The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

When children are growing up, playing can be an important part of their social, cognitive, and emotional development. Whether they choose Legos, action figures, Barbie, or trains, playing allows kids to express themselves and be creative . Not only is playtime a fun activity but it can also be incorporated into therapy to address common concerns faced by children.

One common type of play therapy is sand tray therapy, which lets kids work through various difficulties in their lives while using sand and other objects to promote comfort and relaxation. Here, we’ll explore what sand tray therapy commonly entails and how it can help your child experience personal growth and healing.

What Is Sand Tray Therapy?

Sand tray therapy is a form of play therapy commonly used with children. It involves placing a large tray of sand with objects, figurines, water, and other toys of differing sizes and shapes in front of the child and letting them engage in play however they wish.

This approach can be beneficial for children as it can help them process their thoughts and feelings without having to speak out loud. Given that kids are still developing and may not have the vocabulary or cognitive abilities to fully express themselves yet, sand tray therapy allows them to say what they need to in a way that feels natural to them.

Parents may connect their child to a sand tray therapist for numerous reasons, including behavioral, mental, or social concerns. Kids may find that sand tray therapy helps them dig deeper into their past experiences or allows them to recognize problems currently present in their lives. With the support of a qualified therapist who’s trained in sand tray therapy, they can begin to confront these issues and overcome them.

How Can Sand Tray Therapy Help Your Child?

Sand tray therapy can have numerous benefits, helping your child grow and develop cognitively, socially, emotionally, and mentally. Let’s explore some of these potential advantages below.

● Promotes emotional regulation: The calm, supportive, and safe setting of sand tray therapy can help your child learn how to regulate themselves when they’re experiencing strong emotions. Likewise, the therapeutic nature of sand can make it the perfect stress reliever, bringing your child a sense of peace when they’re feeling overwhelmed. Emotional regulation is a vital skill, as it’s what allows people to perform well at work and in school, form healthy relationships, and achieve success in other areas of their lives.

● Builds self-esteem and confidence: Your child can create whatever they wish during a sand tray therapy session. This can allow them to build their self-esteem as well as confidence in their abilities. Outside of sessions, this can translate into an empowered, resilient, and self-assured child who goes after their goals and recovers from setbacks with ease.

● Enhances self-expression: Creativity can be essential to a child’s development, and sand tray therapy can offer the perfect outlet for just that. Your child will be encouraged to create whatever they’d like and use their imagination to their heart’s desire. Being given the freedom to explore can help your child tap into their sense of identity and express themselves as such.

● Alleviates mental health concerns: If your child is grappling with a mental health disorder like depression or anxiety, sand tray therapy could be useful in alleviating their symptoms and helping them develop healthier coping strategies. Your child’s therapist can assist them in learning how to identify and challenge their unhelpful thoughts and teach them ways to adopt more constructive patterns of thinking. This can enable your child to take more control over their mental wellness and grow in their resiliency.

● Strengthens social skills: Some sand therapy sessions are held in a group, while others are one-on-one. In any case, your child will receive the opportunity to interact with another person, whether it’s their therapist or peers. Engaging in play alongside other children or learning how to express oneself with an adult can strengthen your child’s social skills, empowering them to be more confident in social situations.

● Allows for the processing of grief and trauma: Has your child gone through something traumatic during the course of their life? Perhaps they experienced sexual assault or were involved in a serious car accident. Maybe they recently lost a loved one whom they were close to and are having a hard time understanding the situation. Sand tray therapy can be a powerful tool for processing strong emotions related to grief and trauma, as it provides a safe, comfortable environment in which your child can be themselves. Your child may choose to act out something that happened to them using the sand and toys provided, allowing them to express their thoughts and feelings without having to talk about them. This can serve as a form of emotional release, helping them cope, heal, and move forward.

● Improves communication skills: Sand tray therapy allows children to process and then express their emotions by playing with sand and toys. They can speak as little or as much as they want, helping them feel comfortable during the process. Naturally, this can lead to the development of healthier, more effective communication skills in which your child understands how to identify and name what they’re feeling. It may be through this approach that they’re finally able to find their voice.

While the advantages listed above may be more common, the benefits your child experiences from sand tray therapy are bound to be unique, as every child faces different concerns and responds to therapy in varying ways. It can take some time to reap the rewards of this approach, but it’s vital to be patient. Staying in regular contact with your child’s therapist can help you track their progress and stay informed, allowing you to assess alongside their provider when it’s time for the therapeutic process to change or come to an end.

Finding A Sand Tray Therapist

If you’re interested in finding a sand tray therapist for your child, it’s important to know that you have options. You can either connect with a provider locally or take your search online. Be sure to ask about their experience, qualifications, and treatment process. Asking questions can help ensure that your child is matched with the right therapist to meet their needs and assist them in reaching their goals. Allowing your child to engage in sand tray therapy can bring hope and healing to their life, helping them forge a path to positive mental health and overall well-being.


All in all, sand tray therapy can be a positive addition to your child’s life, helping them to move forward from past difficulties and excel in their current and future endeavors. This unique approach relies on play to promote healing, which naturally draws children in and allows them to be themselves in a safe and comfortable setting. When kids are given the space and freedom to be creative, they can find new ways to express their thoughts and feelings without having to step out of their comfort zone. This can empower them to become more resilient and confident in their ability to handle the stressors life throws their way.

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