When parents understand their child’s play, parents understand their child”
My daughter and her family moved to the Cape Winelands a few weeks ago. It was a big transition, and I could see that my three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Leila, was struggling.
Leila would say to her mum: ‘Why did we come here?’; ‘I want to go back to my house in Joburg’; ‘I don’t feel safe here’.
It had nothing to do with physical safety; Leila feeling unsafe had to do with emotional safety.
Leila 3 years and 9 months
I decided to do a filial play session with Leila using a certain selection of toys and … wow. I could not believe the change in her after just one 30-minute session.
Seeing the impact it had on Leila made me realize just how much I’d love to use my knowledge of and experience in filial play therapy to help children and their families really flourish and thrive.
A dad doing Filial Play therapy with his child at home
A mom doing Filial Play therapy with her child at home
It was time to shake off the dust motes my filial play therapy training programme had gathered from my days at Bella Vida Therapy Centre.
Leila inspired me to help other families with this intervention again.
What is filial play therapy?
Filial play therapy (also called ‘special playtime’) is a form of therapy in which parents (or caring adults) are trained to use play to engage with their children in a way that is therapeutic.
Therapists trained in play therapy teach parents basic play therapy skills and techniques parents can then use to help their children overcome various challenges they may face.
By having weekly 30-minute play sessions with each child, parents become the therapeutic agents in their children’s lives.
Adults speak; children play. The toys that a child uses are her words. The way in which she plays with the toys is her language. Understand her play, and you will come to understand her.
If, for example, little Jane is angry at someone for hurting her, she will play out those feelings toward a toy – such as a doll – which represents the person who has hurt her. While she isn’t allowed to hit real people, she may hit the doll in a way that helps her release those feelings of anger and helplessness.
What are the benefits of doing filial play therapy with your child?
- It improves the relationship between parent and child.
- The strengthened parent-child relationship strengthens the family dynamic.
- It is cost and time-effective as therapy play sessions take place at (your) home.
- It helps children develop social skills and bonds.
- It empowers you, the parent, by making you the main agent in your child’s healing and development.
- It creates a safe, comfortable environment for your child to express herself freely.
- It increases children’s trust and confidence in their parents.
- It is helpful in addressing and managing various issues in children including anxiety, depression, chronic illness or disability (of child/parent/sibling), speech problems, sibling rivalry, bedwetting (enuresis), soiling (encopresis), eating disorders, ADD, ADHD, OCD, as well as aggressive and oppositional behaviour, and many more.
This is what some of the parents who did my filial play therapy training programme (10 years ago) had to say about it:
Ilze, your filial play therapy course (attended in 2002/3?) was excellent in how it gave me the tools and understanding of the “why” behind the behaviour of my stepdaughter at the time and subsequently my three children later on. It helped me be a better parent and strengthen our connection meeting them where they were at. I cannot rate it highly enough.
– Tessa Turvey
I did the course approx. 10 years ago and used it extensively for a long time with both my children. It certainly was helpful in me trying to understand what they were processing/ going through at different times. In fact, my son occasionally talks about ‘special play time’ and how he loved this time together. I am now a preschool teacher and even today think of some of the principles you taught us. Keep making a difference, Ilze!
– Faye Kropf
I love your work and teachings. Thank you for helping me grow in my journey as a parent to grow a beautiful, powerful family raising the two most magnificent, beautiful children in the world. Thank you for teaching me to empower my family with choice, wisdom, and clarity.
- have previously done filial play therapy training with me back when I owned Bella Vida Therapy Centre
- are interested in joining my filial play therapy training programme
then drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a WhatsApp. I would absolutely love to chat with you about it.
I would LOVE to hear from parents who did in training in my Bella Vida Therapy Centre days – let me know what the impact was on your families.
And, I would LOVE to hear from parents who feel drawn to find out more.
From my heart to yours,