This is often the go to question adults ask children after they have a play experience. Did you have fun? We also promote our programs as fun and the stories we tell are often the ‘fun’ ones. Well, of course we want fun, fun is easy, fun is pleasant, if only everything could be fun, ALL THE TIME! And yes, great connection and growth can be had through fun, but there is so much more to play than 'fun'. There is challenge, friction, tension and uncomfortable situations, this is what makes play interesting to me and why it is so powerful. A recent experience brought this into focus for me.
Victor learns about death
George and Victor are four years old and the best of friends. They come to a three hour outdoor play program once a week and don’t leave each other’s side. Georges’ uncle has died. I am not sure how it came up between the two friends, but George told Victor that everyone dies and you don’t come back.
Whoa! This is a huge concept.
Victor has questions. As he learns more from George he gets more and more upset. Tears begin and continue. He is beside himself with the prospect of his own death. “I will never see mommy and daddy ever again” he manages to say through intense sobbing. Adults step in to sit with the friends, acknowledging these feelings. Tears continue and become so intense that Victor throws up. That night Victor continues to ask his parents about death as he processes this life changing concept.
Now, imagine, at the end of the program, we ask: “Did you have fun?” This question dismisses the complex experience and the deep growth and development that happened when these two children were given the time, space and permission to play. Fun is not the end goal of play, in fact, there is no goal in play, no outcome, and that is the beauty of it!
What questions can we ask our children after a day of play? Send me your ideas, I would love to share them with everyone. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org