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The Symbolic Meaning of Toys

from Reaching Children Through Play Therapy: An Experiential Approach, by Carol Crowell Norton and Byron E. Norton.

AIRPLANE- escape, distance, speed, search, freedom, safety, protection, etc.

ANIMALS (WILD)- aggression, fear, survival, power, strength, etc.

ANIMALS (DOMESTIC)- protection, family, relations, vulnerability, compliance, dependency, etc.

BABY BOTTLE- regression, nurturing, orality, coping issues, dependency, babies, siblings, urinating, etc.

BALL- interaction, relationships, trust, re-evaluation, competition, reassurance, etc.

BINOCULARS- perspective, relationship (close/distance), surveilance, hunting, finding, searching, intimacy, self-examination, etc.

BLANKET- regression, security, protection, boundaries, etc.

BLOCKS- defenses, boundaries, construction, limits, rigidity, closure, structure, protection, barriers, vulnerability, etc.

BOATS- support, unconscious, stable/unstable, emotionality, balance, security, etc.

BOOKS- bibliotherapy, secrets, past, future, present, identity, knowledge, metaphors, etc. 

BOX- secret, known/unknown, non-content existence, hidden, control, containment, boundaries, belief, confirmation, gift, self, dignity, etc. 

BROKEN TOYS- issue, self, identity, defeat, change, compensation, ineffectual, loss, adjustment, etc. 

CAMERA- proof, validation, conformation, past, truth, evidence, change, memory, knowledge, etc.

CARS- mobility, power, escape, conflict, safety, protection, travel, defenses, family issues, etc.

CHALK/DRY BOARD- environment, world, creation, emotional expression, integration, creativity, etc.

CLAY- aggression, manipulation, creation, self-esteem, change, expression, contact, pressure, etc.

COSTUMES- relationships, communication, anonymity, fantasy, impulses, diguise, etc.

                        GLOVES- avoiding, distant, safety, control over content, etc.

                        HATS- identity, roles, expectations, fantasy, power, denial, etc.

                        MASK- relationships, communication, anonymity, fantasy, impulses, disguise, etc.

                        SUNGLASSES- hiding, avoiding, distant, safety, etc.

                        WIGS- relationships, communication, anonymity, fantasy, impulses, disguise, person, etc.

DINOSAURS- past, history, death, power, extinction, fear, conflict, survival, loss, environmental, etc.

DOCTOR'S KIT- healing, repair, respect, power, life/death, pain, body image, crisis, changing, intrusion, internal, etc.

                         SYRINGE- intrusion, violation, pain, healing, fear, impact, constant, penetration, etc.

                         STETHOSCOPE- internal feelings, unknown, undisclosed, validation, etc.

                         THERMOMETER- internal feelings, sick/ok-ness, need for help, crisis, need for change, etc.

                         BLOOD PRESSURE- internal issues, anger, calm, state of mind, internalized feelings, need for change, etc.

                         OPERATION- crisis, intervention, intrusion, action, risk, resolution, control, vulnerability, healing, etc.

DISHES/COOKING- nurturing, celebration, security, orality, attention, neglect, demands, etc.

DOLLS- self identity, regression, sibling, anatomy, competition, closeness, friendship, etc.

DOLL HOUSE- family, family interaction/attitude, environment, security. etc.

FAMILY FIGURES- authority, power, nurturing, perpetrator, protection, dependency, competition, relationship, security, acceptance, rejection, etc.

                          MALE- above issues with father, male figures, modeling, brothers, uncles, teachers, sitters, etc.

                          FEMALE-above issues with mother, female figures, modeling, sisters, aunts, teachers, sitters, etc. 

                          GIRL- self, sister, sitter, identity, image, friend, peer rlationship, social, etc.

                          BOY- self, brother, sitter, identity, image, friend, peer relationship, social, etc.

                          BABY- nurturing, sibling, competition, regression, needs, history, past. etc.

FINGER PAINTS- contact, involvement, impact, grounding, regression, security, etc.

FLASHLIGHT- control, secrecy, fear, searching, leadership, dependency, observing, scanning, etc.

GAMES- control of life, competition, success/failure, complience, empowerment, structure, resistence, change, competency, cooperation, etc.

GROOMING- self-image, self-concept, change, thoughts, validation,caring, nurturing, etc.

GUNS- aggression, control, anger, hostility, power, death, pain, intrusion, impact, protection, boundaries, etc.

KEYS- secret, control, unknown, containment, protected, boundaries, etc.

KITCHEN SET- home, nurturing, care, neglect, sibling conflict, relationship, family, respect, family process, emotional sipport, etc.

KNIFE- utensil, aggression, power, defense, protection, intrusion, sexual, pain, etc.

LIGHTS-  control, power, secret, escape, hiding, denial, change, misery, etc.

MAGIC WAND/CRYSTAL BALL- fantasy, wishes, gaols, desire, future, etc.

MIRROR- self-image, self-concept, memories, past, change, thoughts, validation, etc.

MODELS- consistency, completion, motivation, focus, persistence, goal, validation, etc.

MONEY/POKER CHIPS- security, power, control, loss, cheated, etc.

MONSTER FIGURE- fear, mysterious, frightening, unknown, friendly, secretive, power, ambivalence, fantasy,

aggression, conflict, perpetration, relationship, revenge, attack, etc.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS-  self-expression, internal, communication, creativity, contact, etc.

PAINTS- distance, expression, inaccessable needs, environment, attitude, view of the world, etc.

PILLOW- bed, safety, territory, throne, parent, monster, aggression, relaxation, burden, etc.

PLAYING CARDS- money, control, power, secrets, spontaneity, etc.

PUPPETS- relationships, communication, anonymity, fantasy, impulses, disguise, etc.

PUZZLES- problem solving, decisions, completion, accomplishment, integration, solving, getting-the-picture, getting-it-together, etc.

SAND- construction, destruction, environment, community, fellings, change, emotional world, creativity, etc.

SAND BOTTOM BOP BAG- aggression, conflict, perpetrator, power, relationship, revenge, etc.

SHARK- aggression, fear, perpetrator, powerful, etc.

SOLDIERS- conflict, attack, aggression, force, life/death, struggling, people, grouping, etc.

SPACE (BOX, TENT, HOUSE)- hidden, be and not be, shame/respect, distance/contact, acceptance, trust, boundaries, etc.

SWORD- aggression, distance, conflict, defense, protection, intrution, power, etc.

TAPE RECORDER- self, relationship, evidence, existence, validation, reassurance, consistancy, control, observation, confirmation, etc.

TARGETS- self-confidence, goal setting, appropriateness, need for success, expectations, fear of failure, competition, adjusting, adaptability, etc.

TEDDY BEAR- warmth, nurturing, security, companionship, self, protection, etc.

TELEPHONE- communication, distance, safety, control, power, disconnect, etc.

TINKERTOYS/LEGOS- structure, construction, completion, closure, goal attainment, etc.

TOOLS- resources, change, impact, construction, security, authority, confidence, problem-solving, decisions, etc.

WATER- emotionality, flexibility, freedom, enuresis, anxiety, orality, sadness, depth, internal, regression, primitive, unconscious, etc.

Toys in green are basic toys to have in the a playroom.

Permission to provide this information has been given by it's authors Dr. Byron Norton Ed.D and Dr. Carol Norton Ed.D.  Visit their website at for more information on upcoming workshops and presentations.  Visit to purchase Reaching Children Through Play Therapy: An Experiential Approach, by Carol Crowell Norton and Byron E. Norton.

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