Being a child therapist comes with a lot of stuff: art supplies, toys, sand and water tables are common tools of the trade. As with any tools, they can get pricey. While I would love to have tons of fantasy figurines, artisan puppets, and professional-grade art supplies, these are not in the budget. However, with a bit of creativity and some effort, child therapists can have an office brimming with these tools at a reasonable cost.
Plan Out Your Space:
This means, before buying supplies and toys, pause and think, “What do I need and what do I have room for?” You may be surprised at how much stuff you can pass on. What are the bare bones you need for your work? Go with that and build up. In my practice, the essentials are: a dollhouse and dolls/figurines, miniature vehicles, a selection of stuffed animals (which can double as puppets), play-doh and clay, paint and paint brushes, baby dolls, some building toys (like lego), and a sand table. Everything else, though wonderful, is the icing on the cake. Keep in mind also what your space can actually hold. I have passed some excellent deals because I simply have no room.
Dollar Stores, DIY and Second Hand (Or, Even Better…Free!)
Guess what? Your dollhouse doesn’t have to be a deluxe model with multiple rooms. A simple one from a dollar store will do nicely. You could always make one from old boxes or bookcases that you have lying around, saving money and reusing! On the topic of DIY, if you don’t feel comfortable tackling a project ask around for help. My dad’s friend teaches a carpentry class and as a project, they made my sand tray: complete with lid and rolling table (with storage!) A few gift certificates as a thank you were much more economical than buying it new.
Thrift stores, yard sales, and kijiji are treasure troves for supplies. A two-dollar palette of watercolours will work just as well in a session as a twelve dollar one, while some elbow grease and cleaner makes used items sparkly again (I highly recommend magic erasers). Additionally, a trip through the washer and dryer helps restore second hand stuffed toys to their former glory.
The best price is most definitely free! It also doesn’t hurt to tell friends and family you are on the look out for certain items, maybe they (or someone they know) are purging old toys, etc. Look around you for supplies in the recycling bin and in nature. Beach comb some seashells and rocks for your sand tray—it won’t cost you a dime and you’ll likely have fun doing it.
So You Don’t Have “It All”…Don’t Stress!
You know what the amazing thing about working with kids is? They are, by nature, creative. So, if your client NEEDS a bridge to go in the sand tray, she’ll likely find something to stand in for one (such as sheet of paper), or ask for your aid. They are only limited by their imaginations, not by your supply of tools!
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA