Saving the world from evil aliens, jumping from cushion to avoid molten lava, building a whole town from Lego-bricks for dolls to explore – playtime is something to look back on fondly, opportunities to be truly creative. What we perhaps didn’t realise is just how much that playtime would shape our thought processes, behaviours, and skills as we grew older.
Play is an integral part of our development. Yes, it allows us to be creative and make friends, but it helps us with all kinds of cognitive development. It enables children to express thoughts, feelings and experiences when perhaps they don’t have the words or the confidence to say out loud. For children who may have social anxieties or special educational needs, it can be a safe, constructive way to develop essential skills. This is why Fortis’ Child Therapists use arts and crafts, puppets, toys, and Lego bricks in play therapy with our young clients.
Benefits of Child’s Play Therapy
Children are always thinking and learning, and through the exploration of spaces and objects, they can take in brand new information about people and the world around them. They will learn to make decisions, enhance memory skills and attention spans, and develop control. As games progress, children will begin to plan, use their judgement and reasonings, and face challenges, using critical thinking to create solutions.
For children to create solutions, they need to develop their creativity. Being free to create worlds and scenarios in their imagination, drawing up original pieces of artwork and building structures from scratch allows children to think outside the box and explore possibilities. When an evil alien makes a surprise comeback, how will the hero react?
When children come together to play, the possibilities are endless. Once they learn to navigate new group dynamics, they will encourage each other to share and collaborate, recognising each others’ feelings and showing their own emotions. As they play together as a group, they will compromise and listen, coming together to solve problems as a team with respect for one another.
Whether happy, sad, angry, anxious or confident, imaginative play allows children to express a whole range of emotions. While learning to understand and cope with those feelings, children can begin to recognise those emotions in others, developing and practising empathy. As they complete their games, children can feel a real sense of accomplishment which will help to boost their confidence.
When working with children with SEN or social anxieties, art and play therapy can be incredibly engaging. Using toy bricks such as Lego to build and create structures, scenes, and objects enables the children to express their feelings whilst developing social interaction skills.
Building Change is a Lego-based therapy that helps to improve social skills in children aged five to 16, especially those with autism spectrum disorders. In small groups of up to six children, and with the help of a fully- accredited child therapist, those taking part will work together to build models, switching between the roles of ‘supplier’, ‘engineer’, and ‘builder’ throughout the one-hour session. Should a social difficulty arise, the therapist will encourage the children to solve the problem and find an alternative strategy. Children can also express their creativity by building models from their imagination without instruction.
Building Change allows young people to practice problem solving, working in collaboration, communication, listening, sharing, and taking turns in a friendly, fun environment.