The illusions of childhood are necessary experiences: A child should not be denied a balloon because an adult knows that sooner or later it will burst. Marcelene Cox.
Betty and Jodie are pretending they’re princesses going to The Royal Ball. Both are bubbling with excitement, wondering if they’ll meet Prince Charming there. Their play is a natural, free expression of themselves, with no particular purpose other than to have fun. It has no rules, and there are no winners or losers. Play lets children be children. It allows them to get mad, act goofy, say ridiculous things, and do things they ordinarily wouldn’t in real-life.
In addition, you can learn about children’s personal and social needs by watching them play. It gives you genuine examples of their problems, which can be useful in designing treatment strategies. Some recommended materials for children’s play are dress-up clothes, doll house, toy soldiers, toy dishes, hammer, toy animals, toy police and fire trucks.
I hesitate to suggest activities for encouraging children’s play, because I’m not sure it’s something you should direct. Asking children to play House or play War imposes a control on their play, which takes away from the spontaneity and freeness you are trying to encourage. The best way, I feel, for you to promote make-believe play in your students is to (a) have play materials in your classroom; (b) make time available for free play; (c) respect children’s play and not be too hasty in propelling them on to more sophisticated activities; and (d) once in a while be a kid yourself. If you’re interested in play therapy, N. Axlines’s book Dibs: In Search of Self, 1964 outlines the principles and techniques.
Expressive arts help children discover their gifts in life, those abilities they can be proud of. I gave you a hodge-podge of ideas in this chapter, because children find their talents in places you might not ordinarily think of looking. The more experiences you give them, the more likely they will find a way of genuinely expressing themselves, whether it is a buried talent or lost emotion. For hyperactive and problem children this may be one of the few things they feel good about, and are proud of.