Posted in Behavior, Emotions, Indoor Play, Social Skills, Social Story, Therapy

The symbolic meaning of toys

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.


Mother, Pediatric Nurse and a Trail Blazer for Positive Change.

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