Last week in my blog, I talked about ways to increase trust in your relationships with children. Another great way to help build trust with children is through play! Play Therapy is particularly effective with children because it creates a safe way for a child to communicate difficult feelings.

The role of play

Children will naturally play out their experiences of life – things that have happened to them, things they’ve seen on TV, things that have happened at school. They will replay these activities using toys, sand, puppets, or just using their imagination to make sense of their experiences.

Children don’t even realise that they are doing this. Play instinctive in a child. It’s our first language. Before children reach the stage when they are able to turn abstract concepts into words, play is the best vehicle for communication.

The inability to put feelings into words can create problems for children. When an adult sees that a child is struggling, the instinct is to ask ‘what’s wrong?’ If a child doesn’t have the language or capacity to put complex feelings into words it can leave adults feeling frustrated – and children feeling misunderstood.

Children might feel pressured into giving an adult the answer that they think they want to hear, rather than being able to give a true reflection of their feelings. This can leave a child feeling unsafe and unsure. It’s almost too big a task to ask of them.

This is where play can be incredibly helpful. It is a very safe way for children to express themselves, as it doesn’t require any ability to put thoughts into words. Children automatically ‘play out’ their worries, fears, anxieties, joy, surprise, wonder… all of the emotions! In free play, there is no expectation on a child to give the right answer.

When children feel accepted in their play, they feel safe. When they are ready, the words will come and play can help this process along too.

In the meantime, let them play it out and trust that they are doing just what they need to make themselves feel better.


About the Author

Sophia Giblin is a Play Therapist, Play Therapy supervisor and founder of Clear Sky Children’s Charity, a UK organisation which employs a number of Play and Creative Arts Therapists to support children in schools. She is currently undertaking her MA in Practice Based Play Therapy. She has a special interest in how the parent-child relationship can promote optimum wellbeing for children.

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