Play Time

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota 

I believe that the Trail Baboons are a pretty playful bunch, so I thought they might find interesting my tools of the trade as a play therapist.

I am the only therapist at my agency who feels comfortable working with children under the age of 10. At the present time, the waiting list to see me for first appointments extends into September. I find that disturbing, but understandable, given that people don’t want to drive 90 miles to Bismarck for weekly appointments.

Husband is going to start working a second part time job as a therapist for Lutheran Social Services, and will work with children and adolescents, so I hope he can help fill a therapeutic void in our region.

I made a decision long ago that I would purchase all my toys, books, and materials myself, mainly
because I want to get the exact items I need and not have to depend on what might be in the agency budget at any particular time. The Association for Play Therapy has an annual conference and there are loads of vendors selling lots of toys, books, and games. I get what I can whenever I go. I also find lots of things at a local farm/ranch store.

Play therapy rooms need to have materials that allow for self expression and relate to the child’s everyday experience.

I am proud of my room, and I hope that the following photos will prove interesting to the Baboon community.

I have a jail, a school, a hospital, a fire station, a doll house, a kitchen area, baby dolls, a farm, and a sand tray.

I have a castle, human figures, animals, toy coffins and grave stones,miniature alcohol bottles, plastic turds, puppets, a puppet theatre, and costumes.

I have a doctor’s kit,toy guns and swords, and handcuffs.

I have books and therapeutic games. I also have a set of foam bowling pins with foam bowling balls (for irrational thoughts bowling, in which we tape an piece of paper inscribed with an irrational thought or fear on the pin, and bowl it over).

Generally, a toy is appropriate for a therapy room if it can be used to elicit feelings or help a child express feelings or tell their story. It is also important that, if thrown, the toy can’t hurt to therapist too badly.

You will notice in the photos that I have every few toys with commercial associations.

Those commercial links stifle creative play. Superheroes seem to transcend their commercial ties, and end up doing a wide variety of things in the play room.

I don’t see all my child clients in the play therapy room, mainly those age 8 and younger. My therapeutic interventions involve non-directive play, in which I make reflective statements about the child’s actions and behavior, or more directive play when there are specific issues that a child has to deal with and I more actively organize the session.

The large purple doll figure is named Meebie. It has a variety of Velcro-backed facial features and things like teardrops and broken hearts that children can use to display all sorts of faces and feelings.

The pure white cloth doll figure, called a Blanco doll, can be drawn on with washable markers and comes clean in the washing machine.

The large wooden chest is for anything in the room that is scary and needs to be locked up.

I have a new doll house. This one has two stair cases. My old one was very grand but the children were upset that there were no stairs. No one ever wanted my suggestion that they could pretend there were stairs. My new doll house, with stairs, is getting a lot of use.

None of my American Indian clients want to play with the Indian figures. I am still trying to figure that out.

The sand tray is really popular. I get the sand from a guy in Utah who sells beautiful sand in different colors and textures. I use the sand tray for general free play as well as to have children use the miniatures and other objects to show me what their world is like and how they would like their world to be. Sand tray therapy is widely used by Jungian therapists with adults as well as children, and there are hundreds of miniatures that these therapists use.

I found the scared and horrified figures at a recent play therapy convention. Kids really relate to them and use them in the sand tray.

I have lots of animal figures, wild, domestic, and fantastical. The animals are in family groups, with adult and young members.

Some people refuse to have toy weapons in their play rooms. I don’t think banning them from the play room is realistic.

The large wooden structure gets used a lot as a safe place or as a home.

I like the guy with the chain saw. He is so Freudian with the position of the saw!

What are the tools of your trade?

102 thoughts on “Play Time”

  1. Renee – this is fascinating. I’ve read your comments before about play therapy but hadn’t really given it much thought until now.

    My regular job is kinda boring. Computer is pretty much the most important tool these days – in fact, yesterday everybody’s pc went down for about 10 minutes and there really isn’t anything you can do anymore without it. Sigh.

    However, I consider my paper crafting as a trade. For that i have WAY too much stuff: rubber stamps (some wood-mounted and a growing clear/cling collection), stamp pads, paper (lots and lots of paper) and adhesive are the cornerstone of my trade. But then there are the ribbons, markets, die cuts, embossing folders, stickers, paint, flowers, little jewels, chipboard…. ooh, my studio is calling to me….

