Tips From Play Therapists: Effective Redirection

Play Therapist Redirection Tips

Welcome to the world of play therapy! Play therapy is a unique approach that utilizes play as a powerful tool for helping children and adolescents overcome challenges and develop important emotional and behavioral skills. One of the essential techniques used by play therapists is redirection.

In this article, we will explore the concept of redirection in play therapy, as well as provide valuable tips and strategies for its effective implementation. Whether you’re a play therapist, a parent, or a caregiver, understanding and utilizing redirection can greatly contribute to creating a positive and supportive environment for children.

So, let’s dive in and discover the wonders of redirection in play therapy!

Understanding Redirection in Play Therapy

Definition and Purpose of Redirection

When it comes to play therapy, redirection is a valuable technique used by play therapists to guide and channel children’s behavior in a positive direction. Redirection involves redirecting a child’s focus and energy from unwanted or challenging behaviors towards more constructive and appropriate activities. It aims to help children develop self-control, emotional regulation, and positive behavior patterns.

The purpose of redirection is not to suppress or punish the child’s behavior, but rather to redirect their attention and energy towards more positive and beneficial outlets. It is a gentle and effective way to guide children towards healthier coping strategies and provide them with a sense of control and agency in their play sessions.

Role of the Play Therapist

In play therapy, the play therapist plays a crucial role in implementing effective redirection techniques. They act as a facilitator, providing a safe and supportive environment for the child to explore, express emotions, and learn problem-solving skills through play.

The play therapist observes the child’s play and behavior, actively listens, and looks for opportunities to redirect the child’s energy and focus. They use their expertise to identify triggers, understand the underlying emotions, and choose appropriate redirection strategies tailored to the child’s needs and developmental stage.

The play therapist also builds a strong rapport with the child, creating a trusting relationship that allows the child to feel comfortable and open during their play therapy sessions. This relationship is essential for effective redirection, as children are more likely to be receptive and responsive to redirection when there is a foundation of trust and support.

In the next section, we will explore some key strategies that play therapists use to effectively redirect children’s behaviors.

Table: Tips for Effective Redirection in Play Therapy
Key Strategies
Building Rapport and Establishing Trust
Being Attentive and Observant
Using Play Materials and Props

Redirection involves redirecting a child’s focus and energy from unwanted or challenging behaviors towards more constructive and appropriate activities.

The play therapist acts as a facilitator, providing a safe and supportive environment for the child to explore, express emotions, and learn problem-solving skills through play.

Key Strategies for Effective Redirection

In play therapy, redirection is a crucial technique used by play therapists to guide children towards more suitable behaviors and emotions. Through redirection, play therapists help children shift their focus and redirect their energy towards positive and constructive activities. It allows therapists to effectively address challenging behaviors and create a safe and supportive environment for growth and healing.

So, what are some key strategies play therapists use to ensure effective redirection? Let’s take a closer look:

Building Rapport and Establishing Trust

One of the most crucial aspects of effective redirection is building rapport with the child and establishing trust. By creating a warm and non-judgmental atmosphere, play therapists are able to foster a sense of safety and openness. This enables children to feel comfortable exploring their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. When a strong therapeutic alliance is formed, redirection becomes more effective as the child is more willing to listen and engage in alternative activities.

Being Attentive and Observant

Effective redirection requires play therapists to be attentive and observant during therapy sessions. By closely observing the child’s play and behaviors, therapists can identify triggers or patterns that may require redirection. They pay attention to the child’s verbal and non-verbal cues, allowing them to intervene at the right moment. This level of attentiveness enables therapists to redirect the child towards more appropriate ways of expressing themselves.

Using Play Materials and Props

Play therapists utilize a wide range of play materials and props to facilitate redirection. These materials can include toys, art supplies, puppets, and sensory objects among others. By introducing new play materials or redirecting the child’s attention to specific props, therapists can guide the child towards constructive play. This not only helps in redirecting challenging behaviors but also provides opportunities for self-expression, exploration, and learning.

By employing these key strategies, play therapists can effectively redirect children towards healthier and more adaptive behaviors. These strategies not only address the behavior in the moment but also provide the child with valuable skills and tools for self-regulation and emotional expression.

“Effective redirection in play therapy involves building a strong therapeutic alliance, being attentive to the child’s play and behaviors, and utilizing play materials and props.”

In the next section, we will explore different techniques that play therapists employ to redirect challenging behaviors.

