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12 Creative Ways to Use Sand Tray Therapy, In-Person and in Telehealth

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

Check out these fun, effective, and affordable ways to use sand tray therapy in-person and via telehealth.

Image of a sample small sand tray therapy setup. Sand tray therapy is a flexible method for use with kids and adults.

Some might say sand tray therapy was one of the greatest inventions in play therapy, if not therapy period. It offers endless options for role play, Jungian therapy, child and teen therapy, and even adult and couples therapy.

Sand tray therapy is an umbrella term for therapy techniques that use a tabletop sandbox and miniature figures that clients can arrange into patterns and scenes. The miniatures, meant to be symbolic, allow children, as well as adults, to express themselves visually.

If you’re new to sand tray, or have used it for years, this list can help inspire you to make more use of this versatile tool. Along with therapeutic techniques, options are included for more affordable tray options, hygienic alternatives to the traditional setup, and even a teletherapy adaptation!

Article Highlights

Why sand tray?

Background of sand tray therapy and sandplay

Ideas for sand tray therapy

Paper sand tray miniatures

Sand tray therapy via telehealth

How to set up a home sand tray

Infographic of sand tray miniature kit you can print and use at home or with individual clients.

Why Sand Tray?

I used to keep a gratuitously large tabletop sand tray in my therapy office. A one-year-old could have crawled up there and used it as a regular sandbox, with a bucket and pail and all.

Despite its size (I included a pic below!) you’d think it would have attracted my younger clients, up to age 10 or so, the most.

I was surprised to find that it wasn’t necessarily the younger kids who liked it the best. It was my teenagers who would make a beeline for it every session.

It seemed to take the pressure off of face-to-face conversations. We often discussed boys, parents, and sometimes even trauma while they created their own worlds and watched the sand fall between their fingers.

Then you-know-what hit, and like many therapists I closed my office and went entirely to telehealth. By that time I wasn’t doing as much work with kids, but I’ve still regretted not being able to do as much play and sand tray work via Zoom and such.

For over a year, I tried to figure out how sand tray could be done via telehealth. I’ve finally found an option in cheap and easy home trays and paper miniatures, which you can learn more about here. Otherwise, keep reading for more on this idea, along with others!

A sample large sand tray therapy image with miniatures and a large world scene.