The Power Of Play
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” -Plato
People often think of play as pleasurable behavior solely for amusement, but it is far more than that. Play is central to a child’s healthy cognitive, motor, language, emotional, and social development. It is crucial for children’s creativity, exploration, physical skills, self-regulation, and social learning. In effect, play is a creative process which enhances every domain of a child’s development. This to a child is what speaking is for adults, it is their medium for expressing themselves and processing their world.
Unfortunately, significant mental health problems can and do occur in young children. Approximately 17% of preschool children suffer from a mental health disorder, with more than half severely affected. Mental disorders in young children involve serious changes in the way they behave and handle their emotions, causing distress and problems coping with basic daily stressors.
Among the more common mental disorders diagnosed in young children are anxiety disorders, depressive and bipolar disorders, and hyperactivity and behavioral disorders. Early experiences shape the architecture of the child’s developing brain and lay the foundations for sound mental health. Thus, disruptions to this process can impair a child’s capabilities for learning and relating to others, with lifelong implications.
The good news is these early childhood mental health concerns can be effectively treated and managed through the power of therapeutic play. Play therapy is a type of therapy where therapists allow the child to play during sessions, sorting through complicated feelings and using play to communicate at their own level and pace without feeling interrogated or threatened.
Their emotionally significant experiences can be expressed more comfortably and safely through the symbolic representation the toys provide. Whatever the reason for referral, the play therapist has the opportunity to experience and actively deal with that problem in the immediacy of the child experiencing it.
Research shows about 80% of young children show improvement with play therapy. The interventions are very useful in helping reduce symptoms, improve adaptive and coping skills, and even improve parent-child relationships since parents can be integrated into young children’s play therapy.
So, if you have a struggling preschooler take comfort in knowing play therapy provides highly effective, non-invasive, and enjoyable treatment. With the support of early intervention, you can set your child up with the coping skills they need to thrive once they begin kindergarten.