Teens love novelty. The newest Meme, song, or the newest pair of Chuck Taylors.
AND this is why it can sometimes feel like doing backflips to engage teens and tweens in play therapy. The collage activity they LOVED last week is so boring this week.
So what does this mean?
If you see teens you need to have a pretty big toolbox.
Unlike your CCPT place space that takes up an entire room your teen therapy toolkit can fit (mostly) in a tote bag.
So I wanted to share with you my ideal teen play therapy toolkit if I was building it from scratch!
Nice art supplies
Ok…. one of my therapist secrets? I have basic art supplies and “nice” art supplies. The basic supplies? Fresh Crayola markers and crayons! I can stay in my window of tolerance when younger kids (like in CCPT) break them, take the paper off the outside, etc. These are the art supplies that I am okay with kids doing “almost anything” with.
But then there is the second set. The set that I bring out for older kids and teens. These include colored pencils, a wider variety and tip size of marker, water colors, oil pastels, etc. AND I also have a nicer paper option (vs. printer paper for younger kids) that is able to tolerate a wider variety of art materials and mediums!
It can help teens with a wider ability for creative expression!
HERE I talk about three games to play with teens and two are challenge games. These are games where it is you vs. them. Winner and loser. And although I LOVE a good game of UNO I also have a wider variety of competitive games that takes a higher level of skill than what 6 or 7 year old kids can do. Some of my favorites? Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza and Avocado Smash!
These games can get the heart pumping and emotions racing - perfect for some experiential play therapy techniques!
Cooperative or Non Competitive Games
Another tool in your teen toolbox is cooperative or non competitive games. These are games that either offer self reflection, interpersonal exploration OR collaborative teamwork opportunities.
Some of my favorite reflective play materials are these Power Thought Cards that you can use for a jumping off point for a sand tray, collage, or art. The Ravine is also another popular game where you can use problem solving skills and win or lose together! Other favorites include Story Cubes that allow for therapeutic storytelling in a more structured way. If you are thinking about these or already have them, grab my FREE Cheat Sheet HERE on how to make Story Cubes therapeutic.
My hands down favorite teen activity is anything to do with sand tray. Now my sand tray collection technically doesn’t fit in a tote bag BUT if you are short on space check out this source list HERE for my portable sand tray kits I assembled for Tele-Play that actually do fit in a tote! AND if you are looking for something that really is pocket sized check out my absolute favorite FREE digital sand tray HERE!
Teens live in a digital world. They are always on their phones, a tablet, or a laptop. It can be absolutely helpful to have teens have the ability to access digital play resources as part of their play therapy. It is definitely their language.
This might look like playing their favorite song on their phone, a place to look up memes, and a format for digital collaging. AND if you are doing tele-play check out this article HERE about the 20 free or low cost supply activities for Tele-Play!
And if you are virtual - this is a must!
Lastly, some amazing play therapists do great play therapy work with kids joining the most popular digital games. Grab some free training in digital play therapy HERE!
This one is an absolute must. Sometimes fidgets are a mechanism to lower stress to talk about the issues of the week, but sometimes they are the actual PLAY! Taking them apart, arranging, using them as a game. The sky is the limit. Check out some of my favorites HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE!
And that’s a wrap! My teen therapy toolbox that could fit in a tote bag!
If you are looking for more support in your work with teens and tweens in the playroom check out my course Growing Out Of The Playroom: Teens and Tweens in Play Therapy! This course is PACKED with over 25 interventions to use with teens and tweens in the playroom!
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I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC,