The Importance of Play and Fun in Recreation Therapy

By Marcus Ware, CTRS, Recreation Supervisor, Alden Village

The American Therapeutic Recreation Association defines Recreational Therapy as “a treatment service designed to restore, remediate and rehabilitate a person’s level of functioning and independence in life activities, to promote health and wellness as well as reduce or eliminate the activity limitations and restrictions to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disabling condition.” At Alden, we take it a step further and make Recreational Therapy FUN!

Recreation Therapy incorporates play into residents’ therapy sessions and provides individuals with an opportunity to take part in something they enjoy while working toward cognitive, social, emotional and physical goals. Recreation Therapy has become very important in the field of health care because it benefits everyone and because of its unique ability to incorporate any past or present interests of an individual into daily therapy. When therapy is enjoyable and fun, it is much more effective. We like to think of Recreation Therapy as the therapeutic equivalent of making a fruit smoothie with hidden spinach in it to boost the nutritional value. The value of Recreation Therapy is like the nutritive value of spinach in a fruit smoothie in that it’s hidden by something enjoyable. When participating in Recreation Therapy, an individual is often having so much fun, they don’t even realize that they are improving their physical, cognitive, emotional and social skills. While having fun, they develop skills, knowledge and behaviors that allow them to achieve their maximum level of functioning. Because the focus is placed on having fun, residents do not pay attention to the fact that what they are doing is work with goals and expectations.

How can you incorporate Recreation Therapy, fun and play into the life of someone you care about?

The first step is to figure out what types of activities the individual enjoys. If an individual enjoys watching sports on television, it may be empowering for that individual to join their local special recreation association and play on a team. Did you know that essentially every sport can be modified to accommodate any level of functioning? While participating in an adaptive sport would be extremely fun, this type of Recreation Therapy would also assist in improving confidence, building social skills and increasing the physical strength of the individual as well. If an individual enjoys arts and crafts, you may want to do some research to find craft projects of all difficulty levels that the individual is capable of doing either independently, or with assistance. This type of Recreation Therapy allows an individual to have fun, while providing the  opportunity for creative and emotional expression, and depending on the craft project, could also help improve their fine and gross motor skills  Even playing your favorite board game with someone can help develop social skills, turn taking abilities, critical thinking skills and their ability to control emotion and mood

Making a difference in the lives of others one day at a time is a goal we as Recreational Therapists work to achieve every day  at Alden. You too can make a difference in the life of someone you care about by incorporating fun, play and recreation therapy into their daily life

For more information about Recreation Therapy or to learn more about how you can volunteer to help incorporate fun and play into the lives of our residents, please contact Marcus Ware, CTRS, at 630-529-3350.

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