The Power of Playing and Struggle

By Milly Camarena

Growing is about playing and struggling. When problems arrive, whether we solve them or not, is not the point. The magic of it is the struggle. The growth that conflict brings and the connections that children make in finding the solution, or just thinking and reflecting about cause and effect, matters.

As I observed Coretta and Asher playing together. I was thinking to myself; I did not remember seeing them interacting at all before, which made it interesting to watch their interactions. They were deeply engaged in playing together. They were smiling at each other and sliding their bodies down on the grass. They did it several times over, and over again. Their faces showed pure joy between them, enjoying each other’s company. This was indeed a magical moment, where they were connecting by playing. It was like if two worlds were together in one.

The power of play is beyond words. When children play, they learn about others; they learn how to listen and express themselves, their feelings, and needs. They learn more about the world, the people in it that they care for and that it is okay to safely show their emotions.

In these pictures, Asher and Coretta are enjoying time together by playing, but in some other images, they are struggling with each other and growing.

As the play continued between them, Coretta kept sliding with Asher nonstop. They seemed happy and joyful together. Suddenly she stopped for a moment and looked at a toy she had just found. She held it, and Asher tried taking it away from her, he wanted to have it. She told him, “I’m using it.”  but he still tried getting it away from her hands, as she held it tightly.

She yelled at him firmly and loud, “It’s mine, I’m using it.” I stepped in as Coretta screamed, “No!!, I’m using it.” And I supported her, as she repeated to Asher the same words.

Asher said, “No, I’m using it.” (as he tried to steal it again).

I approached his feelings, “It looks you are really upset because you want the toy Coretta has just found, but she is holding it in her hand, and she is letting you know she is using it right now.”

It was difficult for Asher to hear these words. He could not understand why he could not have the toy at that moment.

They were sitting close to each other on the hill, but not as close as they were before their conflict. We talked about Asher’s feelings.  I listened to him. Asher listened to Coretta’s words, even though he really wanted to have the toy she had. I asked them, “What can we do about it, it seems you two have a problem, you both want the same object, but Coretta is using it right now.”

  “Yes! I’m playing.” Coretta said.

At this moment, they were not fighting; they were just talking; reassuring their words. Even though there was no agreement or arrangement between them, they acknowledge each other’s feelings by listening to their words.

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