Connecting with Children Through Play Therapy

Stephanie Fiterman, a mental health therapist at The Florida Center for Early Childhood, uses toys from her own childhood to reach children through mental health counseling.

At The Florida Center, therapists like connecting with children through play therapy. The agency specializes in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health.

When Mental Health Therapist Stephanie Fiterman has her first session with a new child client, she asks them to “build their world.” She gives them free rein over the hundreds of toys located in her office, a sandbox, building blocks, and many other tools. Once they’ve constructed their unique universe, Stephanie asks them to describe it. It’s a strategy she uses to build a relationship with them called play therapy, a form of counseling or psychotherapy in which play is used as a means of helping children express or communicate their feelings.

Stephanie has a way of making therapy fun – after all, she’s got a collection of toys that any child would love to get their hands on, many dating back to the 1970s. Some of these toys were saved by her own parents after she expressed an interest in working with children. The rest she gets from thrift stores, as donations, or off the discount rack. Whatever the means of acquisition, her collection is certainly reminiscent of a visit to Toys-R-Us or FAO Schwarz

“Seeing their eyes light up when they walk into my office, makes my day. It’s one of the best parts of my job.”

– Stephanie Fiterman, LMHC

Toys are certainly the tools of choice for connecting with children through play therapy! They help children regulate and express emotions, form close and secure relationships and explore the environment and learn. Developing these abilities is critical to healthy social and emotional development and can prevent negative outcomes later in life.