The 10 Best Therapy Games For Kids

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Emotional well-being in children is key to mentally robust adults. However, life doesn’t come with an instruction manual, and kids rarely know what to make of their emotions. 

It can be difficult to even put feelings into words, let alone deal with them. Thus, kids look upon adults for guidance – making us wonder how to engage with them and teach them productive coping habits. 

According to Jacqueline M. Swank’s research, as children transition from ages 7 to 9, they shift from imaginative play to more structured activities. To assess their ego strength and emotional development, gameplay therapy becomes crucial. Board games, with their rule-based and competitive nature, encourage cognitive engagement and secondary process thinking, fostering the development of reality-based principles. During this period, children tend to use games, particularly board games, as a communication tool in counseling sessions, gradually favoring them over imaginative play.

Therapeutic games offer a safe and fun environment for a kid to learn introspection and improve communication skills, focus, self-control, and ability to take on challenges.

What are therapy games?

Therapy games are interactive activities or exercises designed to facilitate therapeutic processes and promote psychological well-being. These games can be used in various therapeutic settings, such as counseling, psychotherapy, or educational contexts.

They often involve elements of play, discussion, and reflection to address specific mental health issues, improve communication skills, build trust, and enhance emotional regulation. Therapy games are versatile tools that can cater to diverse therapeutic goals and can be particularly useful in engaging individuals, couples, families, or groups in the therapeutic process.

Reasons for Children to Play With Therapy Games

Purpose Examples
Process difficult emotions Anger, sadness, fear
Work through traumatic experiences Discuss and process trauma
Develop coping skills Practice problem-solving
Improve social skills Interactive play with others
Build self-esteem Achievement in play activities
Learn new things Exploration and discovery

Our choices for the best therapy games for kids.

You Know

Brand: Therapy U

Recommended age: 6+

Price: $22.99

You Know is a Uno-style card game meant to promote personal communication. The cards have “Would you rather?” type of questions and are paired with additional attributes that prompt discussions about values, goals, and struggles in a comfortable and fun way. The gameplay is easy for children to grasp and will help them improve self-reflection and social skills. 

Breaking Barriers Down

Brand: Therapy U

Recommended age: 7+

Price: $32

This game is played similarly to Jenga and is excellent for building a better rapport with kids. It uses color-coded blocks representing four different emotions – happiness, sadness, anger, fear – to trigger a meaningful discussion on said topics and boost emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and communication abilities. 

Emotional Roller Coaster

Brand: S.T.O.R.M.

Recommended age: 6-13

Price: $29.95

Emotional Roller Coaster teaches children how to deal with anger from an early age. The game encourages kids to explore the cause of their emotions, develop their self-expression and problem-solving skills, and provides a fun way to learn different coping strategies. 

Head Rush

Brand: Therapy U

Recommended age: 12+

Price: $22.99

Head rush is an easy-to-play card game that helps kids build up their confidence and express their thoughts and feelings easily. The fast-paced gameplay prevents guarded answers and gives a quick glimpse into kids’ initial thoughts and desires.

Totem

Brand: Totem

Recommended age: 8+

Price: $24.95

This game builds a reflection of your best personality traits, as seen by others. It can be played by 3 to 8 people, is easy to follow, and fosters a positive environment – building up players’ self-esteem.

It can be played multiple times and result in a different totem each time, pointing out different aspects of players’ personalities.

Stop, Relax & Think

Brand: Childswork

Recommended age: 6-12

Price: $56.90The Stop, Relax & Think board game encourages impulsive children to think before they act. This game improves motor control, and problem-solving skills and helps in expressing emotions. The feelings cards help kids become aware of their emotions and early signs of negative feelings, such as stress. Behaviors and skills learned in the game are meant to be useful and applicable to home and class environments.

MAD SMARTZ

Brand: Thought-Spot

Recommended age: 6+

Price: $20.95

Mad Smartz will teach children anger management, empathy, and social skills. It’s yet another Uno-style card game, meaning it has simple and easy-to-follow rules. The game can be played in just 15-45 minutes, helping kids develop emotional intelligence with a quick and fun activity. It relates thoughts, feelings, and behaviors – all while stimulating anger management, empathy, as well as critical thinking.

