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Play with No Limits

The last time we had a playdate, my nephew seemed to be having difficulty being in charge of our play and seeing an array of play options. Despite being told he could do anything he wanted, he tended to pick only activities that he thought his caregiver would like and approve of.

My pressuring him to try something new was not helpful. So I began suggesting silly, illogical, or impossible things I wanted to do—like sit around and pick our noses, dig a hole to Antarctica in the backyard, or just sleep. Then I pretended to be asleep, snored real loud, talked nonsense about him in my sleep, and shifted around a bunch while “accidentally” hitting him lightly. I kept the unrealistic ideas going, insisting they were what I really wanted to do during playtime.

His face was bright and wide-eyed. He smiled and laughed a lot, repeatedly telling me my ideas were wrong, bad, and impossible and that I was not smart. After hearing this, I’d slightly change the ideas, because I wanted to let him know that I was listening and understanding his reasoning.

He discharged. It also seemed like he was feeling more safety to let his mind wander to new domains of play.

Patty Kavanaugh
Austin, Texas, USA
Reprinted from the e-mail discussion
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Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00