Bean Bag Game: Place a beanbag or small beany baby toy on your child’s head, give a signal (“when my eye blinks”) or a magic word (“when I say the word ‘bubbles’”) to cue the child to drop the beanbag into your hands (child tilts his head toward you so you can catch the bean bag in your hands). Take turns.

Cotton Ball Hockey: Lie on the floor on your stomach (or sit with a pillow between you holding the pillow up to eye level). Blow cotton balls back and forth trying to get the cotton ball past the child’s nose and past your nose. You can increase the complexity by saying how many blows can be used to get the cotton ball across the pillow, or by both trying to blow at the same time to keep the cotton ball in the middle. You can increase the structure of this game by using magic or cue words to signal when to start or stop. Remember to keep control of the game and don’t allow the child to control it…keep it structured, but successful, fun and positive.

Balloon Between Two Bodies: Hold a balloon between you and the child (such as between foreheads, stomachs, shoulders, elbows) and move across the mat without dropping or popping the balloon. See if you can do this without using hands, but use this opportunity to touch your child in a fun and playful way (ie: wrap your arms around each other to hold on to the balloon between your stomachs).

Body Check-up: Check child’s body parts, such as nose, chin, ears, cheeks, fingers, toes, knees to see if they are warm/cold, hard/soft, wiggly/quiet and so on. Count freckles, toes, fingers and knuckles. Piggy Back Ride: Help the child get onto your back. Jog around the room with the child on your back. Child can give signals for turning, stopping, changing directions, “Whoa!” and “Giddy-up!”

Hand Clapping Games: Older children enjoy these games very much. They can be simple (Patty Cake) or complex (elaborate rhythmic clapping patterns) and can have a variety of chants, for example, Miss Mary Mack or the Sailor Went to Sea.

Cotton Ball Touch: Have the child close his eyes. Touch your child gently with a cotton ball.Have the child open his eyes and indicate where he was touched.

Twinkle Song: Adapt the words of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to the special characteristics of the child. “What a special boy you are, Dark brown hair and soft soft cheeks, Bright brown eyes from which you peek, twinkle, twinkle little star, what a special boy you are.” Hold the child in your arms and touch the parts you refer to as you sing and rock him gently.

These are just a few of the simple games which are used during Theraplay treatment and are not only effective because they are playful, fun and engaging. These and other Theraplay® activities allow for the child to experience special ‘first moments’ between child and parent. Moments where the child realizes he’s not only being ‘seen’ but also thought about, living and having an effect in another’s mind (Makela, 2003) and where the parent is supported in helping the the child to ‘let go’ enough to accept the parents love. These special firsts are what help child and parent begin to build a trusting and enjoyable attachment.

About the author:

Lorie Walton, M.Ed., is a private Child Psychotherapist Play Therapist Supervisor and Theraplay® Therapist Trainer Supervisor. She is the owner and lead therapist of Family First Play Therapy Center, in Bradford Ontario where she helps children and families experiencing attachment issues and emotional trauma. She is also the President of the Canadian Association for Child and Play Therapy and is a Clinical Supervisor for Blue Hills Child and Family Centre in Aurora. She will be happy to answer any of your questions regarding Theraplay or other questions you may have about your child’s emotional development at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 905-775-1620.

Children and Families - Photos