What Do the Tools Offer?
All feelings and experiences are to be accepted as expressed. There are no “wrong” answers. It is more important to encourage a child to speak and offer their experiences and feelings than to worry or correct their use of language.
No “put-downs”, shock, or critical response. If for example, when a child lands on the “mean” square and they actually tell about a really mean thing that they did. They should be acknowledged for their courage in sharing this kind of behaviour.
The structure of the game, and exchange of turns and movement through a whole spectrum of feelings, prevents an intense focus on a problem, feeling or situation, but allows for the problems a child feels and experiences to be expressed within a rainbow of other feelings and positive experiences.
In the Hopscotch and Play it safe games, situations are presented on the cards for which the player must identify the feeling and offer possible solutions. All solutions are to be accepted without criticism. In fact, the therapist has an opportunity to model acceptance of feeling like perhaps being violent or aggressive in response and self-reflect on more positive solutions, or even express the difficulties of a situation and not knowing how to respond and asking the child for suggestions. The goal here is to learn to brainstorm different responses to problems and to respect and believe in the child’s ability to develop more and more healthy and appropriate responses in their life by becoming more creative and able to see the possibility of alternative responses.
The natural limits of game structure and how rules are applied or adapted by children offers a safe place to explore issues of power and control and help a child to decide on the limitations they will play by.