Theraplay Activities for Older Children and Young Teens

January 15, 2024

Unlock the power of connection with Theraplay activities for older children. Discover games, crafts, and exercises to nurture emotional growth.

Theraplay for Older Children and Young Teens

Theraplay is a dynamic and playful approach to therapy that can benefit older children and young teens in various ways. By understanding Theraplay and exploring its benefits for older children, caregivers and professionals can create meaningful and effective interventions.

Understanding Theraplay

Theraplay is a structured, attachment-based intervention that focuses on building and enhancing the bond between a child and their caregiver or therapist. It utilizes interactive activities and play to promote secure attachment, self-esteem, and emotional regulation. Theraplay activities are designed to meet the developmental and emotional needs of children, fostering a sense of connection and trust.

Theraplay sessions typically involve four dimensions: structure, engagement, nurture, and challenge. These dimensions provide a framework for therapeutic activities that address the child's specific needs and goals. By incorporating elements of touch, movement, and sensory experiences, Theraplay aims to create positive and enjoyable interactions that strengthen the child's sense of security and well-being.

The Benefits of Theraplay Activities for Older Children

Theraplay activities offer a range of benefits for older children and young teens, supporting their emotional, social, and cognitive development. Here are some key advantages of Theraplay activities for older children:

  1. Building Trust and Connection: Theraplay activities provide opportunities for older children to build trust and strengthen their bond with their caregivers or therapists. Through engaging and playful interactions, children can experience a sense of safety, validation, and acceptance.
  2. Enhancing Emotional Regulation: Many Theraplay activities focus on promoting emotional regulation and self-soothing skills. By engaging in activities that involve breathing exercises, sensory integration, and mindfulness techniques, older children can learn to manage their emotions and develop effective coping strategies.
  3. Improving Social Skills: Theraplay activities are designed to enhance social skills and promote positive peer interactions. Through group games, team-building exercises, and problem-solving activities, older children can develop communication skills, empathy, and cooperation.
  4. Fostering Self-Esteem and Confidence: By engaging in Theraplay activities, older children can experience a sense of mastery and accomplishment. These activities provide opportunities for success, which can contribute to the development of self-esteem, confidence, and a positive self-image.

By incorporating Theraplay activities into the lives of older children and young teens, caregivers and professionals can facilitate emotional growth, promote healthy relationships, and support overall well-being. It is recommended to seek guidance from a trained Theraplay practitioner to ensure the activities are tailored to the individual needs of the child.

Theraplay Activities for Connection

In the realm of Theraplay activities for older children, connection plays a pivotal role in building trust, enhancing relationships, and promoting emotional well-being. Here, we explore three valuable Theraplay activities that foster connection: group games and activities, cooperative physical activities, and therapeutic play with objects.

Group Games and Activities

Group games and activities are an effective way to create a sense of belonging and connection among older children and young teens. These activities provide opportunities for collaboration, communication, and building interpersonal skills. They encourage participants to work together towards a common goal, fostering a sense of unity and teamwork.

Some examples of Theraplay group games and activities for older children include:

  • Icebreaker Games: Such activities help break the ice and create a comfortable environment where participants can get to know each other. Games like "Two Truths and a Lie" or "Human Bingo" encourage conversation and interaction.
  • Cooperative Board Games: Board games that require players to work together towards a shared objective promote cooperation, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. Games like "Pandemic" or "Forbidden Island" encourage teamwork and strategizing.
  • Team Building Challenges: Engaging in team-building challenges like obstacle courses or scavenger hunts helps older children and young teens develop trust, enhance communication, and strengthen their bonds.

Cooperative Physical Activities

Cooperative physical activities involve moving and engaging in physical tasks together, promoting connection through shared experiences. These activities encourage participants to support and rely on each other, fostering trust and cooperation.

Some Theraplay cooperative physical activities for older children include:

  • Partner Yoga: Practicing partner yoga poses and stretches promotes physical connection, trust, and communication. It encourages participants to support each other and work together to achieve balance and alignment.
  • Group Sports: Participating in team sports such as soccer, basketball, or volleyball can enhance camaraderie, cooperation, and communication skills. Playing together on a team allows older children to develop a sense of unity and build connections.
  • Obstacle Courses: Collaborating on obstacle courses or team-building challenges that involve physical tasks encourages older children to rely on each other's support and problem-solving skills. These activities promote teamwork and cooperation.

Therapeutic Play with Objects

Therapeutic play with objects involves using toys, art materials, or other objects to facilitate connection and self-expression. These activities provide a safe and creative outlet for older children to explore their emotions, express themselves, and connect with others.

Some examples of Theraplay activities for connection using objects are:

  • Collaborative Art Projects: Engaging in collaborative art projects, such as creating a mural or a group collage, allows older children to express themselves while working together towards a common artistic goal. It fosters connection and a sense of collective accomplishment.
  • Object Storytelling: Using objects or figures, participants can take turns creating and sharing stories that reflect their experiences or emotions. This activity encourages empathy, active listening, and understanding among the group.
  • Sharing Symbolic Objects: Participants can bring in objects that hold personal significance to them and share the stories behind those objects. This activity creates a space for connection, vulnerability, and understanding.

