Using the Sand Tray to Detect Family Roles

My Play Therapy Page

Here’s another interesting article submitted by reader Martha Nodar on the subject of sand tray therapy. Ms. Nodar earned a gift certificate to for her submission. Learn how you can do the same!

Bradshaw (1988) argues families are systems with systemic needs which are typically fulfilled, mostly unconsciously, by family members. These family members may become unwitting participants drawn into the family drama. In dysfunctional families triangles are common because they serve the purpose of providing a relief to the drama. In such cases, children and adolescents may unconsciously adopt roles within their family in order to survive their environment and help bring some balance to the scene. For instance, a so-called difficult child may be unconsciously acting-out the unspoken tensions within the parental dyad (Kerr & Bowen, 1988). Fairy tales have a way of representing these family dynamics in a way that is both nonthreatening and entertaining. Sandtray…

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Creating Labyrinths In The Sand

My Play Therapy Page

Here’s another great intervention idea submitted by reader Martha Nodar. Ms. Nodar earned a gift certificate to for her submission. Learn how you can do the same!

A respite to a world saturated in technology, the labyrinth offers a chance to literally stop and listen to one’s inner voice. Whether walking the labyrinth, building one in the sand, or drawing it in a piece of paper, the action requires concentration on the task at hand, which may be a welcome relief. Labyrinth scholars suggest we begin walking or building a labyrinth with the intention of gaining self-knowledge, but not to expect an answer. Rather than begin the journey with an expectation, they encourage us to embrace and honor the entire experience. Based on the idea that most, if not all children enjoy connecting the dots, the activity featured above lends itself to tapping into a child’s creative imagination. Chances…

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DIY Travel Sand Tray

DIY Travel Sand Tray


One of my favorite expressive arts mediums is the sandtray.

I can’t say enough how much I love sand tray therapy.

  • It’s a sensory activity, meaning it engages our senses while we play.
  • It is a creative outlet for the inner workings of our mind.
  • It is a container for learning more about ourselves, our story, our feelings.
  • It is just downright magical to witness clients engage with the sandtray.

When I’m at the office, I have a large container filled with kinetic sand. (Kinetic sand is super cool. Definitely a must-have in my social work toolbox!) One problem though: most of the time I am in the field (school or community) for my social work. I obviously can’t bring this large container with me to schools or the community–but I really wanted to use this intervention with some of my field-based clients. This is why I created my own travel sandtray.

Plastic pencil case
Sand (There are so many different sand you can use! Click here to read about all the options!)
Items to accompany, such as rocks and mini figurines

**Alternatively, you can purchase this storage container from Target. You will see that it is two boxes in one–which could allow for easy storage of the sand and the rocks/mini figurines.

Creation Process
1.) Open your plastic pencil case. Pour sand into it. That’s it. Really.


You don’t want to overfill it. In mine, I filled it about half way up. Also, mine has play sand in it.

2.) Choose a small variety of rocks or mini figurines. I prefer to bring rocks I collected at my favorite beach in California.


When traveling, I keep the rocks separate with a ziploc baggie or fabric pencil case.

3.) You’re ready for sandplay interventions in the field!



Here are some helpful resources for sandplay therapy interventions that I use frequently: