Mental Health


Mandy Kloppers

7 Play Therapy Techniques For Children

According to the CDC, nearly 4.5 million kids aged 3-17 have a diagnosed behavior problem, and almost 2 million are diagnosed with depression. Sadly, studies show that 70% of kids with mental health issues do not receive appropriate and timely intervention.


Play therapy is a type of Cognitive Based Therapy that can boost timely and appropriate interventions among children. The method allows the subjects to play during sessions to create a conducive environment for self-expression. As the child plays and settles into a more comfortable mind frame, they feel in control and become more willing to express themselves. 


Over the years, mental health professionals have developed various techniques for play therapy. This article gives you seven-play therapy techniques suitable for children. They will help the children express themselves more candidly, and treatment will be more effective.

Medical Play

By now, vaccination against COVID-19 is well beyond 50% of the population. But, the trail of destruction left by the virus is indelible in our minds. It is more vivid for children who experienced it first hand or those with close relatives who underwent a stressful health period. 


Is the child struggling to deal with stress or anxiety due to a medical condition? The parenting experts at Play Skills Toys suggest, “Consider playing with a stuffed animal. Let the child pretend to be a doctor examine the toy. As they do this, the child will feel in control and express their thoughts and feelings more openly.”


You could also role-play with the child. Let the child be the doctor, and you play the part of the patient (with the same ailment that affected the child). 

Baby doll play

A child could experience mixed feelings concerning a recently-born or soon-to-be-born sibling. But you can help the child become aware of their emotions and identify and cultivate positive nurturing behaviors. 


Play with a doll while with the child. It will tell you more about the child’s instincts. If the child ill-treats the doll, it could be a sign that all is not well at home and the child requires specific therapy. 

Externalization Play

Sometimes kids express themselves better when they externalize their issues. Externalization helps to unearth and address problems the child considers embarrassing.  

For example, if the child is afraid of water, work together and create a character representing the child’s issue, like a dragon. Then probe the child about the issue without directly addressing it as a problem.


As the name suggests, this technique involves story reading. But you will require to be familiar with the child’s problem before you pick a story. 


Find a book with a story resembling the child’s problem. The narrative should highlight both the problem and a solution. 


Read it together with the child. As you read, ask questions about the story but relating to the child’s real-life problems. For example, you could ask, “Do you sometimes feel this way?”


Chance games

Children who have difficulty dealing with unexpected losses or unrealistic expectations of themselves can benefit from playing chance games.


Playing simple board games like monopoly can provide excellent opportunities to experience unexpected and unavoidable losses in a safe environment and learn how to cope.  


Costume play

You could pretend to be a patient and ask the child to dress up like a doctor. Then help the child to talk more about the issue. Alternatively, you can ask the child to dress up like royalty and sit on a “throne.” Then you will become the faithful subject who receives and executes orders from the king or queen. Pay attention to the child’s decrees and wishes. You will learn a lot about what they like, dislike, and what they wish to have. 

play therapy children

Photo by Jessica Rockowitz on Unsplash

Superhero play

This is an all-time favorite because it is interesting, fun, and helps kids be more confident. 

You can ask the child to draw a picture of an unnamed superhero, but the superhero should have powers the child wishes to have. As you play with your child, try and figure out their strengths. Then help the child learn that their strengths can be as beneficial as these superpowers. 


Concluding remarks

There is no doubt that play is good for the mind. You can learn about many other play therapy techniques and apply them in your practice. They will help the children express themselves when they do not have words to express their thoughts and feelings. Through play, therapy sessions can be more effective, and more children will receive appropriate and timely intervention.


Photo by Shirota Yuri on Unsplash