Play comes naturally for most children, but for some it is more challenging to undertake creative play. Such children need to learn to play. Difficulty in creative play can arise due to some sort of emotional blockage, and it is common in children that have experienced trauma and neglect. Additionally it is a common trait for children on the autism spectrum. The child may not be unable to self-initiate pretend play, causing repetitive and unimaginative play. Learn to Play therapy develops the ability in children to self-initiate their own pretend play. It is a great therapy for children with social and cognitive struggles which may lead to reclusive or aggressive behaviours. The most complex form of play, pretend play can assist children to regulate emotion, boost creativity, engage in abstract thought, develop language skills and build social confidence. Pretend play also impacts on language (particularly narrative language), social interaction, and emotional integration of the child’s experiences. The play skills that are the focus of Learn to Play therapy are:
- ability to spontaneously self-initiate play
- sequencing play actions logically
- using objects as something else (object substitution or symbols in play)
- engaging with a doll or soft-toy character outside of themselves
- integrating play so a clear play script is evident
- role play and socially interacting using play.