A growing number of mental health professionals believe play is as important to human happiness and well being as love and work (Schaefer, 1993). Even Aristotle and Plato reflected on the fundamental importance of play in our lives. Play is a fun, enjoyable activity that elevates our spirits and brightens our outlook on life.
I tried to teach my child from books.
He gave me only puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child with words.
They passed him by, often unheard.
Despairingly, I turned aside,
“How shall I teach this child?” I cried.
Into my hand he put the key:
“Please come,” he said,
“and play with me.”
A Simple Key
It expands self-expression, self knowledge, self-actualization, and self efficacy. Play relieves feelings of stress and boredom, connects people in a positive way, stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulates emotions, and boosts confidence (Landreth, 2002).
Play allows us to practice skills and roles needed for survival. Learning and development are fostered through play (Russ, 2004). Play therapy is a structured, theoretically based approach to therapy that builds on normal communicative and learning processes of children (Carmichael, 2006; Landreth, 2002; O’Connor & Schaefer, 1983). Therapists strategically utilize play therapy to help children express what is troubling them when verbal language to express their thoughts and feelings fails (Gil, 1991). Toys work like the child’s words and play is the child’s language (Landreth, 2002).
Through play , therapists help children learn adaptive behaviors (Pedro-Carroll & Reddy, 2005). A positive relationship develops between therapists and children. This provides a corrective emotional experience necessary for healing (Moustakas, 1997). Play therapy can promote cognitive development, provide insight, and help resolve inner conflicts or dysfunctional thinking (O’Connor & Schaefer, 1983; Reddy, Files-Hall & Schaefer, 2005).