Processing through Play

When you have something new that is coming up, like a job interview, a party, or a trip, do you ever find yourself laying awake imagining the scene? You run scenarios in your head about how you’ll act, what you’ll say, how you’d react to different situations. Or maybe after something has happened you review it and shift and change what you’d do differently next time.

Kids do this too, they just do it through play. You may have heard the expression “play is the work of children” and that is very true. However, it is more then that. Play is also the way that children make sense of what is new and can try out where they fit in.

I saw this play out (pun intended) in my own house this week. We have not had the healthiest of months. Both kids have been to the pediatrician for various reasons and I got quite sick and even spent a week in the hospital.

Those are very worrying things for a 5 year old and a 2 year old to deal with, so the way they regained a little control is through play. Almost every day the doctor’s kit has been spread out on the coffee table and someone is being cajoled to lay down on the couch for a “check up.” The go through the whole routine, the 5 year old has even started taking your health history, and if you are good you get a sticker at the end. For maximum realism they even created a doll-sized x-ray machine (pictured at the top).

Sometimes, they bring in a doll or animal and play the worried adult, other times they are the doctor or the nurse and sometimes they get a check up themselves. Each different role lets them demystify the whole thing just a little bit more.

Watching their play tells me a lot about how they are feeling and what they understand about everything that is going on. I can see they aren’t worried or fearful but that it is still on their minds a lot. This lets me know what they might need from me to help them process.

Play isn’t just a “break” for kids, it is one of the best tools that they have to figure out what they know, where their place is in whats going on and how they’ll react. We need to make sure they have that chance.


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