“The true object of all human life is play” - G. K. Chesterton
Updated: Apr 14
When children, particularly younger children, are exposed to and absorb distressing news, it is not uncommon for them to seek understanding through play. This is how they try to make sense of the world around them.
At the moment many children are finding reassurance through play centred around such themes as 'Doctors and Nurses,' perhaps checking siblings for 'symptoms' or coronavirus versions of 'Tag.' References to illness and death are also more likely to appear in their play.
It can be a little disturbing for parents to witness this but it is completely natural. Children use play to express and work through how they are feeling, in the same way that we adults may seek out understanding by talking to someone about it.
Play is also an opportunity for them to drive the way the story goes - they are in control of how it starts, what unfolds, and when and how it ends. This can be incredibly empowering and in total contrast to how they might be feeling in the 'real world.'
Clearly if the child seems distressed by the play or they keep repeating the same play over and over again, then this may be an indication that they are struggling and need extra support and containment.
But if anything, we should encourage children to engage in play whether independently or with our involvement. It can be an opportunity for us to find out how they are really feeling, to talk openly with them and give them the comfort and reassurance they are seeking. It can also be a very grounding experience for us, helping us to put the situation into perspective.