On Control, Freedom and Play

Adults often attempt to control the play or exploration of children; possibly with the best intentions. Does this stem from our desire to control outcomes and feel secure in life? Prescription: Spontaneous play can help with that….

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Control and Guidelines

There is a difference between boundaries and restriction/control. During my 20 years of running play-based workshops play workshops, for both children and adults and witnessing both at play, I observe that clear boundaries or guidelines can help ensure safety and enjoyment; too many rules and instructions can be prohibitive and counterproductive – encouraging self-doubt and second guessing which are less helpful.

Play and Control 

Recently, in a park I heard a man in a park instructing his partner on how their young toddler should go down the slide. He was passionately giving instructions and becoming frustrated when his instructions were deviated from. He sighed heavily and said “No NO! Oh, she’ll never learn like that”.

I was struck by how human it is to feel that each action we take will control the lifetime outcome for ourselves or those we love. This is a common scene across playgrounds and also in our adult lives – the urge to control an outcome and the sense of frustration or even anxiety that we cannot. We have all felt it.


Play and Freedom

The truth is that we know deep down that control or our environment and all aspects of life is impossible and does not bring happiness. What I observe in all of the play workshops I run is the sense of joy which emerges in participants as they come back to the experiential cycle of feeling initially nervous and unsure; then remembering the joy of trying out something new and realising it’s safe to stumble, be silly, try again.

The power of laughter and playfulness bring joy; they give us the freedom to be flexible, to adapt and try new things; to have a plan or idea and have the confidence to deviate from it. Hence maintaining a playful mindset and taking part in playful activities throughout our lives give us life skills that in today’s pressured environments we cannot afford to be without. Prescription: Play!

Jessica Shaw

Director PACT Creative training, PACT Creative Training

Jess is the founder of PACT Creative Training (Play, Act, Create, Transform). She has 20 years' experience facilitating workshops using fun and playfulness in order to boost wellbeing and lower stress. Jess runs creative team building events for companies, Staff INSET Training in Schools and wellbeing-through-play workshops for children & young people in schools.