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Playful Healing: Exploring the Magic of Play-Based Therapy

Enter into children's play and you will find the place where their minds, hearts, and souls meet.”

- Virgina Axline

Figure 1: Kiana Fleury in the beginning stages of developing a mural, which she would eventually paint on the wall of our play room.

At the Calgary Therapy Institute, we have been slowly working to develop our sensory playroom to provide play-based therapy for children.

What is play-based therapy?

Children often use play to express themselves and understand the world around them. In play-based therapy, the therapist uses a variety of toys to help the child learn about different thoughts or emotions that may be hard for the child to express verbally. Play therapy allows the therapist to enter the child’s world.

What does a play-based session look like?

Play therapy sessions occur in a specially designed playroom, which provides a comfortable and safe environment where the child can play with as few limits as possible.

While no session is exactly alike, play therapy can involve the use of a sandbox with miniature figurines, costumes, puppets, a dollhouse, Legos, or art and craft supplies. The use of tools and techniques such as role playing, music, dance / movement, clay, and art may also be utilized.

Figure 2: Kiana painting away. You can see some of the toys, figurines, costumes, etc. that are often used in play-based therapy.

Benefits of Play – Based Therapy

1. Increases Cognitive Development

Play-based therapy encourages children to explore, discover, and use new materials and ideas to create something. This helps to build their problem-solving and reasoning skills.

2. Enhances Creativity

It encourages children to use their imagination, experiment with different materials, and create unique art projects.

3. Promotes Social and Emotional Development

Children learn to interact with others, share materials, and take turns. This helps them develop the important social and emotional skills they need to form relationships.

4. Improves Motor Skills

Play-based therapy helps children develop their fine and gross motor skills. This includes things like hand-eye coordination, balance, and motor control.

Who benefits from play therapy?

While play-based therapy can be used with individuals of all ages, it is most often used with children who are aged between 3 and 12. Play therapy has been shown to be beneficial in supporting the following challenges:


- Anxiety

- Behavioral challenges

- Depression

Figure 3: Kiana with her completed masterpiece! Now to put all those toys back....

"Kiana, I have found myself standing and meditating with your mural. I think the wonder in the eyes of the children is the most significant gift that we receive, as your amazing artwork stands with our communities healing journey."

- Dr. Patricia Miller

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