What is Play-Based Therapy?

Many times parents ask why their child’s therapy session looks more like an hour spent playing around or doing games. It may seem like the therapist is coming over once a week just to play, but that play is actually very constructive. It would be very difficult to get a child to engage in learned and therapy if the only activities were repetitive work and language drills. A good therapist finds ways to teach language and speech skills in a fun, rewarding way. Sometimes, the child doesn’t even realize they are learning!

As a parent, you may recall times when it was difficult to get your child to listen or follow direction. This may have been because your child did not want to participate, was distracted, or was uninterested in the command or task at hand. The same goes for therapy. Few people want to sit at a table for an hour and practice speech drills, especially little kids! To hold a child’s attention and encourage language development, therapists need to get crafty and creative with their lessons.

To create a play-based therapy session, the therapist has to engage the child. There are many steps to creating a success:

We need to observe the child’s current level of play and play interactions. Do they create imaginative situations, what are they interested in, do they have favorite toys or rewards? This helps to create a more engaging session.
As a therapist, it’s our job to work on skill building. How can we incorporate exercises into a game or use toys as a reward for participation? We want to create an environment where the child desires to learn.
We are always listening for progress. When a child is engaged and comfortable, they are more likely to communicate. What are they saying, or not saying? How can we build on opportunities in play to prompt desired communication?