The importance of play

I think you’ll agree with me that Heather’s obsession with stationary, particularly notebooks, is well evidenced. We all have things that we can’t resist buying, currently for me its hats for my little girl. I never had a head for hats but my daughter looks amazing wearing any type. I particularly like her in straw hats but have to admit we are now at the point where she could wear a different one every sunny day and we’d still have left overs!

But a discussion about my hat fetish isn’t (you’ll be glad to hear I’m sure) the theme of my blog post. Heather asked me to write a little something about what I do, and what I’m passionate about and my other obsessive, can’t resist buys, I often justify in terms of needing them for my work. Whether its pens, clay, paint, figures, puppets or stickers I can’t help myself. I’ve even negotiated ‘borrowing’ terms with my daughter when I need a specific figure to facilitate my therapeutic work.

I’m a strong advocate of the importance of play and the therapeutic value of playfulness. Play is vital in emotional, social and cognitive development and is the primary way that our children communication, it can even help them process and gain a sense of mastery over (and thus minimising the impact of) traumatic events. A good day at work for me is a day I get to play.

I use creative and play based techniques whenever I can, you’d be surprised how many of even the ‘most grown-up’ teenagers love the feel of clay and how even just holding, moulding and creating something can really help them talk. Puppets, figures, drawing can help us to externalise problems and then we can work together to ‘beat’ them. Now my drawing skills aren’t a strength but that doesn’t matter, when we can name and then create that Gag-gog (the little beastly that makes it difficult for us to tell people if we are worried) we can also develop our super-powers and identify our side-kicks (helpers) to keep him under control.

There is nothing I love more than a sneaky peek at my daughter playing, creating a whole world in her imagination. Much to the potential annoyance of my daughter’s teachers I very much encourage imagination over ‘academic’ performance. We can do timetables practice later, after she’s explored her new world or finished in the garden walking round singing her made up song imagining she’s in some enchanting story.

As I’m writing this I can see a cascade of bubbles flowing around my garden. I might just have to go join in, I can’t resist a pinchy fingers bubble popping challenge.

But just briefly we’ll return back to our starting point. I too love a good note book, as does my little girl (whose collection is certainly larger than WHSmiths) and whilst I appreciate the feel of the paper, the smell, not to mention the quirky covers, for me it’s the drawings, the stories and the ideas they are yet to contain that’s exciting.

Dr Vicki Wingrove

Clinical Psychologist for Children & Adolescents

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