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  • The Play Therapist

Play is more than just fun!

Updated: Feb 8, 2020

Play is more than just fun!

I had the privilege and honour of presenting a play workshop to Teaching Assistants and Student Learning Coaches at the Frankfurt International school recently. They came from all divisions of the school. I was gratified to see that they wanted to learn how to support their students' learning through play. Their presence and their engagement in the play activities debunked the fallacy that play is only for very young children, and as the workshop progressed there was a deepening realisation that play is vital for our wellbeing in all stages of our lives.

The workshop is a springboard from Stuart Brown's 2008 TED Talk: Play is more than just fun. Hence, the title of the workshop.

Some key takeaways from Stuart Brown's 2008 TED Talk:

The opposite of play is not work but depression.

Play Ballet: A polar bear and a husky playing together and other animals playing.

Hand: If they haven't fixed cars, haven't done stuff with their hands, played with their hands, they can't problem-solve as well.

First language: When a mother and infant lock eyes, and the infant's old enough to have a social smile, what happens spontaneously is the eruption of joy on the part of the mother. And she begins to babble and coo and smile, and so does the baby.

Neoteny: We are wired to play in the most primitive parts of our brains.

'You created a safe place for us to play.,

Workshop participant, 29th September 2017

Participants made toys, told stories, danced and drummed, solo, with a partner and in groups. Their play involved cognition, movement, content, knowledge, skill, social and emotional regulation. There was an implicit understanding that play is essential to our students' cognitive, physical and socio-emotional ​development as well as their deepening understanding and practice of content, knowledge, skill and meta-cognition.

I watched with joy as the participants fully engaged in the workshop - the stories, the creativity, the empathy, the dignity and most of all the appreciation of each other and our shared humanity.

'We are so different from each other, but we have so much in common.,

Workshop participant, 29th September 2017

We explored Parten's six categories of play. I believe that there is no hierarchy in these categories and they do not pertain solely to early childhood. I believe we engage in all six categories throughout our life times.

'Reflecting on my play history resonated most with me.,

Workshop participant, 29th September 2017

Using shape, colour and line participants reflected on their earliest play experiences to the present day, on paper.

The room fell silent at this time and a sense of sacredness was very present.

'Take a moment to look at the picture you have drawn, there is no other picture in the world like this one, it is yours and yours alone, and

it is this that enables you to be present to our children.

To workshop participants, 29th September 2017

PTUK/PTI continuum

Using the Play Therapy International Continuum, participants identified where children's presenting learning needs may be best met. The focus was mainly on play and play work, and the 16 types of play that would most likely address the child's learning need.

'I wish we had time for role-plays and that Rose could show us how to intervene within the types of play,

Workshop participant, 29th September 2017

That is for another play workshop.

In the words of Stuart Brown:

So I would encourage you all to engage not in the work-play differential

-- where you set aside time to play --

where your life becomes infused minute by minute, hour by hour,

with body, object, social, fantasy, transformational kinds of play.

And I think you'll have a better and more empowered life.

Thank You.

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