Play therapy comes in many forms and at times I’ve found that nothing can really bring a message across to kids the way a good story book can. I often think of the books below as my old, reliable friends – they have never failed me and I plan to still use them a lot in the future. Of course, they are used in combination with other techniques but I just love the way that many of my play therapy clients relate to the characters in the story.
I mainly make use of this book when I am trying to build up a child’s self-esteem. It is a beautiful book about a little girl just brimming with confidence! Karen then “unpacks” all the things this girl likes about herself and discovers that it is the little things … “I like my eyes, my ears, my nose …” that each of us can appreciate about ourselves. The illustrations are wonderfully hilarious and the text helps kids to feel that it’s okay to be different or silly. My favourite line? “I’m having too much fun you see for anything to bother me”.
Jonathan wrote this book for his own son when he and his wife divorced to help him to understand and deal with this difficult subject. Jonathan tells a beautiful story of a land turtle and a sea turtle that meet and fall in love, but eventually part ways simply because they are so different and are not happy together. I love that it explains in such simple terms that relationships ultimately fall apart, not because people fight or because they no longer love each other or because someone has done something wrong, but simply because people are not happy together. It also tries to explain what will happen after the divorce and that, even though the family might now live apart that they can still be happy. My favourite line? “… all knew that no matter where they lived or what happened in their lives they would all care for each other very much …”
This book needs no introduction and is widely regarded as a classic piece of children’s literature. But what I really like about it – apart from the hilarious irony of the story – is how it can convey to children, much better than I can in words, that acting confidently even if you’re not can eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy and lead to one becoming more self-confident. I love that the little mouse has so much chutzpa and that he does not simply accept his station in life but harnesses all his cognitive ability and creativity to escape from the clutches of those who wish to do him harm. My favourite line? “But now my tummy’s beginning to rumble. My favourite food is – gruffalo crumble!”
For the most part we address traumatic experiences in play therapy or do a lot of work around building kids up and providing them with the tools to cope with difficult situations, but every now again we need to address a slightly more awkward issue. Some kid somewhere is bound to walk in on his parents having sex or to get a new sibling and then start asking all sorts of hard-to-answer questions about where babies come from. With this book, Babette is such a straight shooter and tackles the issue head on. I love how the parents share all sorts of outlandish stories with their children in this book about where babies come from and that it is then the children who tell the parents in perfectly straight English exactly how it is done, revealing that they know a lot more than they often let on. Most importantly, it is light-hearted and conveys the essentials of conceptions to children without having them feel that there is something dirty or wrong about sex. A love each and every one of the lines, but the comical illustrations win hands down!
Crano the Angry Volcano by Anel Annandale. Available as a free download here:
Okay – so naturally I’m completely biased when it comes to this one as I wrote it, but hear me out: I had so often found in my play therapy sessions that children with anger management issues carried the additional burden of feeling guilty for their outbursts as well as feeling totally confused about their emotions. That is why I wrote it. What I like about it is that it is a useful tool for me to use in explaining to children that all emotions are acceptable, but that not all reactions to these emotions are okay. I can use it to help them understand that by finding acceptable ways to express their frustration and anger as the feelings arise, they can prevent themselves from “exploding”. Again, I love all the lines but it is the illustrations by my good friend (and crazily talented artist) James Mann that really draws children to the story – I particularly love the dramatic scene of Crano exploding.
Anel Annandale is a prominent Educational Psychologist with a passion for early childhood development and a special interest in neuropsychology.
She is experienced in the field and has established herself as an expert, often appearing on television shows such as Exspresso. She is also available as a guest speaker at relevant events and functions.