My Journey as a Play Therapist | Nancy Soliz

A Sneak Peek at the NEW Play Therapy Room

By Nancy Soliz

There is nothing more fun and livelier than a child engaged in play.  As many of us do, I first found my love for play as a child.  I grew up on a farm and there was never a shortage of nature, mud, and land to get lost in the fantasy of a professional chef, a potions maker, or just a wonderer exploring the vast outdoors.  But making good use of my imagination wasn’t limited to the outdoors.  I also found solace in my room playing with my toys.  As an 80s kid, I have to admit Cabbage Patch Dolls, Popples, and My Little Ponies were the most beloved of my collection.  Looking back, this play gave me the chance to explore my place in the world, practice real world scenarios, and even act out relationship patterns both observed and imagined.

It was no wonder when I was first exposed to play therapy as a new clinician, I was hooked!  It seemed so simple that instead of using talk to engage children in therapy that we would use the natural medium by which all children across the world express themselves – play.  

“In play therapy, toys are like the child’s words and play is the child’s language.”

Dr. Garry Landreth

In order to become a Registered Play Therapist (RPT), I completed 150 hours of play therapy training in addition to play therapy specific supervision by a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor while I was completing my master’s program in marriage and family therapy.   When I moved back to the OKC metro  in 2008, there was only one RPT in the area.  There are now over 30! How cool is that?!  It has been exciting for me to help increase the number of skilled play therapists through supervision and training via the Oklahoma Play Therapy Training Institute that I founded and operate with another play therapist in the area, Lea May.  I also have continued my own training by becoming the first Certified Theraplay® Practitioner in the state of Oklahoma, and incorporating EMDR* with play therapy.  As a clinician, I always want to continue to grow and learn.  

“Enter into children’s play and you will find the place where their minds, hearts, and souls meet.”

Virginia Axline

My newest endeavor has been to remodel my play therapy space at my private practice at Family Solutions Counseling.  A play therapy room is unique because the toys and space are all carefully selected to ignite a child’s free play and creativity.  Rise Van Fleet, et. Al (2012) in the book “Child-Centered Play Therapy” gives a very succinct list of the categories of toys and their purpose:

1. Nurturing/Family Toys

Purpose: Build and explore relationships

Dolls, baby bottles, blankets, diapers, doll house (furniture and doll family), puppet family (people and/or animals), miniatures, kitchen set (food, dishes, etc.), doctor’s kit.

2.  Fantasy/Pretend Toys

Purpose: Express feelings, and play out roles/scenarios

Dress-up clothes/hats, costume jewelry, puppets, miniatures, mirror, masks, play money, magic wand, vehicles (cars, trucks, rescue vehicles, planes), doctor’s kit, communication toys (phone, microphone, mailbox, etc.)

3.  Expressive and Construction Toys

Purpose: Express feelings, mastery, problem solving and creativity

Arts supplies (markers, crayons, paint, paper, etc.), craft supplies (stickers, pipe cleaners, beads, popsicle sticks, tape), water, play dough, clay, building blocks, legos, cardboard bricks.

4.  Acting Out/Aggressive Release Toys

Purpose: Expression, processing and mastery of fear and anger; Control

Monsters and villains, heroes, plastic soldiers, dinosaurs, spiders, snakes, aggressive looking puppets and miniatures (ex. dragons, animals with teeth showing, etc.), rope, handcuffs, bop bag, toy guns/knives, dart gun.

5. Movement and Motion Toys

Purpose: Mastery, emotional outlet, and self-regulation.

Balls, basketball/hoop, bubbles, ring toss, bean bags, target games, jump rope, hula hoop, music.

These toys then give the opportunity for the play therapist with the child to explore their world, experiences, and feelings.  In the before/after pictures of the play room, you will be able to see all of these categories of toys.  If you are interested in finding out more information about play therapy, I invite you to check out the Association for Play Therapy website at or contact me at Family Solutions Counseling.

Nancy Rumley Soliz, MS, LMFT, RPT-S
Certified EMDR Clinician
Certified Theraplay® Practitioner
(405) 242-5305

*EMDR-Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a research-based treatment for trauma among other psychological issues.