By incorporating Theraplay activities for connection like group games and activities, cooperative physical activities, and therapeutic play with objects, older children and young teens can cultivate meaningful connections, develop essential social skills, and foster emotional well-being. Remember, seeking professional guidance and adapting activities to suit different settings can enhance the effectiveness of Theraplay in daily life.

Theraplay Activities for Regulation

Regulation is a crucial aspect of therapeutic play for older children and young teens. Helping them develop self-regulation skills can enhance emotional well-being and overall functioning. In this section, we will explore three Theraplay activities that promote regulation: breathing and relaxation exercises, sensory integration activities, and mindfulness and mind-body connection exercises.

Breathing and Relaxation Exercises

Teaching older children and young teens breathing and relaxation techniques can help them manage their emotions and reduce anxiety. Breathing exercises, such as deep belly breathing or box breathing, can promote a sense of calm and relaxation. Encourage them to focus on their breath, inhaling deeply through the nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth. Practicing these exercises regularly can assist in self-soothing during times of stress or emotional dysregulation.

Sensory Integration Activities

Sensory integration activities are effective in regulating emotions and promoting self-awareness. These activities involve engaging the senses to help children and teens understand and manage their sensory experiences. Examples of sensory integration activities include:

  • Sensory bins: Create a sensory bin filled with materials like rice, sand, or water. Encourage the child to explore and engage their senses by touching and manipulating the materials.
  • Sensory walks: Take the child on a sensory walk where they can focus on different sensory experiences, such as feeling different textures under their feet or listening to the sounds of nature.
  • Sensory playdough or putty: Provide the child with playdough or putty to squeeze, stretch, and mold. This tactile experience can help them regulate their emotions and relieve tension.

Mindfulness and Mind-Body Connection

Practicing mindfulness and fostering a mind-body connection can support emotional regulation in older children and young teens. Mindfulness exercises encourage individuals to focus their attention on the present moment without judgment. Some mindfulness activities that can be incorporated into Theraplay sessions include:

  • Body scan meditation: Guide the child to scan their body from head to toe, noticing any areas of tension or discomfort. Encourage them to relax and release the tension as they bring awareness to each body part.
  • Guided visualization: Lead the child through a guided visualization exercise, where they imagine themselves in a peaceful and calming environment. This visualization can help them relax and regulate their emotions.
  • Yoga and stretching: Introduce simple yoga poses and stretching exercises that promote relaxation, flexibility, and body awareness. Encourage the child to focus on their breath and the sensations in their body as they move through the poses.

By incorporating these Theraplay activities for regulation, older children and young teens can develop essential self-regulation skills. Remember, it's important to adapt these activities to the individual's needs and preferences. Seeking guidance from a professional therapist or counselor experienced in Theraplay techniques is recommended to ensure the activities are tailored to each child's unique circumstances.

Theraplay Activities for Emotional Expression

In the realm of Theraplay activities for older children and young teens, there are various techniques that focus on promoting emotional expression. By engaging in creative and interactive activities, children can explore their emotions in a supportive and nurturing environment. Here are three Theraplay activities that foster emotional expression:

Creative Arts and Crafts

Creative arts and crafts provide an outlet for children to express themselves visually and artistically. Through painting, drawing, sculpting, or collage-making, children can externalize their emotions and thoughts. This Theraplay activity encourages self-expression, allowing children to communicate their feelings in a non-verbal manner.

By offering a range of art materials and encouraging experimentation, children can unleash their creativity and explore their emotions through colors, shapes, and textures. The focus is not on creating a masterpiece but rather on the process of self-discovery and emotional release. Art can serve as a powerful tool for children to express, understand, and process their emotions.

Playful Storytelling and Role-Playing

Storytelling and role-playing are effective Theraplay techniques that enable children to explore their emotions through narratives and characters. By engaging in imaginative play, children can step into different roles, express their emotions through fictional scenarios, and gain a deeper understanding of their own experiences.

Therapists may provide prompts or use puppets, dolls, or other props to initiate storytelling and role-playing activities. This allows children to externalize their emotions, experiences, and challenges in a safe and controlled environment. By assuming different roles and perspectives, children can gain insights into their own emotions and develop empathy for others.

Emotion-Focused Activities

Emotion-focused activities are specifically designed to help children identify, understand, and regulate their emotions. These activities can range from simple exercises to more complex interactive games. For example, therapists may use emotion cards or charts to help children recognize and label different emotions. This promotes emotional literacy and enhances children's ability to communicate their feelings effectively.

Another effective Theraplay activity for emotional expression is the use of emotion-focused games. These games provide structured opportunities for children to experience and express a range of emotions. By engaging in activities that simulate different emotional scenarios, children can practice emotional regulation and develop coping strategies.

By incorporating these Theraplay activities for emotional expression, therapists can create a supportive and nurturing environment for older children and young teens to explore and express their emotions. These activities provide valuable tools for emotional growth, self-awareness, and the development of healthy coping mechanisms.

