Learning the ‘rules of play’

Do you hold a particular view of play?

I have been creating visual posts to share some of my favourite quotes of play and this one is very telling. I found it to be a fun way of inviting conversation about play and attitudes towards play as it is such a vital part of my work with children and adults.

It has prompted some interesting and thought provoking questions which I intend to answer in this, and future posts.


What does it say if you don’t like games?

Can you play a game and not have winners and losers?


Attitudes and about winning and losing are certainly formed during play in young children.

Play helps develop positive attitudes and supports learning of strategy and problem solving through practice and repetition.

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation" - Plato www.littleworldsinabigworld.com.png

It is possible that what we don’t like about play is the raw emotion that can be attached to it.

Not every person is a gracious winner or loser and for some it can lead to avoiding play altogether.  It can be frustrating, scary, sad or simply uncomfortable if rules are broken and arguments break out during play.

It is worth mentioning there are aspects of games that also require team work and collaboration, not only competition. Modelling and demonstrating positive attitudes invite joyful exchanges where learning can occur alongside fun and enjoyment for all.

Offering genuine support and encouragement and opportunities to learn and grow are vital for all players through unstructured play; in which skills are transferrable to games with rules. Although this takes time, practice and patience, it is worth the reward!

Walking the tight rope


Do you ever feel you have to have everything all ‘together’? It is totally unrealistic to think this is possible. It is only when we pause that we realise this is true.

I have recently begun a very special project supporting small business owners in which as a trainer I have ‘cleared my schedule’ to lock in my commitment to serve and teach for the next 12 weeks.

As I am still working part time teaching with children and seeing clients privately I felt unsure for a moment that I was going to burn the candle at both ends.

Once the teaching started though there was a genuine peace that I felt, knowing that I don’t have to walk the tight rope feeling anxious, but more importantly on top of the world and looking straight ahead.

I know this is true when I remind myself that I am supported whilst I support others and I am very grateful to know this.

It is absolutely worth remembering that this thing called life, we are all in together.


Make sure you are reaching out for friendship and support – there are many words of wisdom that friends, family, mentors and others can remind us of when we momentarily  forget.

silhouette of four people against sun background
Photo by Dennis Magati on Pexels.com

Outdoor play – Safety vs Risk?


The atmosphere is flowing, relaxed and there is barely a mention of time.


I love that appetites are stimulated by fresh air and movement and that the end of the session is guided by the position of the sun in the sky.

In my own childhood outdoor play was enormously valued and encouraged by my family and extended family, so I have sometimes struggled with the idea that it is a place to ‘let off steam’.

For the past few months I have been a witness to some of the most incredible learning and discovery right before my eyes during our outdoor play sessions.

It is not surprising that I would see and hear this when amongst the children as they have responded so intuitively to their beautiful surroundings instantly each visit.

There is no time to waste when there is wealth of opportunity around them to feel uninhibited with a canvas of green all around them.

Once signed in, the children virtually leap to the first tree before them and scale it to a height they feel comfortable with.

For children who may have any slight hesitation or less interest in tree climbing, there are lots of spaces to get lost, to create art with natural materials or to simply enjoy getting their hands in the dirt or sand.

Only occasionally there might be a child who finds themselves faced with a challenge- but there is literally something ‘in the air’ as they find their confidence and courage to stop and consider their next move back to safety.

In this serene setting there is a veil of calm that cloaks us, and nothing seems to be hurried or rushed in any way.

The children seem to be able to solve their dilemmas simply, and any instruction from adults seems minimal because they are listening to themselves and taking action.

One recurring experience that describes this is when a child may have climbed to a new height they haven’t encountered before, but are easily able to pause, consider their next move and continue on with their play.

Within a matter of moments, they are ready for us to step back and let them return to a space that adults don’t need to be!

Best of all is seeing the children enquiring, engaging and enthusiastically driving much of their own learning independently, and easily connected to our precious planet, knowing that this is part of the foundation for their whole life ahead of them.

Where to next?


Life continues to bring an assortment of mixed feelings as the days pass by.

One thing I know for certain is how much I am enjoying my writing skills, both professionally and for pleasure. It is a way to capture many of my thoughts, even the fleeting ones and putting them in a place that I can reflect on them.

Reflection is an important part of my work with children and their families, whether it be in a teaching or therapeutic capacity.

It helps see the journey travelled, where we have come from and where we hope to go.

I am very grateful to all those people who have taken time to send their condolences to me since my dad passed away last month – it is a strange place to navigate the inevitable grief and confusion that has followed, but I can only hope it will strengthen my ability to be empathetic to the children and families that I serve – it has definitely had me thinking of the very important influence he had on me, and my family.

Putting your life before you in miniature

Toys in sand tray


If you could put your life before you, what character would you choose to represent you?

Clients who utilise the sand tray in their sessions have an opportunity to select mini models to ‘tell their story’ and see it in front of them. If there have been challenging situations or scenarios between visits this can be the ideal place to take a second look at them in more detail, in the safety of the play space.

Feelings and emotions can be explored intensively or by just recapping the situation. A place to pause and centre or to move on without hesitation.

The sand tray is said to represent the subconscious mind and the miniatures are on offer to help bring some of those deep seated thoughts and emotions to the centre, but only within the client’s personal level of comfort.

It is one thing to be able to talk through a problem with a trusted friend, colleague, counsellor (or other health professional) when we are older and more articulate, but one of the many reasons I love to work with the sand tray is to help my clients manage the things that may not know how to articulate verbally with safety and confidence.

The only thing that compares is the trust and subtle acknowledgment that I receive in the form of a smile and a spring in the step of a client as they return to the big wide world.