A simple play therapy intervention for children with impulsive behaviors can be played with a traditional deck of playing cards. For years, I thought that everyone knew about this game. I’m sure many of you are familiar. I have been surprised at the number of children (and adults) that have never heard of it or played it. The game is called Slap Jack.
Slap Jack Rules:
How Slap Jack Helps Impulsive Kids
In addition to the basic benefits, the sensory experience of slapping the card and the sound that it makes increases the fun level and engages the entire body. The game can be played fast or slow and can be completed easily in a regular play therapy session.
Blended with Child Centered Principles
Since this is a structured activity, it doesn’t really meet the criteria for child-centered play therapy. However, like any directive activity, you can always infuse some child centered reflections throughout the game. You could reflect things like:
It Becomes a Family Play Therapy Technique
This game is so easy to learn and play that kids can then teach their parents or siblings. You can use it with multiple kids in a group setting or in a family session. (You would just divide the cards by the number of people). You just might need more than one deck of cards if you play with more people.
Treatment Plan: Goals and Documentation
You can tie this intervention into a treatment plan for children with ADHD with very simple documentation. You treatment plan might say,
Slap Jack addresses all of those concerns because you can notice how many prompts the child needs to follow the directions, remain on task with the game, slaps a card that is not a Jack) and then note the change over time. Your progress note might say something like,
Finally, as with any game, this is an opportunity to build rapport with the child and you can talk about a variety of other topics (school, home, hobbies, friends) while you are playing and it gives the child a chance to talk without feeling pressured to discuss specific behaviors.
Jennifer Taylor is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Registered Play Therapist (RPT) specializing in individual, group , and family therapy with a speciality in Play Therapy. She is certified in TF-CBT (Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). She maintains a private practice in Cordova, TN that serves Memphis and all surrounding areas (Germantown, Collierville, Bartlett, Arlington, Millington, and Olive Branch, MS). Jennifer has 15 years experience as a social worker and has worked primarily in the child welfare field. In addition to being a prominent relationship therapist, Jennifer has presented at National conferences and to general audiences speaking on the topics of Play Therapy. She currently works as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Memphis and the University of West Florida teaching graduate level play therapy courses. Jennifer is an active member of the Association for Play Therapy and a graduate of the Play Therapy Leadership Program
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