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Key Takeaways:

  • Therapy games help children address mental, emotional, and social challenges by providing more approachable outlets for treatment.
  • Play therapy helps children improve their problem-solving skills, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and enhance self-esteem.
  • Some therapy games include Feelings Bingo, FEELOPOLY, Uno, trust fall, and emotions charades.

Growing up can put a lot of pressure on a child—pressure to fit in, succeed academically, and develop their skills. Occasionally, they may have trouble coping or interacting with others. Fortunately, play therapy allows children to overcome issues from earlier developmental stages and enjoy going to therapy. Explore the ten best therapy games for kids of all ages!

What are Therapy Games?

Therapy games aim to help children address emotional and social challenges in fun, engaging, and less intimidating ways. Some games are adapted from classics like Uno or Jenga or mimic popular board games. Others take the form of creative expression, such as painting and coloring, or are emotion-focused.

These games encourage discussions, hone communication techniques, help identify emotions, and find healthy ways for children to express themselves.

Benefits of Therapy Games for Kids

Besides making therapy a more approachable and less daunting activity for children, therapy games also provide the following benefits:

  • Safer outlet for emotions. Play therapy provides a safer, more comfortable space for children to identify, express, and manage difficult emotions.
  • Healthy coping mechanisms. Young children who struggle with stress, frustration, and negative emotions can benefit from emotional regulation through play therapy. In addition, play therapy can address symptoms during trauma-focused CBT settings [*].
  • Higher self-esteem. As therapy games help children develop interpersonal skills over time, kids develop higher self-esteem, making decisions with greater confidence.
  • Improved problem-solving skills. Some therapy games involve overcoming challenges or working toward a common goal, helping children hone their critical thinking skills.

10 Best Therapy Games for Kids

If you’re looking for new and innovative ways to teach concepts or introduce your child to therapy, consider these therapy games for kids.

1. Feelings Jenga

Feelings Jenga is a twist on the classic game. Players answer prompts on the corresponding blocks by writing a prompt on each block, such as “Name something you were grateful for today” or “Tell us what you think anger looks like.”

2. Trust Fall

Building trust is vital for young children, as it improves communication and cooperative skills [*]. This activity involves having the child stand up straight, close their eyes, cross their arms across their body, and fall backward as someone catches them.

The classic trust fall aims to teach children that their partner will catch them safely, but that trust requires courage.

3. Icebreakers

Icebreaker questions aren’t just an excellent getting-to-know-you exercise—they break down barriers and open the floor for discussions about deeper topics.

Simple icebreaker questions might include:

  • What is an embarrassing story you haven’t shared before?
  • What did you want to grow up to be as a child?
  • What is your favorite book and why?

The activity aims to make your child comfortable sharing personal anecdotes, thoughts, and opinions.

4. Uno

Uno is a simple card game that introduces the concept of crafting strategies, matching patterns, developing communication skills, and coping with losing.

Players take turns matching card numbers and colors. They add a card to their hand if they cannot match anything. The aim for each player is to eliminate all their cards.

Uno is available on Amazon for $10.99.

5. Emotion Charades

Young children may struggle to identify and manage intense emotions like fear, disappointment, and frustration. “Gamifying” these experiences through charades can make these emotions more approachable and easier to express.

The instructions are simple—act out an emotion and have your child guess what the emotion is. Then, ask them to act out their interpretation of the emotion.

Use our Exploring Emotions worksheet to debrief after the game and discuss how your child might experience their emotions.

6. Finish the Story

To play Finish the Story, each player takes a turn adding a sentence to the overall story, building on ideas together, and exploring their creative imagination.

Finish the Story is a fun way to improve a child’s language and communication skills, enhance sentence formation, and build vocabulary.

7. Obstacle Course

Obstacle courses are excellent for reinforcing communication and cooperation, as children must work together to overcome the challenges in front of them. Arrange obstacle courses according to age—use pillows and soft surfaces for younger children.

Older children may require more stimulation and challenging obstacle courses that you can set up outdoors.

8. Feelings Bingo

If your child struggles to express their emotions, try playing Feelings Bingo. Create boards using stickers or words to represent happiness, sadness, and anger. To play, call out an emotion and ask your child to mark it on their cards.

Feelings Bingo is excellent for vocabulary building, as you expose children to new feelings and discuss their meanings. You can also use Feelings Bingo to normalize tricky emotions like anger, reinforcing that these emotions are valid.

Our Feelings Wheel can help you put together your bingo board.

9. FEELOPOLY

As its title suggests, FEELOPOLY is a variation on the classic board game Monopoly. Instead of playing against one another, players work cooperatively to “validate” the feelings on the board through example prompts. Some of these prompts might include:

  • What might help you feel better when you’re feeling sad?
  • Explain how something can cause you to feel angry or frustrated.
  • What are some healthy outlets for managing anxiety?

You can find a printable FEELOPOLY board on Etsy for $13.50.

10. DBT Board Game

Like FEELOPOLY, the DBT Board Game is customizable and printable, making reviewing DBT vocabulary and strategies more approachable for young children and teens. The game covers mindfulness, interpersonal skills, distress management, and emotional regulation.

Players must move across the board, answering prompts like:

  • Think of a clever way to turn a negative thought into a positive one.
  • Describe a rude way to ask for help and turn this into a more compassionate, effective way.

You can find a printable DBT Board Game board on The Counseling Palette for $9.99.

The Bottom Line

Needing therapy can be a challenging thought to accept, especially for a young child. Fortunately, therapeutic games can help your child’s therapy journey become less scary and more exciting!

Pair your play therapy with our Feelings worksheets to inspire your child to discover coping mechanisms that work for them.

Sources:

  1. Allen B. “Structured Trauma-Focused CBT and Unstructured Play/Experiential Techniques in the Treatment of Sexually Abused Children.” A Field Study With Practicing Clinicians - Brian Allen, Natalie Armstrong Hoskowitz, 2017.
  2. Rotenberg KJ, Boulton M. “Interpersonal Trust Consistency and the Quality of Peer Relationships During Childhood.” Social development, 2012.

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