Using a sand tray or box is a technique used in play therapy. Usually the counselor has a large collection of miniatures for the child to select from. A miniature can be a toy, a figure, or an item that represents something. Most counselors have a collection of small dolls that can stand or sit in a sand tray. The dolls usually represent a family, friends, or any person . The counselor will have dolls of various ethnicities. Animals, doll house like furniture, small flags or crosses are just a few examples of other figures. The counselor usually provides enough miniatures for a child to build a story. For example, at a sand conference I attended, I built a house depicting my family’s house and a grave for my dog. My dog had recently passed, so I depicted that in the sand tray.
Parents can easily use sand trays when implementing play therapy (filial therapy) at home. But first, let’s talk about the point of using a sand tray. A sand tray helps communication and not just verbal communication. Children will act out scenarios with their play, which is play therapy is so important during child counseling. A counselor, or in this case, a parent could use a sand tray to help their child express feelings or thoughs. This does not mean telling the child which toys to play with, how to play with the toys, or what to build in the sand tray. Being supportive and actively attentive while the child plays is key. Follow your childs’ play. You will be tracking every move your child makes and reflecting his movements back to the child. Watching what your child does and what story she creates in the sand tray will help you learn more about your child. For example, a child with angry outbursts might build a sand tray that depicts a disorganized setting with miniatures fighting. I will explain basic play therapy techniques in a future post.