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“Children are capable of healing themselves, they just need the right conditions for it”. Today we start from this quote to tell you about a new project, a set of six wooden dolls for play therapy, winner of the last Kids Design Award in Cologne.

Before going into technical and formal details, we follow the same steps of the Israeli designer who designed this toy to briefly frame the theme of play therapy; this topic is not new at all, already Plato in fact claimed that you can find out more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. However, we must wait for the beginning of the twentieth century to have practical and theoretical feedback on this therapy thanks to Melanie Klein, a woman known for her pioneering works in the field of child psychoanalysis. At the base of this therapy there’s the assumption that the patient can express fantasies, thoughts and problems through play; we’re talking about a generic ‘patient’ because, although the treatments are mainly aimed at children, they also have great benefits for adults, as demonstrated by the research and design of Awareness Toys. By observing the user’s choices during the game, the therapist can understand the patient’s needs and emotional state and act accordingly.

Even if the game therapy is conducted and recognized internationally, there’s the lack of specific tools so therapists use traditional toys. This opens up a glimpse of design that Yara Nusboim, the toy designer, has been able to exploit by inventing a product for this treatment. Alma-Therapy Dolls is a set of six wooden dolls for play therapy with a neutral but interesting shape; each character represents an emotion (fear, pain, emptiness, love, anger, security), expressed by the lines of the body in maple wood, by the textures and the colors of the 3D printed polyurethane inserts.

The doll that represents love, for example, is round, heavier than the others and with pink inserts in the shape of petals to symbolize stability, touch and care; that of anger, on the other hand, is more compact, with pointy shapes and red spines. The product development started from an experience of the designer in a boarding school for children at risk and continued with the observation and collaboration for a whole year with 7 child psychologists. The strength of these six wooden dolls for play therapy is in the abstract look of these characters which helps the child to project his/her story and emotions into the doll in front of him. The contrast of the two materials, between the hardness of the wood and the softness of the flexible parts, generates interest as well as represents the balance between positive and negative feelings.

“Toys, not words, are the language of a child; playing with a toy provides a safe psychological distance from the child’s private problems and allows them to experience thoughts and emotions in a way that’s suitable for their development.”

Yara Nusboim, toy designer

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