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Outdoor Play: Using the Principles of Play Therapy

Play TherapyBy Jeff Thomas – Registrar, Play Therapy UK

Play is a natural process that is essential for the development of a child’s brain and mind. Without the stimulus of play, the physical size of the brain will be much smaller, as shown in research undertaken with Romanian orphans.

20% of children in the UK suffer from emotional, behaviour or mental health problems.  Play Therapy has been shown to have a success rate of between 77% and 84% when delivered by Play Therapy UK’s registrants.

But play is good for ALL children, and parents can follow the principles of non-directive play to maintain the good mental health of children who do not have any mental health problems.

Neurobiology tells us that beneficial chemicals such as opioids and oxitocin are released naturally as a result of play. The amygdala is calmed and the hippocampus, which enables us to learn and recall memories, is repaired. 

Using the Principles of Play Therapy

The summer provides excellent opportunities for play – at home, by the sea and in the country. Let your children choose what they want to do (but no more than an hour’s screen time a day!) Play with them if they want you to but let them lead – they should design the sand castle, not you.

Otherwise watch them to show that you are really interested in what they are doing.  If they are happy digging a big hole in the sand for a couple hours, rather than playing a game you like, don’t lose interest or try to distract them.


If you have over two years of working in a professional capacity with children and are looking for a new career, you could become a Registered Play Therapist. Find out more by attending a one-day introductory course. Nearest venues:  Bourneville, Bristol or Huntingdon. www.playtherapy.org.uk

If you know a child that needs help for their emotional welfare find your nearest therapist: www.playtherapyregister.org.uk

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