Updated: Jul 2
Somatic symptoms can be difficult to treat because kids often lack awareness of how their symptoms are related to their emotions. Play is a wonderful, powerful way to help children explore on a deeper level what they are experiencing and it is a tool for them to communicate. Children can act out with toys what they lack the verbal language to express.
This is a round-up of creative play ideas I was able to find online that would be useful in helping children communicate what it happening within their bodies. Having the toys and/or tools on hand may make it easier for children to identify triggers. Play can help them communicate what it feels like in their bodies and find coping mechanisms to help them feel better.
by Early Learning Ideas
This is a printable resource to make a whole doctor's office. It is so cute. Kids can type on the laptop, fill out prescriptions, label their supplies, and even have an official doctor ID. I love the creative ways to make various sorts of medicines. Sometimes little ones will identify their "owies" on someone else's body, a doll, or a stuffed animal.
by Storytime Katie
Having kids put bandaids on a toy to show where they are hurt is a great way to process trauma and communicate somatic symptoms. However, peeling bandaids off your toys is no fun! I love the no-sticky idea of using cloth. Don't miss my article all about using flannel boards in therapy.
by Growing Hands-on Kids
Big emotions can turn into lots of energy stuck in the body. Learning to release this energy can help them feel better. This article focuses on different types of movement and how it can help children.
by ABCs of Literacy
Who doesn't love sensory bins?! This would be a fun activity for kids to explore how their bodies work and identify different body parts. The link above contains free printable pictures of body parts.
by Big Life Journal
Tapping is a way to release pent-up emotions through acupressure. This article gives a brief synopsis of how it works. Several different ways to use tapping are provided. There are some good trainings out there. If you are interested in this intervention, I'd highly recommend going to a training before using it.
by The Responsive Counselor
This is an inexpensive folder activity to allow children to select body responses for different emotions. They can place the response where they feel it in their body. This is a $3 digital download.
by Adventure in a Box
Kids can learn about somatic symptoms, the fight or flight response, relaxation skills for tense muscles, or other specific anatomy needs with this paper doll set. It is a paid download, but a great concept.
by Pathways to Peace Counseling
Breathing exercises can bring quick relief to emotional distress. This article is a round-up of creative ways to teach kids how to use deep breathing as a coping skill. More on coping skills can be found here.
by Weighted Sense
This article is about the research behind weighted blankets and how they can help calm anxiety. The weight from the blanket helps kids feel safe and calm. They help the body release serotonin, a hormone that is linked with calmness and happiness.
Related Post: How to Help Your Child with Anxiety
There has been a lot of research lately about how exercises that cross the midline of the body can help children with their physical and emotional development. I was surprised when I took my daughter in for vision tracking therapy and they started with months of midline crossing exercises. It worked! This is a helpful article with information about how these exercises help the brain and it offers some exercise ideas.
by 730 Sage Street
You can sneak in some exercise and relaxation skills by playing Simon Says with kiddos. This site has a handy printable so you can be prepared with command ideas.
This one is a little bit different, but I felt it should be included under the somatic category, as it seems to fit well. This is a great game to play with kids who have a fear of throw-up. It is counselor made and done well.
In conclusion, if you are using play interventions with children it is important to be well-trained and aware of how to use play therapy. You can visit the Association for Play Therapy's website for information about training, credentialing, and for support.