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All play is ok

I spoke last week at the Community Playthings Day of Play.  It was an amazing day, with over 200 people all gathered to have a day filled with talk and conversations about the importance of play.

“Pioneering educator, Friedrich Froebel (1782 - 1852) recognised the importance of play when he opened the first kindergarten in 1836 for children under the age of 7.  Froebel believed that play is the principle means of learning in early childhood.  In play children construct their understanding of the world through direct experience with it.”  

Frobel highlighted the importance, the impact and the necessity of play in early childhood over 185 years ago!  And interestingly he spoke about it being, just as important and impactful up to the age of 7!  So, to have a whole day last week in Birmingham discussing the subject was an important reminder to us all, of the need for children to be given a range of experiences and opportunities to play, and to be able to play their way.

And this was the main message in my workshop: 

All play is important

All play is ok

All play is an opportunity for connection.

And you can already guess my stance on this.  All play, not just neurotypical play.

If the definition of play is “a fun, imaginative, relaxed, and self-directed activity and are a key part of life for children and adults alike. Play tends to be self-chosen, removed in some way from “real” life, and governed by a set of rules determined by the players, rather than an outside source.” 

So, if we feel the need to direct a child’s play, or tell them to play a certain way, not determined by them as the player, then is it play at all?????

What if whilst you played pop up pirate with your children, you were told by an outsider that you were playing it wrong? What if you were told you had to start with the pirate up and you had to pop him down into the barrel – that really wouldn’t make any sense! Our neurodivergent children are told on a regular basis that their play is wrong, they need to play differently to what comes naturally to them, but in a way that makes little sense to them, nor is it ‘fun’ to do.

Neurodivergent children play, they just play differently.  Neurodivergent children engage in a range of experiences, they just do this differently.  And that’s ok right?  Or not??

I’m often asked, how do I get a child to play with the sand tray, how do I get them to stop just playing with their car and come and play with something else, or how do I get them to join in?  And my response often is, why should we, what’s the purpose and for whose gain?

Of course, we would like children to access our full curriculum offer, of course our role is to open up invitations for children to be drawn in to something new, exciting, and that offers new experiences and learning opportunities.  But we can support our neurodivergent children to do this, in their own time, in their own way.  In a way that validates their playtype, validates their special interests, incorporates their schemas and patterns of play as well as supporting their sensory play needs. 

On the surface the way our neurodivergent children play, may make little sense to others.  The repetition, the categorising, the identifying and the sorting. But watch, watch, and watch again:

Observe the focus

  • Observe the attention

  • Observe the pattern

  • Observe the real area of interest.

And then…………

  • Approach the child with ease and with complete respect

  • Understand and see the value in their play

  • Meet their play needs without going with your play agenda

  • Model and show alongside them, how you play, without forcing them to do the same

  • Understand the importance of their play type and use this to plan for future provision


And ultimately, Don’t change it…Join it…..Don’t lead it……Follow it


If you want to know more and learn more, then do get in touch.

Follow me on Instagram and Facebook @aperion_training.  Check out my podcast on Spotify or Apple – Cheryl Warren, Not Your Typical Podcast.  Jump onto my website to be a part of the revolution and join my mailing list for loads more or to book a training session for your team. 

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