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Play Therapy for your Child

Lexy Kruse

“I’m at the end of my rope...I don’t know what to do anymore...I hope I didn’t mess up my child...” Have you heard yourself saying any of that or thinking about it? Then you are not alone. These are statements that I have heard from many parents when talking about their children and the fear they are experiencing. Often when something is not going well with our children, we blame ourselves and wonder what we did wrong or could have done better. Instead of dwelling on the could haves or should haves, let’s focus on what to do next. Is your child struggling socially, emotionally, or behaviorally? Then play therapy might be beneficial for them.

Play is a child’s language and toys are their words. Play therapy is different than a child’s typical play as it works to help children express themselves, learn more adaptive behaviors, and address the current issues they are facing in a clinical and safe setting. Use of art, sand tray, toys, games, music, etc. may be included in a child’s play therapy session, but it can look different for each and every child based on the specific needs of that child.

Play therapy can help children (Lilly, O'Connor, & Krull, n.d.; Play Therapy, 2014): 

  • Grow their self-esteem, problem solving, and adaptive behaviors.
  • Develop and create new solutions to problems.
  • Facilitate emotional healing.
  • Learn to experience and express their feelings.
  • Cultivate empathy for thoughts and feelings of others.
  • Learn new social and relational skills with family and friends. 

Play therapy can benefit everyone, including adults and teenagers, but is most utilized with children aged 3-12 (Lilly et al., n.d.; Play Therapy, 2014). Play therapy can be used to work with anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, ADHD, autism spectrum, oppositional defiant and conduct disorders, anger management, crisis and trauma, grief and loss, divorce and family dissolution, moving transitions, chronic illness, academic and social developmental, and learning disabilities. To read more about play therapy please go to The Association for Play Therapy’s website:https://www.a4pt.org/page/PTMakesADifference/Play-Therapy-Makes-a-Difference.htm

If you believe that play therapy may benefit your child please contact the Olson Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic at (319) 368-6493 to set up an appointment.


Lilly, JP., O'Connor, K., & Krull, T. (n.d.). Why Play? Retrieved fromhttps://www.a4pt.org/page/PTMakesADifference/Play-Therapy-Makes-a-Difference.htm.
Play Therapy. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.childplayworks.co.nz/play-therapy/.

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