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My tools are my fingers. And last might I met a guitar player with one hand and realized maybe you don’t even need fingers, the human mind is an amazing thing and will expand like a helium balloon as fully and in whatever direction it is allowed to go
    Faster than a speeding bullet more powerful than a locomotive able to leap tall buildings in s single bound look up in the air it’s what I decided to do for work today
    Renee that is a wonderful play room
    A couple years ago my daughters were having difficulties and I asked Jacque for direction on who to take them to and she gave me a woman who had a playroom/ therapy room 15×15 with a collection of stuff that led the conversation for the week and in about a year the girls were ok again and it was magic
    Thank you for providing a magic place where things that don’t get talked about or worked out anywhere else can be done
    Things that don’t get talked about it worked out anyplace else get done at my work too but it’s very different
    Great post

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes, this is a wonderful post, Renee. And baboons please note, if you click on any of the photos in the mosaic, it will open a slide show so you can see the tools of Renee’s trade up close! Love the horrified play figures, and of course the guy with the saw. Perhaps he is what they find so scary.


  4. Good morning. Renee, those pictures and the information about your play room are great. As a student I spent long hours looking through microscopes at nematodes. After leaving school I put a little effort into establishing my own lab for studying nematodes. That didn’t go any place. Gardening and seed saving replaced studying nematodes as my trade. I am treating trade as another word for life work. I did other kinds of work to make a living. Gardening and seed saving were my real work and this is still the case.

    The tools of my trade are the basic gardening tools, including shovels, rakes, trowels, and other such things. For collecting and storing seeds I have air tight vials to hold seeds, silica get to dry seeds, a small refrigerator to keep stored seed fresh, some screens and a fan for cleaning seeds, and coin envelopes for packaging seeds to send out seeds and exchange with them with other seed savers. Also, I use large paper bags to hold harvested seeds while they are drying and before they are cleaned.

    I can’t think of any other basic tools of my trade to mention. Thanks for sharing the wonderful tools of your trade with us, Renee.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a fascinating post, Renee. Before this morning I had never imagined that anyone’s profession would include, as a working tool, plastic turds! It must have been a thrill to find them in a store.

    The only thing I would expect in your kit that I don’t see here would be drug paraphernalia.

    When I was a working journalist, my only tools were a computer (or typewriter) and my camera kit. Actually, the most precious tool of all is subscriptions to many other outdoor magazines. In any field with so little authenticity and originality, you depend on being able to steal ideas from other working professionals!


    1. I have syringes without needles and pill bottles in the doctor kit. I also have a anhydrous tank with the farm set since people use that to make meth.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. I suppose more sinister drug paraphernalia would elicit reactions from some of my kids, but I have a hard enough time explaining what I do to administrators and I wouldn’t want to get arrested!

      My playroom is located on the floor of our agency where they provide addiction treatment. I often have those clients poke their heads in the door and some even ask if they can come in and play.

      I forgot to add that one of the rules of my room is that the children don’t have to clean up when they are done. That is my job. The idea of cleanup stifles their play.

      Liked by 5 people

  6. Like tim, the fingers are of primary importance. I’ve seen a woman machine knit beautifully post-stroke, so it can be done, but I’d have to change a lot of what I do.

    Right now I have 4 knitting machines in use (no, not simultaneously, I am not that cool—yet), a sewing machine or two, a serger and the tools I treasure most, scissors and needles. I also rely ob my trusty laptop, printer and smartphone. Also in the virtual capacity is the mathbrain. I take it for granted that I can resize or reconfigure most stuff while sitting at the machine. I know a lot if people have to work harder at that.

    I long to have my workspace look like yours, Renee. Maybe by the end of summer.

    I wonder if your NA figures look too “traditional”, Renee. Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. They take up a lot of airspace when threaded up, otherwise it is about the same as having 4 desks about 4’x 2′. They live in the basement (where I can shut out the kitties-4 strands of yarn bouncing around is just too much excitement for them to resist).

