and exploring. Children are fascinated by the simple things that adults tend to overlook, such as mud puddles, light switches, and shadows. A child can turn an empty paper towel tube into a sword, a towel into a cape, a pile of sticks into a fortress.
Play is a child's natural language and their first language. When children are playing, they're relaxed, free, open, curious, and open. Therapy is far more effective with an engaged, relaxed child that is enjoying the process.
4. Play improves relationships.
Playful interactions are full of eye contact, smiles, laughter, and shared experiences. These are the ingredients that strengthen and deepen relationships. In play we can express and share things that we may not be ready to put into words yet. In family therapy and parent-child therapy, play-based interventions can change patterns and build relationship in powerful ways.
"Play disarms fear, builds connectedness, teaches social skills, and social competencies for life." Dr. Karyn Purvis
Play is powerful. Play is effective. Play makes a difference. The effectiveness of play, play therapy, and play-based therapeutic interventions is backed by solid research. Because of that, play is an integral part of the therapeutic work that we do with children at Steel River Counseling. We like to include it in therapy with teenagers and even adults at times as well!
Find a way to have fun with those you love this week. Your brain and your relationships will be better because of it.