Group Therapy Activities for Kids and Teens (2024)

Whether a child struggles to focus in class or needs to improve their social skills, group therapy activities for kids and group counseling activities for children and teens can help address many issues simply by joining kids together to accomplish shared tasks.

I’ve witnessed first-hand the power of play therapy and group therapy activities for kids and teens, through years of working at a psychiatric hospital.
The majority of these observations came while I was leading children and adolescent groups in the outpatient and inpatient departments.

Working with child therapy clients is incredibly rewarding. Kids and teens who are depressed can increase their optimism and reduce social isolation.

Those who are anxious can build self-confidence and improve stress management.

Those who are angry can develop patience and practice healthy communication.

And, those who have post-traumatic stress can add to their support systems, while lowering avoidance and hypervigilance behaviors.

Organizing Group Counseling Activities for Kids and Teens

These group counseling activities are appropriate for school-aged children and teens and can be used to address socialization issues in the classroom or at home.

I’ve found that group therapy activities for kids are most appropriate for clients who are at a developmental level of at least age 5 and who are low-risk (i.e. no self-harm behavior, suicidal thoughts, violence, or hallucinations).

Groups should be organized based on the ages of members and type of presenting problem involved. For instance, my groups at the hospital were divided into three groups: children ages 5-10, pre-teens ages 11-14, and teenagers ages 15-17.

The focus of these groups is for kids and teens to learn healthy coping skills to help them better deal with stressful situations.

Listed below are group therapy activities for kids you can use in your own practice.

Group Therapy Activities for Teens (Ages 11-17)

1. Scribble Drawings

Give every teen one piece of paper and marker. Direct them to scribble in one continuous motion once you say, “Go!”

Wait several seconds, then tell everyone to stop and pass their paper to the person on their left.

Give the teens ten minutes to use colored pencils to make a picture out of the scribble.

Once time is up, take turns letting each teen display their paper with the marker scribble, and explain what they chose to make out of it.

Emphasize the connection between what the teens did (making something out of nothing) to real-life challenges, like tension between friends, emotionally/physically absent parents, and poor grades.

2. Low-Budget Fashion Show

Divide the teens into teams with at least 3 people in each group. Provide each team with the same assortment of simple items, such as magazines, newspapers, packing tape, scissors, cardboard, and yarn. Instruct them to choose one teen to be the “model” and the others to be the “outfitters.”

Give them 30 minutes to create an original outfit (teams may spread out as space allows). Once the time limit is reached, tell all the “models” to remain outside the room while everyone else is seated.

Play music through your phone as you direct the “models” down the runway.
After the show ends, ask each team to share what their experience was like. Ask the “models” and “outfitters” what each thought of their role.

Process with the teens how much value they put on outside appearance, and how much influence is given by their peers.

3. Tree Rings

Explain how we can know how old a tree is by counting the rings inside its trunk. Emphasize there is much we can learn about a person based on the experiences in their years.

Give each teen a marker to draw the number of concentric circles to match their age. Tell them to write their birthdate in the center circle, then add memorable events to each following ring.

Note that these events can be positive or negative, since our lives are not composed entirely of one or the other.

Once everyone is finished, ask for volunteers to share their circles with the group. Remind teens they’ll be able to add rings as they age, and ask what events they’d like to see happen in the upcoming years.

Motivational Group Therapy Activities (Ages 5-17)

1. Toilet Paper Affirmations

Tell group members to sit in a circle while you pull out a fresh roll of toilet paper.

Make sure the toilet paper is perforated so it can be torn into individual squares.

Explain that the roll will be used for a game, and instruct group members to pass it around the circle, tearing off as much as they want.

Once the roll returns to you, tell the group that just like toilet paper is used to “clean-up,” we all need to clear our minds of the negative stuff that piles up.

Direct members to count the number of toilet paper squares they have. Tell them this is the number of positive comments they’ll need to share with the group, whether complimenting other people or noting good things about themselves.

Pass a clean bag around as each member shares their positive comments, telling them to drop each square in as they do.

Explain that with each positive comment there is a mental “cleaning up” that is taking place.

2. Superhero Creations

Download a blank superhero image and print enough copies for everyone.

Tell members to use colored markers and pencils to create a superhero with special powers.

Give them 20 minutes to complete the pictures before asking for volunteers to share with the group.

Note which superheroes have “good” or “evil” powers, and whether or not they help people.

Process with the group what makes superheroes special, if they consider anyone in their life to be a superhero, and how they can be a superhero to others.

3. Self-Portrait Compliments

Tell group members to draw a self-portrait on a blank piece of paper and to include their name at the bottom.

Once finished, direct them to write five words that describe themselves somewhere inside the image.

Help members tape their self-portraits to a wall.

Provide everyone with the same color pen and tell them to write one positive word on every other person’s picture.

Gather the group into a circle and discuss what it was like to read compliments from the other members.

