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Annihilation of Play

As a playworker, I use the Play Cycle to observe and understand play. Using this cycle I have a better understanding of the child's play needs and why perhaps things were misinterpreted by one or more of the playing children. After much practice (and I still get it wrong but I reflect on it), I am able to recognize which part of the play cycle the child is in and thus understand their needs better.

Claire Sands from the Children's Scrapstore in the UK, wrote a very easy description of the play cycle using a story to break it down.

As my blog progresses, I will explain the essence of the Play Cycle but today I wanted to discuss with you one aspect of the cycle called:

Play Annihilation: When the flow of play is terminated by children. This can be the end of the game or perhaps the destruction of a recently constructed model.

Have you ever noticed that you set up an exquisite invitation for play for your child only to have them finish playing with it minutes later. I'm not even going to consider the amount of money you spent or time it took you to prepare the set up (or clean it up). However, sometimes it feels frustrating.

Today, I experienced one of those days that the kids switched multiple times from activity to activity. All I got was pictures of abandoned play. But luckily, I don’t mind because eventually they found something that lasted a couple of hours if not more. I saw they were all intrigued, they were all messy and I constantly heard laughter.

The good part is that I only prepared one of those activities, even though they chose it. The rest they created and left on their own. Why does it bother us or frustrate us?

It shouldn’t! What's happening is something amazing! They are jumping from interest to interest until they find what motivates them and what they enjoy. They are discovering themselves this way. True, that sometimes one would have stayed in the game longer if the other didn't hop away but that is for them to work out.

This does not mean it should be happening all the time or that you should necessarily intervene (the way playworkers intervene is also carefully measured to make sure we are not affecting the play cycle).

A few things for you to consider:

1. How long does the play go on for? Could you note this down as something that the child really likes to do?

2. Does annihilation happen often? How quickly? Does there seem to be a reason?

3. How does annihilation make you feel? Does that matter to your children?

4. Can you change the way you react to annihilation? Do you intervene if it bothers you?

Reflect and see if there is a good reason for your reaction. If there is or is not, reflect more.

Read about day 30 here and see how many times they shifted play!

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