Play is the language of children. Utilize toys in assessments. I will ask my client to choose, from my over flowing bin of stuffed animals and puppets, one toy to represent each member of his family. Then we will arrange the toys in proximity to how close they feel emotionally. This works wonderful with kids of all ages (9-99). It is especially helpful when the entire family cannot be present for a family session. Using something tangible in it’s place helps to address the issues in the family.
Using a toy for each member, even when they are all present, helps to distance the family from their difficulties. Distance from the problem is what all art and creativity provide. Creating an image or structure outside of the thoughts bouncing around in the brain is the most useful purpose creative therapy can serve. Space gives the family a different perspective and a better chance of finding a solution within themselves.
This is mostly used as an assessment for the therapist to understand the family dynamics more fully. However, it can be used to with older clients and parents to build insight into the current family dynamics. It can also be used as a goal setting activity when discussing what the family desires from treatment. Have the family arrange the toys how they would like them to be.