        Truly, between me working and the s&h being so busy, I’m not so sure we do live here. Last day of school is today, then he gets a week to be a slug, then we really have to dig in and get some house & yard prohects tackled.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I have to keep the door to my studio closed these days as well. Kitten loves the ribbons and for some reason finds the tall trash can (which rarely has anything in it besides paper scraps and ribbon bits) quite alluring; I’ve found her sleeping in there a couple of times!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I had a beagle in the playroom once. It shook my large witch puppet and left some drool and a couple of punctures in her hat.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. My post posted when i touched my ipad screen, AND I WAS NOT FINISHED!

      Thank you for the post, Renee–what fun. I wish you worked here–your kind of therapist is too rare!


  7. Tremendous post, Renee, and a truly impressive collection of toys. I had no idea of the magnitude of your collection, but I can see that a lot of thought has gone into acquiring just the right items.

    My computer is my most used tool, and as vs mentioned, when it’s out of commission for some reason, I’m lost.

    I consider my kitchen my lab, and over the years I’ve acquired more tools than any kitchen needs. My favorite tools are my knives and cutting boards. I find that some kitchen gadgets for specific uses hardly ever get used, and I should simply get rid of them. I have a garlic press, but find that I usually mince the garlic with a knife. Do I really need both a ricer and thingamajig to mash potatoes?

    I recently got rid of my waffle iron. I prefer crepes, so rarely ever used it. It sat around for years, taking up space and gathering dust. On Freecycle, it was gone within a few minutes. Next to go will be my juicer. It hasn’t been used in over a year, so out it goes. The grand decluttering project is ongoing.


      1. I’m probably more apt to modify the recipe than let the lack of a certain tool get in my way. For instance, I don’t let the lack of a pasta machine get in the way of me making pasta. A rolling pin takes up a lot less space, and has multiple uses (no, I don’t beat husband with it). I’m more into rustic, ethnic cooking than fancy cuisine, I’m sure I can muddle through without the ricer. I need to get stuff out of those drawers.


      2. we give my wifes sister flack , she has plates that have the handpainted words corn on a thing to hold an ear of corn and one that says pasta on a bowl sided plate. . we ask if she has a sandwich utensil or a glass that specifies water. we know she has one that says beer and many that say coffee


    1. Meanwhile, I am seriously chewing on the idea of a rice cooker. I have friends who use theirs regularly, and maybe we would go through less bread if we had one???


      1. A friend gave me one. I was skeptical about it. After all, what is simpler than cooking rice in a sauce pan? The one she gave me had a feature I hadn’t counted on: it scorched the rice, which then bonded firmly to the walls of the rice cooker. I’m just saying you should do a little research before buying.


      2. My son and wife are devoted lovers of rice cookers. He gave us one. Tried it about a dozen times, kept thinking we would figure it out. Rice was always soggy. It is (we still have it for when he comes so he thinks we use it) supposed to be the brand.


      3. I don’t know, mig. I had one, used it once and sold it to BiR. I find cooking rice a no-brainer, so to me it wasn’t worth the space it took up. I know that a lot of people swear by them.


        1. My rice cooker from PJ works great – the reason I like it is I can turn it on and then go do something else and not think about it. It’s not quite as fluffy as stovetop (when you catch it just right and don’t scorch it), but I break it up with a fork…


      4. Thanks for the input, all.

        I’m thinking ehat I really need to do is get better about making extra large potfuls and freezing it, because it is the timer factor that is appealing to me. Guess I should list my deepfreeze as one of my treasured tools. We don’t do fast food or a microwave, but I do rely on having something stashed in the freezer when I know I am going to have a hungry teenager coming through the door at 8pm after we have been gone most of the day.


        1. tim, it’s not so much not having time to make rice, it’s more about not thinking about it ahead of time. Good brown rice is not really ready in five minutes, unless you thought about it ahead of time.

          I’ve never used a pressure cooker and doubt I ever will-childhood prejudice. My mother would never have one but still managed to do a lot of canning that never made us sick.

          It was cb that had a story of one of those exploding, wasn’t it? I can get the beans nicely cooked in the slow-cooker, just neex to think ahead.

