Using Sand and Therapeutic Play Skills to Work Safely with Children

As the world tries to recover from the Covid19 pandemic and we struggle to come to terms with the changes that have been wrought here in the UK, and will continue to into the future, there will be many people left feeling at the least frayed around the edges and in many cases left in dire circumstances. Our children will not only have to come to terms with the strange situation they have experienced and the ensuing anxiety created but will have to face the future with a great deal of resilience and strength.

Teachers will be expected to help the children in their care catch up academically as well as support their mental health. Before the pandemic this was already becoming an ever increasing problem but now many more children will be needing support. At the moment there has been no announcement from Government that there will be funds to help with this.

I am a Certified Play Therapist and am starkly aware that even if the funding was available and there were many more trained play therapists, this would not be enough to support all the children who need it. I have lost work in one of the schools I work in because they can no longer afford my services and probably don't have the space for me to set up a play room. So I have been trying to think of another way of working and at the same time be able to support more children.

In my previous life I was a community artist for 20 years. I have always loved drawing out and encouraging creativity in people. I have worked with children, young people, adults and with elderly people living with dementia. One thing all of these people have had in common is that they all had a story to tell.Many of my workshops combined story telling with art, sculpture and playing

Humans have told stories since the dawn of time and stories have been used to pass down knowledge through the generations, to teach and entertain. Myths, legends and fables have something to tell us about our psyche, to warn us of danger, to symbolize the human condition.When people are able to tell their story be it through dance, music, art, drama or just by talking to a friend there can be a sense of relief and a degree of emotional well being to be gained.

I started my journey as a play therapist when I found out about sand play therapy and experienced the powerful effect of using symbolic figures in a tray of sand to describe my own inner world. It is so simple and yet there is much you need to understand before being able to work with others using this therapy. Since I have worked with children in the play therapy room I have witnessed profound transformation in their troubled lives when they have used the sand tray to communicate their story .When I work as a play therapist with children I am child centered and follow their lead and in this way children are able to go into the unconscious to bring to the surface past experiences and so start the process of healing.

I love the work I do and have often wondered how can I let more people know about the magic of using sand to encourage stories? With that in mind, I recently trained to become a SandStory Skills® Trainer with Lara Kasza so that I could teach anyone who works with children, young people or adults how to work safely with a sand tray and stay within their job remit. The idea is that once trained, participants will be able to encourage the people they work with to tell their story in the sand, to explore who they are and their relationships with others but at a safe level, keeping them conscious of any feelings that arise.

I am going to adapt this training for different people so that the skills can be transferred to their setting. I also know that the outdoors is so good for mental health so thought I would start by developing the training for Forest School and Beach School leaders. Obviously a Beach School would have ready access to sand and the forest could be adapted too, to become the perfect place for a child to share their personal stories with a trusted and supportive adult. I wish I could explain the amazing feeling of making a story in a sand tray but it is really only by experience that a person can feel the well being that comes from expressing your inner world.

I will be developing an online training in the next couple of months and am very excited to be able to offer this valuable tool to those working with children. I will be starting with lovely outdoor education people but hope to adapt the training to suit others such as pre-schools, primary schools, the home educating community, speech and language therapists and any other group that might be interested.

I am looking for people who may want to either train to be a Registered SandStory Skills® Practitioner soon via a live online training or in a group once we are allowed to do so. If anyone thinks this may be of use to them and the children they work with, please contact Carol via email or

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