When Playing is Finding Identity
Playing is primarily a means for a child to relax and feel good. It allows small children to develop their imagination, their ability to concentrate, and the body language which comes before speech (facial expressions, gestures, body language and sensorial activities). Play is an important way in which a child builds their own identity. An infant can only play with an adult they have a trusted relationship with that goes beyond the basic care.
Indeed, in order to play well, children need to be surrounded by the close and physical presence of caring parents. It is also while playing that children construct their identity through role playing which enables more and more complex interactions with their community. Playing allows a child to measure up his/her abilities and feel confident.
From 0 to 2 years old: children undergo a sensory-motor phase. During his first months of life, a child becomes aware of their body (especially hands and feet), as well as their close surroundings (movements, sounds, contacts with an object, encounter with adults). As the children grow, they progress from being horizontal to vertical through experimenting with a variety of movements and intermediate postures. A child will repeat something that happened accidentally if he enjoyed it. She learns to watch and feel her surroundings (objects, environment). She explores her skills and abilities. What used to be mere reflexes becomes deliberate actions, and thus starts a phase Jean Piaget named Object Permanence, which is when the child understands that an object still exists outside his field of vision (the “pickaboo” or “hide and seek”). This allows him to better handle separation since the child knows that his relatives exist, even if he cannot see them.
Around two years old: The symbolism phase, during which the child sorts out, orders and uses logic to solve specific problems. This is the time of cognitive development, intelligence and creativity.
- Initiative and creativity=self-confidence
- He improves his thinking while discovering
- He starts interacting with other children and discovers social rules = sociability
- The “power to act” and “power to experiment” brings satisfaction to the child, which helps him realize the extent of his competences “I did it by myself!”
- Playing is an effective way to make the child feel safe when he lives in a stable environment and if the adult is concerned with his interests and emotions
- Playing shows the way to ”identity” and self-discovery
Playing enables the child to explore multiple areas, such as:
- expressing desires
- expressing emotions
- expressing thoughts
- expressing wonders
- Controlling anxiety
- developing abilities
- establishing social links
- assimilating different sides of personality
By Sophie About: Clinical Psychologist. Coordinator for the Organization Parents First, working for and with parents with regards to parenting.