How playing can help our children’s well-being

About Aoife Gallagher

Aoife Gallagher is the Lead Play Worker and Acting Children’s Programme Lead at SEN Talk. She manages and leads the three after school clubs and is working on a mentoring programme which will incorporate methods of play and art therapy, social and emotional development skills and mindfulness. She has a background in teaching through play and drama, art, youth work and rehabilitative therapy such as art, music, movement and equine therapy. She is concluding her foundation studies in Play Therapy at the University of Roehampton and will follow this with the Masters In a Play Therapy this coming September.

Aoife is also a published children’s book illustrator and has recently launched her collaborative book ‘Colours And You’ which is available on Amazon. The book revolves around the mental well-being of children and its importance and is now in schools, homes and centres helping children with their emotions in Ireland, the UK and beyond.


“play is a child’s language and toys are the words”-Garry L. Landreth

Play Therapy is a way of helping children to better express their feelings and deal with their emotions, it can also be a way for children to work through trauma, difficulties and Communicate them to others in a safe, non-invasive way. A Play Therapist is a trained and fully qualified therapist who works one to one with a child, in a Play room privately or in a school environment. The play Therapist will provide the tools and materials and gives the child free reign to play. Play Therapy is Child-led, with the interest and well-being of the child at its center . It is the most effective form of therapy for children and can be enlightening and cathartic for the child with many benefits.

The Benefits Of Play

  • Play helps a child socially, emotionally, mentally, physically and creatively.
  • It can help with problem solving, working through difficulties and trauma in a safe way, as well as dealing with the child’s emotions in a safe space without judgement or expectation from adults.
  • Play helps to make learning concrete as it’s fun and more appealing to children, resulting in a happy learner.
  • It allows children with language development delay or difficulty with communication to express themselves more confidently in their own way, it is a therapy that doesn’t need to involve words.
  • Play can be a powerful way to work through issues such as bullying, challenges inside and outside of school or conflicts in their everyday lives, as well as issues at home. Play gives children the toolkit for life and all it throws at them.
  • It reduces anxiety, raises self-esteem, creates resilience, positive changes in behaviour, can improve relationships with others and most importantly allows children to understand and manage their emotions in a healthy way.
  • Play can be especially effective for children with SEND such as ASD and ADHD as it is interest – led, at their own pace, can be non-verbal, has structure and consistency and doesn’t involve the typical pressures of society or them ‘fitting into a box’.
  • Play Therapy uses a large range of toys, art materials , clay, sand, puppets, props, costumes, sensory toys- so there’s something for everyone!

SEN Talk And Play Therapy

At SEN Talk, we use the same child-centered approach and place the child’s well-being at the heart of what we do. Much like play therapy, our after school clubs supply the interest-led tools and materials in a calm, non-judgmental environment and adopt the same child led approach. Our brick club uses LEGO(R)- based therapy to support the children’s emotional and social well-being and proves to be very effective and the children love it. It is so important for children who are usually isolated from others, struggle with so many areas of childhood and society’s expectations and with their own feelings and self-regulation to have play. I myself have witnessed first hand the benefits and amazing progress of the magical therapy of play.