Techniques for Redirecting Challenging Behaviors

Redirecting challenging behaviors is an important aspect of play therapy that helps children develop self-control, emotional regulation, and positive behavior patterns. Play therapists utilize various techniques to effectively redirect these behaviors and support children in their therapeutic journey. In this section, we will explore some key techniques that play therapists use to redirect challenging behaviors:

  1. Positive Reinforcement and Rewards: One effective way to redirect challenging behaviors is by using positive reinforcement and rewards. When a child engages in positive behavior or demonstrates progress, the play therapist acknowledges and rewards them with praise, stickers, or small tokens. This encourages the child to continue displaying positive behaviors and redirects their attention away from negative behavior.
  2. Providing Choices and Options: Offering choices and options is another technique play therapists use to redirect challenging behaviors. By giving children a sense of control over their play therapy sessions, it empowers them to make decisions and feel more engaged. For example, a play therapist might offer a choice between two different art activities or ask the child to decide which game they want to play. This redirection technique helps shift the child’s focus away from negative behaviors and towards more constructive choices.
  3. Modeling Appropriate Behavior: Play therapists often use modeling as a technique to redirect challenging behaviors. They intentionally model appropriate behavior during play therapy sessions to demonstrate how they would like the child to behave. For example, if a child is being aggressive with the play materials, the play therapist might model gentle and respectful play. This redirection technique helps the child understand what is expected of them and encourages them to emulate the therapist’s behavior.

Using these techniques, play therapists can effectively redirect challenging behaviors and guide children towards positive engagement and behavior patterns. It is important to remember that each child is unique, and what works for one child may not work for another. Play therapists carefully observe and adapt these techniques based on the individual needs and preferences of each child.

“Redirecting challenging behaviors in play therapy requires creativity, patience, and flexibility. By utilizing techniques such as positive reinforcement, offering choices, and modeling appropriate behavior, play therapists can redirect negative behaviors towards positive outcomes.”

Redirection in the Context of Different Play Therapy Approaches

In the world of play therapy, redirection plays a crucial role in guiding and supporting children during their therapeutic journey. By gently shifting their attention and redirecting their behaviors, play therapists can help children explore their thoughts, emotions, and experiences in a safe and constructive way. While the concept of redirection is applicable across various play therapy approaches, each approach may have its unique strategies and techniques. Let’s explore how redirection is integrated into different play therapy approaches.

Child-Centered Play Therapy

Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT) is rooted in the belief that children have an innate capacity for self-healing and growth. In this approach, redirection is used to encourage autonomy and self-expression. Play therapists provide a safe and non-judgmental space where children can freely explore their thoughts and feelings through play. Here are some ways redirection is used in CCPT:

  • Facilitating Self-Directed Play: Play therapists focus on allowing the child to lead the play session, following their interests, and allowing them to explore at their own pace. Redirection may involve gently guiding the child’s attention back to the play materials or inviting them to explore new themes.
  • Reflecting and Clarifying: Redirection is used to help children gain insight and make sense of their experiences. Play therapists may reflect on what the child is doing or saying, validate their feelings, and ask open-ended questions to deepen their understanding.
  • Following the Child’s Lead: Redirection is often employed to honor the child’s choices and empower their decision-making. Play therapists may redirect their own agenda and follow the child’s lead, providing support and guidance as needed.

Cognitive-Behavioral Play Therapy

Cognitive-Behavioral Play Therapy (CBPT) combines play therapy techniques with cognitive-behavioral interventions. This approach focuses on helping children identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts and behaviors and develop more adaptive coping skills. Here’s how redirection is used in CBPT:

  • Identifying Cognitive Distortions: Redirection is utilized to help children recognize and redirect cognitive distortions, such as negative self-talk or catastrophizing. Play therapists may guide the child’s attention towards alternative perspectives or help them reframe negative thoughts into more positive and realistic ones.
  • Practicing New Behaviors: Redirection is employed to support children in practicing and reinforcing new behaviors. Play therapists may redirect the child’s play to include opportunities for role-playing, problem-solving, or rehearsing specific skills or strategies.
  • Promoting Self-Monitoring: Redirection is used to encourage children to become aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Play therapists may redirect the child’s attention to their own actions and guide them in identifying triggers, recognizing patterns, and monitoring progress.