          Liked by 1 person

        1. That was meant to go up there under the Rice cooking suggestions
          my pressure cooker is incredibly wonderful you have to try it with different twice types and water time ratios but …


        2. We have an electric pressure cooker that is great for dry beans. I haven’t used it for rice.


    2. PJ – you and I should have a kitchen gadget meeting. I also have a ricer and the smasher thingamajig and am also about to jettison my juicer (anybody want it… very nice German juicer, rarely used) but it’s being replaced by a big blender that Young Adult has been clamoring for, so I don’t think I should consider this downsizing!

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Young Adult and I did some serious research and decided on a Ninja. Not quite as uber-sturdy as a Vitamix, but it looks like it can handle what we might throw at it and I was able to get it through my company at a very good price!

          Liked by 3 people

      1. It was really fun for me to help daughter stock her kitchen in her new digs off campus. We got her a Vitamix and a couple of good pots and lots of gadgets and spices. I also got her a bread/pizza stone and a peel. Maybe she will save money making her own pizzas instead of buying them. (She had asked for my pizza crust recipe, so I knew she was interested in doing her own.) Her roommate had quite a nice assortment of baking pans and other things, so the girls have a nicely stocked kitchen. I told daughter that I got her this stuff now in lieu of when (and if) she ever got married.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. We got one on-line from this lovley Danish man in California who sells ableskiver irons for every stove surface available.


    3. I have a waffle iron. It may have been my grandmother’s before it found its way to my house (by way of my mother’s house). I’m pretty certain it dates to at least the Carter administration, possibly Nixon. It gets used a couple of times a year. I think that waffles with peanut butter and some good fruit preserves are one of nature’s perfect foods.


  8. Great post, Renee. So interesting to get a glimpse of what you do.

    I have a secret hope (shhhh…don’t tell), one that started very recently, that my tools of the trade would be a good DSLR camera, with all the accompanying lenses and filters, tripods, software, and what-have-you. I’m investigating coursework now, but time will tell if it really happens. At this point, I don’t even have a DSLR.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. my big gift to my wife a fistfull of years agow a nikon d90. top of the lie dslr well it broke last week and we took it to the strore and they told us it costs as mch to look at it as it des to replace it. really yup ebay 150ish for super camera if you want lenses it may be 300 but a heck of a camera it was 2000 just a short while ago. chose that one so old nikon lenses could be used and you wouldnt have to buy the new ones


  9. One interesting thing I do is draw genograms, or family relationship trees that go back a couple of generations, and then have the child choose characters in the playroom to represent each family member. Paternal grandmother represented by a dragon or Ursula the Sea Witch always bears further investigation

    Liked by 3 people

  10. As asked above, tools of my trade for art are pastels and paper, for writing computer and pen & paper.But since I have never sold any art or writing, nor tried to, it does not count as a trade.
    As for tools of teaching, strong legs may be the biggest, patience, and a voice, otherwise it’s just brain, which is THE tool of every trade.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime and I would say that painting was definitely his trade – and would have been even if he had sold none.


  11. My sister is coming through for lunch today, so I just put three kinds of artisan bread in the oven for her to take home. Only tools require is pizza peel and pizza or baking stone. Well a plastic container to hold the dough in the refrigerator.


      1. A flat round piece of metal with a handle for sliding pizzas in and out of the oven. Maybe the wooden version is called a peel as well, but for artisan bread, you want the metal one.


  12. /A thought: one of my favorite features in art and writing magazines (otherwise they are generally terrible) is when they show work-spaces–office or studios. Work spaces say so much. People could do like Renee has done, although none of us are going to be that cool, well maybe, and show her/his work spaces and explain it.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I am fortunate to have a very large room-it is about 20×16. I also have a regular office in which I do psychological testing and therapy with older children, adults, and families. We are located in a six story former men’s dormatory on the local college campus, and our offices have windows, wonderful closets and wall mounted bookshelves. There also is the odd shower and sink in obscure corners of each floor.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Great to see all this, Renee! Thanks for this post.

    For some years, the tools of my trade were books. I still have plenty of those around, but I go through spurts of purging, then spurts of gleaning… it’s kind of like breathing, in and out. I’m happy to have a very large bookshelf in “the library”.

