Sunshine Circles


Theraplay® is a child and family modality of play therapy for building and enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and joyful engagement. Sunshine Circles adapts this play-based modality from a dyadic parent child intervention to a group format for schools focused on the development of healthy peer relationships. Sunshine Circles are adult-directed, structured play therapy-based groups that incorporates playful, cooperative, and nurturing activities that enhance the emotional well-being of children. Unlike other play therapy-based group approaches, Theraplay learning takes place on a non-verbal level. Instead of talking about positive social behavior, the group leaders and children DO positive social interaction. Gradually, positive messages from the groups become a part of the child’s internal sense of himself. This training is for professionals who want to use Theraplay in classrooms.

Children generally embrace the three rules of Sunshine Circles… No Hurts, Stick Together and Have Fun!… and carry them with them throughout the day. Sunshine Circles can very quickly and dramatically improve the quality of the classroom and provide teachers with resources to maintain an emotionally positive and cognitively enriched environment.

Prerequisite: Work in a classroom setting
CEs: 13 (for Social Workers & Counselors)

Upcoming Training

  • Create an atmosphere that is warm, nurturing, engaging and challenging
  • Meet the basic needs of children so they can be freed emotionally to explore their world
  • Promote warm relationships between children and adults and friendships among peers
  • Engage hard-to-reach children
  • Bring fun and exuberance into the lives of children
  • Place emphasis on cooperating between children
  • Encourage children to learn and practice self-control
  • Enhance trust of others through concrete, personal and positive experiences
  • Help children with regulatory disorders and tactile issues
  • Simultaneously address cognitive, social and emotional development

  • Describe the four Dimensions of Theraplay, a modality of play therapy
  • Apply Theraplay principles to group play therapy treatment in a school setting
  • Develop skills in using the group rules and group play therapy techniques in a school setting through practice
  • Demonstrate how to adapt the use of group Theraplay with various populations
  • Describe how nurturing and regulating physical connection can assist a child to feel calm and more organized in a group play therapy setting
  • Describe three techniques for managing resistance and problem situations in play therapy groups
  • List a variety of materials and activities that are appropriate for the group Theraplay, a modality of play therapy
  • List three strategies for incorporating Theraplay in daily interactions with children in the classroom
  • Interpret negative classroom behaviors through a trauma-focused lens

A study in Midwest Head Start classrooms was completed in 2014, with 206 preschool children. Results for children in the Sunshine Circles groups were significantly stronger than for their peers in a control group across multiple academic and social/emotional domains. The article was published in the October 2017 issue of The International Journal of Play Therapy

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