Gestalt Play Therapy

Gestalt Play Therapy draws upon the humanistic and experiential principles of Gestalt therapy. This approach emphasizes self-awareness and personal responsibility. Redirection in Gestalt Play Therapy focuses on helping children become aware of their present experiences and facilitating integration and growth. Here’s how redirection is used in Gestalt Play Therapy:

  • Promoting Sensory Awareness: Redirection is employed to guide children towards engaging all their senses and being present in the moment. Play therapists may redirect the child’s attention to sensory experiences like touch, sound, or movement, helping them become more connected to their immediate surroundings.
  • Encouraging Self-Expression: Redirection is used to support children in expressing their emotions and thoughts authentically. Play therapists may redirect the child’s focus towards areas of the body where they experience sensations or invite them to symbolically express their feelings through art, movement, or storytelling.
  • Facilitating Closure: Redirection is utilized to assist children in bringing closure to their play therapy sessions. Play therapists may redirect the child’s attention towards summarizing their experience, reflecting on insights gained, and exploring ways to incorporate their growth into their daily lives.

As you can see, redirection is a powerful tool used across different play therapy approaches to support children’s emotional well-being and growth. By understanding how redirection is integrated into each approach, play therapists can better tailor their interventions to meet the unique needs of each child.

“Redirection in play therapy is like a gentle breeze guiding a child’s sail, helping them navigate the sea of their emotions and experiences towards calmer waters.”

Benefits and Limitations of Redirection in Play Therapy

Redirection is a valuable technique used by play therapists to guide children towards appropriate behaviors and positive outcomes. While it offers several benefits, it also has its limitations. In this section, we will explore the advantages and challenges of redirection in play therapy.

Promoting Emotional Regulation and Self-Control

One of the primary benefits of redirection in play therapy is its ability to promote emotional regulation and self-control in children. By redirecting their attention or behavior towards more appropriate activities or expressions, play therapists help children learn how to manage their emotions and impulses effectively. This skill is essential for healthy social and emotional development, as it allows children to navigate challenging situations and interact positively with others.

Encouraging Positive Behavior Patterns

Another key benefit of redirection is its potential to encourage positive behavior patterns. Through redirection, play therapists guide children towards engaging in behaviors that are socially acceptable and conducive to their overall well-being. By consistently redirecting challenging or disruptive behaviors, therapists help children develop new habits and ways of interacting with the world around them. Over time, this can lead to more positive and constructive behavior patterns that benefit the child’s relationships, self-esteem, and personal growth.

Potential Challenges and Considerations

While redirection is an effective tool in play therapy, it is essential to acknowledge its limitations and potential challenges. Here are a few important considerations:

  • Resistance: Some children may initially resist redirection, especially if they are attached to a specific behavior or activity. It requires patience and skill on the part of the play therapist to redirect the child’s attention or behavior gently.
  • Effectiveness: The effectiveness of redirection may vary depending on the child’s age, developmental stage, and individual needs. What works for one child may not work for another, and play therapists must be adaptable in their approach.
  • Root Causes: Redirection may address the symptoms of challenging behaviors, but it may not always address the underlying root causes. In some cases, additional therapeutic interventions may be necessary to fully address and resolve the child’s difficulties.
  • Emotional Expression: While redirection is helpful for guiding children towards appropriate behavior, it is important to also create space for them to express their emotions freely. Play therapists should strike a balance between redirection and allowing children to process and express their feelings in a safe and supportive environment.

Despite these considerations, redirection remains an invaluable tool in play therapy, as it empowers children to navigate their emotions and behaviors in a positive and healthy manner.

In the next section, we will provide practical tips for parents and caregivers to incorporate redirection techniques into their everyday interactions with children.

“Redirection in play therapy provides children with the opportunity to learn and practice important life skills, such as emotional regulation and self-control.”

Practical Tips for Parents and Caregivers

As a parent or caregiver, you play a crucial role in your child’s development and overall well-being. You may have heard of play therapy and its effectiveness in helping children navigate challenges and build resilience. One key aspect of play therapy is redirection, which is a technique used by play therapists to guide children towards more positive and constructive behaviors. In this article, we will share some practical tips for parents and caregivers to incorporate redirection into their interactions with children.

Creating a Playful and Supportive Environment

  • Allow for unstructured play: Create a safe and engaging space for your child to play freely. Set aside dedicated playtime each day where your child can explore their imagination and engage in self-directed play. This allows them to process emotions and experiences at their own pace.
  • Join in the play: As a parent or caregiver, actively participate in your child’s play. Let them take the lead and follow their lead as they engage with toys and materials. This not only strengthens your bond, but it also gives you an opportunity to observe and redirect any challenging behaviors that may arise.
  • Use play to communicate: Play is a natural language for children. Encourage open-ended play that encourages your child to express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Through play, children often reveal their inner thoughts and emotions, giving you insights into how they perceive the world and any challenges they may be facing.