    Tools of my HOBBIES, on the other hand, are in
    – the sewing cabinet and machine
    – the garden shed
    – the music cupboard
    – the crafts shelf (includes the books on mosaic, drawing, upholstery…)
    – the card-recycling/placemat drawer
    – the kitchen, where my favorite tool is the immersion blender
    – this computer
    Oh, dear, I’ve never tried thinking of it all at once before.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I’m always amused to read how the story’s thread hops between subjects. So far this AM, it’s gone from play therapy to rice cookers.

    As a therapist, and because I’m one of those who doesn’t work with little kids, my tools are very few: a notebook for session notes; a really comfy chair; Kleenex, and my cats. The cats are probably the most important tool of all since they often spread themselves across a client’s lap and demonstrate being in the here and now. Teenagers are my very favorite age group. The first ten years of my 30 in this field were spent counseling teens. I still feel more at home with them than most adults, probably because a part of me got stuck there in adolescence.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It is terrible to have a client weeping in my office and then have the kleenex disintegrate all over their nose and eyelids.


  16. Ok, this has bwen bugging me all day, Renee.

    Why do you think dollhouse staircases matter so much? IIRC only the grandest of dollhouses had such a thing in my day. I longed for 2 stories (still do), but stairs would not have mattered.


    1. The children with whom I work can’t seem to suspend their sense of reality to allow the dolls to jump from first to second floor. It interfered with their use of the dollhouse.


  17. I’m late to the party because, well, I was helping with a party today. Last day of elementary school for Darling Daughter. Sniff…had to pause a couple of times during the day because I, um, had something in my eye…

    The tools of my trade are a laptop, some creative thinking, and an ability to communicate with bunches of different people in bunches of different ways. Story telling helps a lot. Also metaphors – I find myself thinking and explaining in metaphors a lot. How else to explain something as abstract as an API and how to use it?

    Love all the toys Renee – I’m sure they help the kids a lot. I kinda want one of the purple guys. Might be useful at home here, some days. 🙂


  18. First off, reneeinnd, where are the boxes from which the toys/tools were taken? In my experience, the boxes become the favored toy. As to tools of my trade, construction, those would be knives of all sort, trowels of all sort, hammers of all sort, saws of all sort and sorts of all sort.

    Liked by 5 people

  19. thank you renee for getting us tuned up for a daleless summer. i guess we all have the ability to write a little something it looks so easy when you do it.
    nicely done.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. i think i have the shirt already. can we do it on google hangout or do we need to meet at steves?

      im trying to figure out how it will work.
      lawn bowling or can we metaphorically roll gutter balls and try to shoot a spare after a weak or strong first shot.


  20. Renee, thanks for the delightful share. I am wondering if it would be helpful to get some tan or brown baby dolls. I am not surprised that the native american kiddos are not embracing the pow wow figures but am wondering if they would be open to characters who look like them and dress like the others. There may be more options here in the cities than in ND so I would be willing to shop and I do like looking for appropriate dolls.


  21. Hi Renee-
    A day late and another dollar short but still… I wanted to comment.

    Yes, Thank you for this article and the work you do. It IS valuable and it IS needed. The explanation of the toys is very interesting.
    Everytime I hear a college student tell me they want to go into social work of any sort I think to myself ‘Well I’m glad you’re not just out to make money’.

    I have lots of tools. Remember: “Every job is an opportunity for a new tool.”.
    That’s how I got the ‘Paslode’ cordless nail guns. And the wet saw for tile. And the Miter saw. And another cordless drill and the 3/4″ drive socket set. The list goes on and on.

    Today I’m at my last college event for this academic year. My tools today are a pencil, red fine tip sharpie, plus of course my eyes and ears to set sound and light levels. And that’s not getting into the actual equipment that does the sound and lights.
    And never underestimate a comfortable chair. And lunch. And a Red Mt Dew and a Snicker bar for mid-afternoon.

    Farming has it’s own special tools. Start with a pair of pliers and some form of knife. I carry a swiss army knife with scissors and wood saw blade. (that I use more often than you’d think.)
    Safety glasses and hearing protection rank right up there. And dust masks / respirators.
    Tractors, wagons, implements, welders, grinders, ect, ect…
    Air pumps, hammers, chisels… tarps, ratchet straps… hitch pins, cotter pins, 2″x12″ boards of short lengths to put under things,
    Impact wrenches, metric and ASE short and deep well sockets, grease guns, and every now and then you need a grub-hoe.


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