Compare what members wrote about themselves to what their fellow group members wrote about them.

Fun Group Therapy Activities (Ages 10-17)

1. Paper House Making

Provide scissors, tape, and coloring supplies. Give each member a blank sheet of computer paper.

Explain that what happens in our homes can provide support or stress that we take when we leave our homes.

Direct the group in making paper houses.

Tell the group to decorate their house using the supplies available, based on the level of support or stress in their home.
Take note of the finished products of each group member, and ask for volunteers to share their house with the group.

Ask members how they can lower the stress they feel at home, or increase the support they feel there. Ask members what they want to do differently when they have their own homes, or how they can help others who have stressful home lives.

2. All Wrapped Up

Tell the group there are some things in life we can control and some we can’t. When we focus on what we can’t control, we become stressed, depressed, anxious, or angry.

Explain how the group activity will focus on control.

Divide the group into teams with at least three people in each one. Provide each team with the same items: wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, tape, and scissors.

Direct the teams to each choose one member to be “wrapped up” and the others to be “wrappers.”

Give the teams 30 minutes to use their supplies as creatively as possible to wrap up the one member.

Once time is up, direct all teams to evaluate their work.

Next, instruct the “wrapped up” members to break out of their wrappings.

Process with the group what it felt like to be “wrapped up,” and connect this experience to what it feels like to be out of control.

Discuss with the group what it was like to “wrap,” or be in control of the situation.

3. Emotion Catchers

Provide coloring supplies (colored pencils, crayons, markers) and give each member an Emotion Catcher sheet.

Tell the group that coping skills are actions we take to relieve stress. These can be good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, depending on our resources and willingness to use them.

Review good coping skills (i.e., taking a walk, playing with a pet, eating healthy). Lead members in coloring each corner of the Emotion Catcher a different color, then cutting out and folding the Catcher.

Ask one member to demonstrate using the Catcher with you.

Here’s what you do to use the Catcher:

Put both your index fingers and thumbs into the paper pockets. Ask the group member to pick a color, and then you spell aloud the color’s name while opening and closing the Catcher. Ask the member to pick a number (from inside the Catcher). Then, you count aloud while opening and closing the Catcher. Finally, ask the member to pick a new number, and you lift the flap and read aloud the coping skill inside.

Ask the group who among them will use that coping skill, and how they can apply it today.

Give time for members to use their Catchers with each other, and discuss plans for using the healthy coping skills.

Virtual Group Therapy Activities (Ages 5-17)

1. Remote Show-and-Tell

Explain to the group how each person is unique, with different likes, strengths, and experiences.

Ask members to choose five items from the room they are currently in to “show-and-tell” with the group.

Allow five minutes for item selection, then group members take turns sharing their items with the group.
Note any similarities between group members when they’re presented, in order to improve group cohesion and participation.

2. Scavenger Hunt

Make a list of five items for group members to find (i.e. something red, something that starts with the letter “T,” something soft, something shiny, and something to wear).

Read the list to the group, then give them five minutes to find one of each item.

When members return to their screens, direct them to each share with the group which items they found.

Build community among group members by noting when similar items are introduced.

3. Dance-Off

This activity is best used with ages 5-10, but it can be attempted with ages 11-13.

Tell the group that movement helps both our bodies and minds by energizing us. Share with the group how movement paired with music is a doubly strong coping skill because dancing takes our minds off our problems and fuels us with energy.

Ensure that all members can hear the music played from your room (an independent speaker may be needed, such as a tablet or cellphone) and challenge them to a dance-off.

Direct the group to stand up wherever they are and begin moving to the music.

Play two-to-three songs before processing with the group how they felt before, during, and after the dance-off.

Emphasize the ability of group members to use dancing as a healthy coping skill.

In Closing

I hope you found this list of group therapy activities for kids and teens helpful. As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, in my experience, group counseling activities can be hugely beneficial to kids and teens of all ages.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at SimplePractice, and share your experiences with using group therapy activities for kids in your practice.

How SimplePractice Streamlines Running Your Practice

SimplePractice is HIPAA-compliant practice management software with booking, billing, and everything you need built into the platform.

If you’ve been considering switching to an EHR system, SimplePractice empowers you to run a fully paperless practice—so you get more time for the things that matter most to you.

Try SimplePractice free for 30 days. No credit card required.

READ NEXT: 5 Benefits to Working With Child Therapy Clients

Group Therapy Activities for Kids and Teens (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Eusebia Nader

Last Updated:

Views: 5970

Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Eusebia Nader

Birthday: 1994-11-11

Address: Apt. 721 977 Ebert Meadows, Jereville, GA 73618-6603

Phone: +2316203969400

Job: International Farming Consultant

Hobby: Reading, Photography, Shooting, Singing, Magic, Kayaking, Mushroom hunting

Introduction: My name is Eusebia Nader, I am a encouraging, brainy, lively, nice, famous, healthy, clever person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.