Setting Clear Boundaries and Expectations

  • Establish consistent rules: Consistency is key when it comes to setting boundaries and expectations. Establish clear rules and expectations that are appropriate for your child’s age and development. Communicate these rules in a positive and encouraging manner, focusing on what behaviors you would like to see rather than what you want to avoid.
  • Offer choices: Giving children autonomy by providing choices is a powerful way to redirect their behavior. It allows them to feel a sense of control and ownership over their actions. For instance, instead of saying, “Stop running in the house,” you can say, “Would you like to run outside or play quietly inside?”
  • Redirect with empathy: When redirecting your child’s behavior, it’s important to approach it with empathy. Instead of scolding or punishing, try to understand the underlying emotions or needs that may be driving their behavior. For example, if your child is hitting their sibling, you can say, “I can see that you’re feeling frustrated. It’s okay to feel angry, but hitting is not okay. Let’s find a different way to express your feelings.”

Seeking Professional Guidance

  • Recognize when to seek help: While these practical tips can be helpful, it’s important to acknowledge when the challenges your child is facing require professional intervention. If you find that your child’s behavior is persistently difficult to redirect or is causing significant distress, consider reaching out to a play therapist or mental health professional who specializes in working with children. They can provide further guidance and support tailored to your child’s specific needs.

Remember, redirection is not about suppressing or punishing specific behaviors; it is about guiding children towards more positive and appropriate ways of expressing themselves. By incorporating these practical tips into your interactions with your child, you can create a playful and supportive environment that promotes their emotional well-being and helps them develop important life skills.


In conclusion, effective redirection is a crucial component of play therapy that can help children learn and grow in a safe and supportive environment. By understanding the definition and purpose of redirection, as well as the role of the play therapist, parents and caregivers can utilize key strategies and techniques to redirect challenging behaviors and foster positive behavior patterns.

While redirection may vary across different play therapy approaches, the overall goal remains the same – to promote emotional regulation, self-control, and healthy coping mechanisms for children. Redirection can be a powerful tool in encouraging positive behavior patterns and supporting children in their personal and emotional development.

It is important for parents and caregivers to create a playful and supportive environment, set clear boundaries and expectations, and seek professional guidance when needed. Play therapy can be a highly effective treatment option for children experiencing behavioral challenges or emotional difficulties, and redirection plays a significant role in the success of this therapeutic approach.

By implementing the tips and techniques discussed in this article, parents and caregivers can support their children in overcoming challenges, building resilience, and developing important life skills. Remember, play therapy is just one piece of the puzzle, and a multidisciplinary approach may be necessary for comprehensive support and intervention.

In summary, effective redirection in play therapy is all about understanding the child’s needs, building rapport and trust, and using creative techniques to redirect challenging behaviors towards positive outcomes. By harnessing the power of play, children can learn to express and process their emotions, develop essential life skills, and make positive behavioral changes. Play therapy truly has the potential to transform lives and empower children on their journey towards healing and growth. So, let’s embrace the power of play and redirection, and create a world where every child can thrive!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is redirection in play therapy?

    Redirection in play therapy refers to the technique used by play therapists to shift a child’s focus or behavior towards more appropriate or therapeutic activities or topics. It helps the child explore and express themselves in a safe and constructive manner.

  2. Why is redirection important in play therapy?

    Redirection is important in play therapy as it allows the therapist to guide the child towards positive and therapeutic experiences. It helps the child develop new coping skills, regulate emotions, and explore healthier ways of expressing themselves.

  3. What are some effective redirection techniques used by play therapists?

    Some effective redirection techniques used by play therapists include offering alternative toys or materials, introducing new play scenarios or themes, using storytelling or puppets to redirect the child’s attention, and gently guiding the child towards more appropriate play activities.

  4. How can parents use redirection at home with their children?

    Parents can use redirection at home by creating a safe and engaging environment for play, offering alternative activities or toys when their child displays challenging or negative behaviors, using storytelling or imaginative play to redirect their child’s focus, and providing gentle guidance and encouragement towards more positive play experiences.

  5. Is redirection always effective in play therapy?

    While redirection is generally effective in play therapy, its success may vary depending on the individual child and their unique needs. Play therapists adapt their techniques and strategies based on the child’s responses, ensuring a personalized and effective therapeutic approach.

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