Updated: Jun 16
Mouse Trap is a super fun, interactive game that offers many benefits for counseling. Kids will need to use communication skills, impulse control, and problem-solving skills. If they become frustrated while playing the game, they may also need to implement some coping skills to regain control over their bodies. You can have an entire counseling session full of fun and interaction where the child is learning vital skills without realizing they are doing anything more than playing. That is the beauty of play therapy!
To play, dump out the contents and throw out the instructions. Kids will need to either put on their problem-solving hats or communicate their need for help. The counselor is then able to model appropriate problem-solving skills, track movements and behaviors, and provide support and encouragement. It is a fantastic game for child-centered play therapy (CCPT), allowing the child to lead while being supportive and involved in the process.
Related Article: Counseling Games for Impulse Control
This game allows for trial and error and allows for experimentation. Kids can try different ways of putting things together to see if it works. They may try to see how many mice they can catch at once, may try to put barriers in the way of the balls, and will often try to change the course in some way. I typically see some level of exhilaration as children play this game. More times than not, I also see kids get frustrated. Kids will typically also recognize the need to control their impulses or they will disrupt the game.
I love the metaphors that can be used while playing the game. Kids can see how life needs balance to work correctly. A problem in one area can impact everything. When they problem-solve to find ways to correct problems in the game, they can also learn to identify ways to overcome challenges in life. There are other metaphors that stand out: feeling trapped, staying the course, following directions, life is a rat-race… There is huge potential with this one.
If you love the idea of building a mouse trap but don't have the game, you may want to check out my post about playdough activities. One idea is to use playdough to build a mouse trap. Follow the link for all the details.
Play therapy is such a powerful way to connect with children. The game is simply a tool to use for connection. The interaction, communication, and attunement that happens between the therapist and child is really the underlying component that leads to healing and growth. This safe, constructive relationship will help children learn skills that they can use to strengthen and develop relationships outside the session. Training in play therapy is vital if you are working with young children. Play is children's primary tool for communication and understanding how to use it therapeutically is a skill that needs to be acquired.