Positive Traits Game

Brand: INNERICONS

Recommended age: 8+

Price: $29.99

Innericons’ card game offers unique discussion and beautiful portrait cards that foster a positive and kind environment and improve the emotional well-being of participants. It can be played by up to 15 people, helping them connect and recognize community contributions. This game is also playable by only one person – promoting compassion for oneself. 

Famous Failures

Brand: Better Me

Recommended age: 13+

Price: $19.95

This game follows a “Go fish” playstyle with additional twists to keep the gameplay dynamic. Things can change quickly, and the winner isn’t certain until the very end – teaching kids the importance of perseverance.

Famous Failures improve mental capacity, concentration, and strategic abilities. It’s great for teens in need of direction and motivation.

The deck contains 7 sets of different colors but also varying patterns – making it color-blind friendly.

Talking Point

Brand: TALKING POINT CARDS

Age range: 6+

Price: $24.95

Get to know each other better with age-appropriate questions in four categories you might not otherwise ask. Talking points help children, especially the shy ones, open up and communicate – sparking up natural and meaningful conversations.

Benefits of Playing Therapy Games for Kids

Therapy games offer a wide array of benefits for kids, supporting their emotional, cognitive, and social development. Here are some of the key advantages:

  1. Emotional Expression and Regulation: Therapy games provide a safe and structured platform for kids to express their emotions, whether positive or challenging. By engaging with game scenarios and discussions, children learn to recognize, understand, and manage their feelings effectively.
  2. Increased Self-Awareness: Playing therapy games encourages introspection, helping kids become more aware of their thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns. This heightened self-awareness is a crucial step towards emotional intelligence and personal growth.
  3. Improved Communication Skills: Many therapy games involve discussions, sharing, and active listening. These interactions nurture children’s communication skills, enabling them to express their emotions and thoughts more clearly while also learning to empathize with others.
  4. Enhanced Problem-Solving Abilities: Therapy games often present challenges or scenarios that require thoughtful decision-making. Through these experiences, kids develop problem-solving skills, learning to analyze situations, weigh options, and make informed choices.
  5. Building Resilience: Dealing with challenges, setbacks, and emotional scenarios within therapy games helps children build resilience. They learn that setbacks are a natural part of life and gain tools to cope with difficulties in healthy and constructive ways.
  6. Social Skills Development: Many therapy games involve collaboration, teamwork, and turn-taking. These interactions promote social skills such as sharing, empathy, cooperation, and conflict resolution, which are vital for healthy relationships.
  7. Stress Reduction: Engaging in play, especially therapeutic play, can alleviate stress and anxiety in kids. The immersive and enjoyable nature of games provides a positive outlet for emotional release and relaxation.
  8. Cognitive Growth: Many therapy games incorporate cognitive challenges, such as memory tasks, puzzles, or strategic thinking. These activities stimulate cognitive development, enhancing memory, attention, and problem-solving abilities.
  9. Positive Behavioral Patterns: Through guided experiences in therapy games, children learn positive behavioral patterns, coping mechanisms, and emotional regulation strategies. These tools can lead to healthier emotional responses in real-life situations.
  10. Empowerment and Self-Confidence: Successfully navigating challenges and achieving goals within therapy games boosts children’s self-confidence and sense of empowerment. They realize they have the capacity to overcome difficulties and make positive changes.
  11. Normalization of Therapy: By presenting therapeutic concepts in a playful manner, therapy games help destigmatize the idea of seeking help or discussing emotions. This normalization encourages open conversations about mental health and well-being.
  12. Engagement and Learning: Therapy games combine entertainment with learning, making the therapeutic process engaging and enjoyable. This engagement fosters a positive attitude towards self-improvement and emotional growth.

Conclusion

Therapeutic games are great for keeping kids engaged when trying to communicate basic concepts and encourage good behavior. Games will also nurture and strengthen relationships between the participants. 

They can be applied in counseling sessions, classroom activities or be a fun pastime with family members. Most of our picks can be used with children as young as six years old, building trust and healthy rapport from early on to create mentally sound adults.

John S. - Editor in Chief
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