Thursday, 29 October 2009


Here's a scene that parents around the world have witnessed over and over. It's a second or third birthday, and the big present comes out. The excited birthday boy or girl tears into the wrapping to uncover the box, then opens the box to find the perfect gift that the parent has worked so hard to find. Maybe it's the hottest toy on the planet, the one you have to put yourself on a list to get. Perhaps it's a car or doll that has special significance to the parents, one that they had themselves when they were young... Imagine the family chagrin, then, when their little darling is more interested in playing with the box than the toy.

Parents should be happy about such a turn of events. It shows that their child has developed a healthy play drive, one that comes from their own fantasies and desires. The box is a blank slate, something they can transform through imagination into anything they want.

As they grow, kids are often taught out of this imaginative approach to play, at first by parents, who might impart pressure and guilt that they really should be playing with this great toy, or by pervasive media marketing. Later, kids get toys that come straight out of hit movies or TV shows, toys that come with a preset collection of ideas about who the characters are and how children should play with the toys. This kind of preformed script can rob the child of the ability to create his own story. Instead, his is mimicking the expressions and lines that he is expected to say. A chance for imaginative flights of fancy is lost.

Authentic play comes from deep down inside us. It's not formed or motivated solely by others. Real play interacts with and involves the outside world, but it fundamentally expresses the needs and desires of the player. It emerges from the imaginative force within. That's part of the adaptive power of play: with a pinch of pleasure, it integrates our deep physiological, emotional and cognitive [body, heart and head] capacities. And quite without knowing it, we grow. We harmonize the influences within us. Where we may have felt pulled in one direction by the heart and another direction by the head, play can allow us to find a balanced course or a third way. All evidence indicates that the greatest rewards of play come when it arises naturally from within.” Stuart Brown p100-105

No comments:

Post a Comment