Applicable To: Groups or Individuals
CAPPD Concepts: Calm, present
What It Is:Give children time for unstructured play.
Why It Helps: Free, unstructured play is thought to help with pruning of excess nerves during brain development. In studies, the play curve matches the cerebellum growth curve. Research has found that rats deprived of play had immature neuron connections in the pre-frontal cortex. Studies have also found that for rats with ADHD, one extra hour of play significantly decreased their hyperactive symptoms; thus, for hyperactive children, extra play may help calm and refocus them. Since many children who have experience trauma operate in a chronically hyper aroused state, play may help calm and refocus them as well.
It is important to remember, though, that children benefit from CHILDLIKE play (play that is creative, imaginative, active, engrossing, all-consuming). Many children affected by trauma lose the ability to engage in childlike play. Instead, their play (focused on stress, win/lose situations, control, conflicts) can actually create a negative cycle that worsens trauma. Adults may need to help refocus their play so they re-learn, or learn for the first time, childlike play.