Toys and Materials

"Toys and materials should be selected, not collected."

 (Landreth, 2002, p. 133)


The toys and materials are the medium in which children in play therapy express themselves. These therapeutically selected items serve an important role in play therapy and should be chosen based on sound rationale.

Below are general guidelines to follow when selecting playroom items.

  • Toys should provide variety in choice of expression
  • Toys should be durable
  • Toys should not be complex
  • Toys should allow reality testing of limits
  • Toys should allow development of positive self-image as well as self-control

Toys and materials can have an effect on the type and amount of expression and interaction with the therapist. Selection of the toys should be done with attention to the impact they will have on growth of the child.  Dr. Garry Landreth in his textbook, Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship, touches on three broad toy categories.

    Real-Life Toys: This category consists of toys that are directly representative of real-world items including doll families, dollhouse, puppets, cars, boats, airplanes, cash register, and play money among other things. 

     Aggressive-Release Toys: This toy grouping allows for the release of emotions that are typically not allowed to be expressed in other settings and includes Bobo or the bop bag, toy soldiers, rubber knives, and toy guns (that purposely do not look realistic). Less obvious, but still important are egg cartoons and Popsicle sticks that can be physically broken down and destroyed.

    Creative Expression Toys: This category contains toys that allow for creativity. Paints, butcher paper and an easel, crayons, sand, water, and instruments. Depending on the setting of the playroom, some of these items may need to be replaced with an alternative item.

View Recommended Toys and Materials for the Playroom

View a list of Toy Vendors where we purchase many of our playroom toys.


Material adapted from Landreth, G. L. (2002). Play therapy: The art of the relationship. (2nd ed.). New York: Brunner-Routledge.