Have you ever watched children sitting in the â€śman chairâ€ť outside a fitting room? They are all over that chair. The chair might become a bus, a race car, or even an airplane. They love playing hide and seek under the cloths racks and twirling, hopping, and skipping while walking through the mall. - Play is what they do.
At the dinner table, my son tells me he wants more. When I ask him what he wants more of, he points at that yummy orange stuff but doesnâ€™t know to call it sweet potatoes. So I give him more sweet potatoes and he starts crying. Of course my frustration level starts to rise. â€śYou said you wanted more sweet potatoes.â€ť But really he was pointing to my favorite food group (and apparently his), the butter on the sweet potatoes. - Childrenâ€™s verbal skills develop after their cognitive skills.
Unusual behavior is a childâ€™s way of expressing that something is going on but often they cannot or will not communicate it to adults. That is what play therapy is all about: helping children communicate what they are thinking and feeling through their natural language of play.
A seven year old child was brought to me because he was misbehaving in class and was removed every day. At first I tried to get him to talk but that didnâ€™t work. He looked over my shoulder at the doll house in my office. When I asked him if he would like to play with the doll house his eyes lit up. Throughout the session I noticed several themes and at the end I asked the mother about these themes. The mother broke down crying because this boyâ€™s twin sister passed away when he was three. After a few play therapy sessions, the boy no longer was removed from his class. He needed to talk to someone about his sister in his own language of play.
A Registered Play Therapist has specialized training and supervision to help foster this communication and has to go through regular professional development to maintain this credential. A list of Registered Play Therapists can be found on the Association for Play Therapy website at www.a4pt.org.
Dan Mertig is a Georgia Licensed Professional Counselor, Registered Play Therapist, National Certified Counselor, and a certified School Counselor. For more information about play therapy, Dan can be reached at 912-373-6348.