January 23, 2014

Why Play Therapists Should Avoid Labeling Toys During Sessions

I'm child-centered in my play therapy approach with children. During sessions I follow Garry Landreth's rule of thumb that toys in the play room are not identified or labeled until the child has verbalized an identifying label for the toy. What might be obvious to us may not be at all what a child has in mind.


This can be illustrated by this little wooden stove that is one of the pieces of furniture from the portable doll house I use in a school setting. 


Today, two different children picked it up, wondered aloud what it was and then answered their own question when one laid it on it's side and said, "It's a car," and the second child said, "It's a roller coaster." Then both children proceeded to use the toy as they had labeled it.



If I would have labeled the toy as "a stove" Landreth says I would have interfered with the children's creativity and fantasy and possibly impeded their ability to decide what they want the toy to be. Landreth goes on to say that when we avoid labeling toys we create a relationship where children feel safe to explore and use the toys in non-conventional ways.



For more information on this and other important skills play therapists need to facilitate child-centered play therapy I suggest reading Landreth's book Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship. 

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