Play Based Assertive Communication Intervention

SO MANY kids these days need help with communication skills!


Almost every other referral that I receive is for children to better "express their feelings" (AKA tell people how they feel).


Most children that come to therapy are either aggressive or passive communicators.


As play therapists, one of our goals in treatment may be to assist our clients in inching slowly ((but surely)) to being assertive communicators!


Today's post goes over one of my FAVORITE interventions to help children learn communication skills through child therapy.


BONUS: it uses one of my favorite things ever-MINIATURES!





Sandtray Miniatures


By “miniatures,” I mean little characters or animals that are generally used for sandtray therapy. I find my miniatures to be an asset in my play therapy practice and used in almost every single play therapy session I have!


I have worked very hard to create my miniature collection over the years and highly recommend going to a dollar store or local thrift store to obtain miniatures. I have also had success using the website www.toysofthetrade.com.


I like to start the intervention by explaining the different forms of communication to the child.



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I explain that aggressive communication can come across as rude and demanding.


I compare aggressive communication to a bulldozer in that aggressive communicators tend to plow over others’ thoughts.


An example of aggressive communication is a child saying "You're ugly; I hate you."


I then go into passive communication.


I state that passive communicators tend to not let their opinions be known and can be “walked all over” by other communicators.


Passive communicators will go to lengths to please others and are fine with others making decisions, even if it isn't in their best interest.


The last form of communication that I explain is assertive communication.


I tell my kiddos that assertive communication is the “happy medium” between aggressive and passive communication.


Assertive communication is when the communicator expresses their thoughts or feelings in an appropriate manner.



At this point, it can also be helpful for the child to reflect on their own form of communication.


A majority of the time are they assertive, passive, or aggressive communicators?


Encourage your client to additionally reflect on what they would like their communication to look like.


Next, introduce the activity. State to the child that they will be picking out a miniature that reminds them of each form of communication.


I generally have my miniatures all set up for this activity so that my kiddos can really compare and contrast the miniatures when making their decision.



First, have the child pick out a miniature to represent aggressive communication. Ask the child what made them pick out that miniature. Inquire what about the miniature reminded the child of aggressive communication.



Then, move on to passive communication. Explore the child’s reasoning for picking that particular miniature and what made them think of passive communication.



Finally, have the child choose a miniature to represent assertive communication. Just like aggressive and passive communication, ask the kiddo why they picked the miniature and what reminded them of assertive communication.



As a child therapist, reflect on your own observations on what miniatures your client chose, how they made their choices, and if their choices generally align with the various forms of communication.


This intervention has been a hit for me in both individual and group therapy.


I hope it helps you in teaching your clients more about the various communication strategies and why it is important to be an assertive communicator most of the time (because when the Bills are on, I am ONLY an aggressive communicator.....and that's OK!)


Until next time, play on!











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