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Play for growth

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

As a teenager I was told to put away childhood things and to be an adult. I have spent a great part of my adulthood trying to work out what it means ‘to be an adult’. I have come to the conclusion that if being an adult means I have to be deadly serious and cannot be playful then I am going to be a grow down instead of a grown up! Being an adult seems to mean not playing, not taking risks, not experimenting, not creating, not doing anything just for fun and never doing anything that is not absolutely perfect for everyone always! Well I choose to bow out of that lot and if that makes me a non-adult then so be it!

As a parent I found being playful was a great way to connect with my 5 children as individuals. I learned their likes and dislikes and I took great pleasure from just being with them in a way that was child-centred (they lead the play) and witnessing them learning to manage tasks for themselves and often in a creative fashion. Now I love the playfulness I see my grown down offspring exhibit with their own children and I get to play too; I feel my relationships with my Grandchildren are loving and healthy due to our connecting through play!

Often when we think of play we think of children and toys and perhaps some creative materials, (though these days I am not sure if children often get to create just for fun?). Play is so much more than that and through my training's as a Child and Adolescent Counsellor and a Supervisor I have experienced and witnessed the great work and changes that happen through involvement in play.

When a child plays in a session often they are story-making, perhaps the story isn’t true to life but it is for them. Often it gives them a way to show what they experienced, completely from their point of view and have someone sit alongside them and listen. Some stories are hard to hear or see and feelings are huge and unmanageable for the child but can be expressed and witnessed with a safe and containing other who can reflect and help the child to regulate their emotions and make sense of their experiences.

If I have peaked your interest and you would like to know more about the benefits of play I suggest taking a look at:

  1. Dibs in Search of Self by Virginia Axeline– this was written a number of years ago but still gives a great insight into how a counsellor can be with a child who is playing and reflect in a way that supports the child to become more emotionally literate and sometimes even helps them find the words to communicate in verbal ways their needs.

  2. The Lego Foundation has done research on the benefits of play and what children (and adults) can learn through their play.

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