Games are wonderful to use in therapy, especially with kids! I utilize a number of games in therapy sessions, both therapeutic and “non-therapeutic,” the difference being what their intent and purpose was when the game makers created them. “Non-therapeutic” games are those that you can find at your local department store and find in the game aisle, like Scrabble, Monopoly, and Battleship. In my experience, ANY game, regardless of its intent during creation, can be therapeutic. I’ve taken many, many “non-therapeutic” games and turned them into awesome therapeutic interventions in therapy. The results are always amazing. Kids love that they’re playing a game, and they don’t even mind that I may have changed it up a little. My next few posts will be about some of my most favorite “non-therapeutic” games to play in therapy.
Jenga is a gem! I have used Jenga hundreds of times as a therapeutic intervention. The game can be used in so many ways and with practically any topic you think of. Additionally, I’ve found that I can use Jenga with any age group: children, adolescents, and even adults!
When I first started using Jenga, I would write various tasks and questions based on the skill I was trying to teach on the individual wooden blocks. This isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but it didn’t take long before I had spent a small fortune on Jenga games. If you walk into my office, you’ll find several Jenga games, each covering different topics and for different age groups, all created before I eventually realized that it was significantly more cost effective to just purchase one Jenga game, color code the blocks with stickers or markers, and create prompt and task cards to use instead. You can create your own Therapeutic Jenga any way you wish, but if you plan to use the game for several different skill teachings, I’d advise the latter method.
Therapeutic Jenga is played by following the game’s original game instructions, regardless of what topic or skill is being taught. Simply color code your individual blocks with various colored stickers or by using different colored markers prior to play. Have color coded task/prompt and/or question cards prepared as well. During game play, a task card is drawn according to the color code on the block that is plucked from the tower. The person who picks the block is the one who answers or completes the question/prompt. Just for fun, I intentionally leave a few of the blocks blank (with no color code), which are used as free passes, meaning there’s no question/prompt to complete – the kids and teens especially love when they choose one of these!
What therapeutic skills can be taught using Therapeutic Jenga?
Among other topics, I’ve used Therapeutic Jenga for rapport building, reinforcing positive relationship skills, social skills, teaching emotion identification and expression, communication techniques, anxiety reduction, impulse control, and even to teach all ages how to dispute irrational self-talk. I’m yet to witness even one person complain about not wanting to play Therapeutic Jenga. It’s a game that is always met with an excited and receptive attitude!