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When a Child's Play Themes Are Violent - featured June 17, 2011

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[Source: Scholastic Magazine, November 2006]

by: Stanley Greenspan, MD

I'm concerned about some of the play themes of a 5-year-old in my program. They’re often about disasters or monsters. Other times they’re aggressive or about bullying. For instance, he likes to set up wooden blocks or other manipulatives, then wade through them, knocking them down while growling. I’m wondering whether the violence in his pretend dramas is normal and how to help guide him toward more friendly play.

Children often play out what’s on their minds in their pretend dramas. A child’s destruction of a city made of wooden blocks could simply be related to something he saw on TV or experienced at school or in the family. Or, it may just reflect the way he is feeling at the moment. In addition, children’s nervous systems are organized in such a way that a child who is active and a risk-taker will naturally crave lots of sensation. This child would be attracted to risky or aggressive themes. Conversely, a more over-sensitive child, or one who overreacts to sensations such as light and sound, is more cautious and would likely choose themes having to do more with fear and caution.

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Tags: Article Play Newsletter 17 June 2011 OT SLP School Psychology