Theraplay Activities for Social Skills

Developing social skills is an important aspect of Theraplay for older children and young teens. These activities focus on fostering teamwork, communication, problem-solving, empathy, and understanding. By engaging in interactive and cooperative exercises, children can enhance their ability to connect with others and navigate social situations effectively.

Team Building and Communication Exercises

Team building and communication exercises are valuable Theraplay activities that promote collaboration and effective communication among children. These activities encourage participants to work together towards a common goal, fostering a sense of unity and cooperation. Some examples of team building and communication exercises include:

  • Obstacle Course Relay: Create an obstacle course with various challenges that require teamwork and communication to complete. Divide the children into teams and have them navigate the course, providing guidance and support to one another.
  • Group Problem-Solving: Present the children with a problem or challenge that requires them to brainstorm ideas and work together to find a solution. This activity encourages active listening, sharing perspectives, and respecting others' ideas.

Peer Support and Problem-Solving Activities

Peer support and problem-solving activities help older children and young teens develop skills in supporting and helping their peers. These activities encourage empathy, active listening, and problem-solving skills. Some examples of peer support and problem-solving activities include:

  • Peer Coaching: Pair children together and assign them the role of a coach and a coachee. The coach listens actively, provides support, and helps the coachee work through a specific challenge or problem they are facing.
  • Conflict Resolution Role-Play: Create scenarios where children can practice conflict resolution skills. Each child can take turns playing different roles, allowing them to experience and learn how to resolve conflicts in a constructive and empathetic manner.

Building Empathy and Understanding

Activities that focus on building empathy and understanding are essential in Theraplay for older children and young teens. These activities help children develop an understanding of others' perspectives, emotions, and experiences. They promote empathy, compassion, and the ability to connect with others. Some examples of activities that build empathy and understanding include:

  • Emotion Charades: Have the children take turns acting out different emotions without using any words. This activity helps children recognize and understand different emotions, enhancing their empathy and emotional intelligence.
  • Storytelling and Perspective-Taking: Encourage children to share personal stories or create fictional scenarios from different perspectives. This activity allows them to step into someone else's shoes, fostering empathy and understanding of different experiences.

By incorporating these Theraplay activities for social skills, older children and young teens can strengthen their ability to connect with others, build meaningful relationships, and navigate social interactions with confidence and empathy. Remember to tailor the activities to the specific needs and interests of the children, and seek professional guidance when necessary.

Incorporating Theraplay in Daily Life

Theraplay activities can be immensely beneficial for older children and young teens, enhancing their emotional well-being and promoting healthy connections with others. To fully harness the benefits of Theraplay, it is essential to incorporate it into daily life. Here are three key aspects to consider when incorporating Theraplay in your daily routine.

Creating a Theraplay Routine

Establishing a Theraplay routine is a great way to ensure consistency and make it a regular part of your child's day. Designate specific times for Theraplay activities, whether it's in the morning, after school, or before bedtime. Consistency in scheduling helps create a sense of stability and allows your child to anticipate and look forward to their Theraplay time.

Adapting Activities for Different Settings

Theraplay activities can be adapted to various settings, allowing your child to benefit from them in different environments. Whether at home, school, or during outings, you can modify Theraplay activities to suit the context. For example, if you are on a nature walk, engage in a cooperative physical activity by playing a modified version of "Simon Says" that incorporates movements inspired by nature. Adapting Theraplay activities for different settings ensures that your child can continue to benefit from them wherever they are.

Seeking Professional Guidance

While incorporating Theraplay into daily life can be highly effective, it is essential to seek professional guidance from a qualified Theraplay practitioner. They can provide personalized recommendations and tailor Theraplay activities to your child's specific needs and goals. A professional can also monitor progress, address any concerns, and provide ongoing support to ensure the best possible outcomes for your child.

By creating a Theraplay routine, adapting activities for different settings, and seeking professional guidance, you can effectively incorporate Theraplay into your child's daily life. This integration fosters emotional growth, strengthens connections, and enhances overall well-being, allowing your child to thrive and flourish.


In conclusion, Theraplay is a valuable therapeutic approach for older children and young teens that focuses on building healthy connections, emotional regulation, and social skills. By incorporating Theraplay activities into daily life, parents and caregivers can create a nurturing and supportive environment that promotes emotional growth and well-being.

Through the use of Theraplay techniques like playfulness, engagement, nurture, challenge, art therapy, storytelling and role-playing, emotion-focused activities, team-building exercises, peer support activities, conflict resolution role-play games, emotion charades games among others; older children and young teens can develop essential skills to manage their emotions effectively.

It's important to remember that while incorporating Theraplay into daily life can be highly effective; it is crucial to seek professional guidance from a qualified Theraplay practitioner. This will ensure personalized recommendations tailored to your child's specific needs and goals.

By embracing the principles of Theraplay in our daily lives with our older children and young teens; we can foster positive relationships that promote emotional growth and well-being which will serve them well throughout their lives.


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