Saturday, 30 March 2013

Changing Kinds of Play

Sometimes yes, it is like this.
Carnage. Utter chaos. Welcome to Chaotic Play.

Rather than one type of toy coming out of a box at a time, in some kind of systematic order, structured, secure, ordered, each toy played with and then put away before the next one comes out and play resumes and then tidy up time happens, once again systematic, ordered until complete, this is very different.

It can happen in an instant - with all her toys - that get taken out of their boxes and sometimes lobbed around the room - or several of her electronic musical toys all coming out at once - boom thwacka tum chee woo oo, a cacophony of noise that is not sweet to my ears, where she sits and rocks or spins and spins around or twists her body and shakes her head very fast.

PJ reverts to the familiar, the past chaos that she has known previously, to bring safety, security to her. Sometime she does it with a woo - hoo - look what I've created, look at all this mess, she says.... and seems to then pause and wait... for a reaction.

It seemed to happen more often when she first came to me and it reoccurs after professionals visit or we have had several new experiences or changes happen in quick succession.

I have spent months working with PJ on modelling on type of toy coming out and playing with her and helping her to choose which things to play with and when and sensing when we need to change to something different and then help her to tidy up, quickly and effectively and for it to be achievable and hopefully enjoyable too. It has moved along in leaps and bounds. I am not so phased by when all the toys or all the noisy toys come out now. I know it will be short lived and can now be firm and reset boundaries for one toy coming out at a time and help suggest another activity instead of all the noisy electronic over stimulating toys coming out. A story on my lap often works.

The other kind of play is hard to break the cycle of at times, I find. Again, I experienced it a lot when I first met PJ. Controlling Play.

This is the: No not like that, you can't do that, would you like this? Well, no, you can't have it. You go over here and I am over here and there you stay.
Again, it happened a lot when PJ first arrived and when she feels threatened by meeting and playing with new people, or after we have done something new or when professionals visit. All these things throw her and she is out of kilter and returns to her familiar controlling behaviours.
Parallel play would be fun as would joining in with a child initiated imaginative play session. Sometimes this is a fine line and at other times the line has been clearly crossed.

I tell her this controlling or bossy play isn't kind or fun to join in with, Again, I have worked hard these last few months on breaking into the controlling and isolating play and have made some headway. When it rears it's ugly head it is like battling in a headwind. The calm after is a refreshing change once the turning point comes. The moment when an idea is accepted and when 2 shared experiences intertwine. A connection is made and the barriers come down.

In the bigger picture of play, both of these kinds of change need to happen for PJ to both feel calm and for her to be able to socialise. Currently, in her Nursery setting she dominates and leads others in how she interacts with them and how they play.

Trust is the key for both calm and order to be reclaimed and restored in her life and for her future relationships to develop and grow.

To change these kinds of play for PJ I need to challenge them and re-route and re-programme her understanding and experience of trust, which has been a previously rocky foundation.

Play is the theme for this weeks Weekly Adoption Shout Out.


  1. Ah, the 'all the toys out everywhere' type of play is the only type we have at our house. Actually I think the boys just like the sound and sensation of the toys tumbling out of the boxes or books sliding off the shelves - they often have no intention of playing with them at all! Encouraged to hear that we might have a different sort of play in the future :)

    1. Thanks Becky - changing the cycle is hard work I have found but very rewarding on both sides.

  2. Well said! I have noticed Jonathan's play change and evolve (and other strange behaviours too:) since he moved in with us and exactly as you said, he will revert back when we are having a rough few days or if we have visitors or change in routine. It's so strange isn't it to have to rewire something that for many kids is so natural and easy? Great post, thanks:)

    1. thanks Lindsay - it is strange to be re-wiring play - and also good to know it can be changed. It helps me to know that others experience similar.

  3. I love your take on all the mess, my youngest creates such chaos in his bedroom and then can't seem to work out how to to tidy it. It seems like you are doing a great job of understanding the importance of play and how it is working or not working for PJ. Great post, I've pinned it to our new WASO Pintrest board.


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