Including Animals in Play Therapy with Young Children and Families

  • Risë VanFleet
  • Tracie Faa-Thompson
Part of the Educating the Young Child book series (EDYC, volume 8)


Developmental research has clearly established the importance of animals for children. Young children are drawn to animal stories, animal toys, animal videos, and live animals. Animal-Assisted Play Therapy, which integrates Animal-Assisted Therapy with play therapy for children, capitalizes on this interest in order to help children with a wide range of social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties. As children develop mutually trusting and satisfying relationships with animal therapy partners through the use of playful interactions, they begin to recognize and respond to the emotions, desires, and choices of the animals with more understanding and empathy. This process is particularly valuable for young children as it is built not on verbal communication but on the natural language of play. Play has the potential to strengthen bonds and permit children to try new behaviors without repercussion, and the safety that is inherent in the Animal-Assisted Play Therapy process leads to more humane attitudes and ways of being with nonhuman and human animals alike (note that the term “animals” in this chapter refers to nonhuman animals). An explanation of the approach and its principles is followed by brief descriptions of its goals and methods. Case examples are included to illustrate; all identifying information in these examples has been changed to protect child and family privacy.


Animal Assisted Play Therapy Animal Assisted Therapy Play therapy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Playful Pooch ProgramFamily Enhancement & Play Therapy CenterBoiling SpringsUSA
  2. 2.Turn About PegasusLowickUK

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