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What exactly is Play Therapy?

By Heather Hettinger, Pay.D.


A lot of parents ask us why we would recommend play therapy and how can playing games help with emotional functioning. Research has shown that play therapy promotes early brain development. The benefits include an increase in language, executive functioning, mathematics, spatial skills, and social emotional development. Learning is most effective when children are mentally active and engaged, making play therapy an excellent way to achieve multiple developmental goals. Play can be observed in various settings such as school, playdates, playgrounds, and solitary play. While most children acquire play skills through peer interactions, some may benefit from direct modeling by adults in order to learn how to engage in various forms of play.


During play, children learn how to cope with difficult feelings though learning how to win and lose games during structured play such as board games. When children receive immediate feedback from adults through play, it enhances their knowledge and understanding. There are several different types of play. These include cause and effect play, pretend play, and imaginative play, to name a few. In cause and effect play, children learn to understand consequences in the natural world. Pretend play and imaginative play assist children in learning creativity and problem solving. These types of play allow children to experiment with social interactions which can improve their social skills and boost their language.


Many times, parents may observe their child engaging in pretend play or imaginative play and be surprised by the creative language that their child is using. However, if parents participate with active involvement in play it not only strengthens the parent-child relationship, but also boosts the child's confidence. Direct instruction on various play types can increase a child’s self-confidence and enhance their ability to play with peers, reducing the likelihood of social isolation.

If you would like to learn more about play therapy for your child, give Dr. Heather Hettinger a call at our main line, 818 789 5035.

By Heather Hettinger, Psy.D.

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