Integrated Play Therapy

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learn to play

Learn to Play

Learn to Play is a therapeutic program that has been created by Professor Karen Stagnitti to help children build their play ability when they find play challenging. Whilst many children can play on their own, others need the support of a play therapist to model and teach them how to play to develop more complex skills which are required for life learning.


Pretend play is the catalyst for building children’s development in: Visual discrimination skills, communication skills, cognition, problem solving, narrative thinking, fine motor skills, gross motor skill, social competency, emotional regulation and understanding, literacy competence, creativity, flexibility, and ability to adapt to change, and being able to play with another in the role of player.


When children’s pretend play abilities are low, they have more difficulty with communication, social engagement and interactions and emotional understanding. Not only does this have implications for children’s academic success but it can also affect children’s emotional wellbeing, (Bergen, 2002).


Learn to Play assists children to spontaneously self-initiate their own play and to develop pretend play skills to, or near, their expected developmental level, (Stagnitti, 2009).


Learn to Play Therapy is often suitable for children who experience difficulties with:


  • Social environments
  • Self-regulation
  • Rigid or inflexible behaviours
  • Building friendships with peers
  • Inability to play on their own
  • Imagination or pretend play
  • Building confidence

During Learn to Play sessions, the Play Therapist will select and direct the play activities to scaffold children’s play and help them to develop their play skills. The play activities selected by the child’s Play Therapist will increase in complexity as the therapeutic process continues.


When Learn to Play sessions start, the Play Therapist takes the lead during the sessions. However, as the sessions progress, the child will then start to take over the play and the Play Therapist will support the child to take the lead.