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Leibowitz, J.A. (2020). Protecting Play: It’s a Matter of Life and Death. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 19(2):125-133.

(2020). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 19(2):125-133

Protecting Play: It’s a Matter of Life and Death

Jill A. Leibowitz, PsyD

Play is a critical activity, as important to healthy life as sleep, water, and nutrition. Research shows that play promotes cognitive and socioemotional development, and that learning, problem-solving, self-regulation and pro-social skills all stem from playing. Yet play is valued less and less in our culture, with children as young as preschool age being placed in organized activities based on an understanding of enrichment that’s limited to academic achievement and performance. As families and as a society we are failing to provide a “good-enough facilitating environment” for our children to grow, to live, as we take time and space to play away from children and adolescents. Why are we doing this? I speculate that we are a culture who is preoccupied with guaranteeing safety and success because of our anxiety and denial of four fundamental and interrelated experiences: failure, loss, aggression, and death. With the use of clinical material, I illustrate how, in our attempt to guarantee safety and success, we have become unable to safely risk engaging (i.e., play) with, and fully experience, these vulnerabilities, and are in fact creating an unsafe psychic environment for our children, and how play can help us redress this emotional impoverishment.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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