Building Resilience through Play (Part 1)

Resilience is the ability to steer through serious life challenges and find ways to rise above adversity, without much help.

Evidence suggests that play, as a unique behaviour, supports and enhances the development of resilience. Play offers the opportunity to create and resolve uncertainty, not so much when placing oneself in jeopardy but more in relation to feelings of excitement, courage and resilience in the face of imagined disaster (Spinks and others 2007; Sutton-Smith 2003).

When children are resilient, they are braver, more curious, more adaptable, and more able to extend their reach into the world.

Little and Sweller (2014) found that having natural elements in the outdoor environment provides a certain element of risk that allows children to express themselves, explore and learn about their bodies capabilities. Taking risk in play gives children the opportunity to test their own limits and discover new skills in themselves, with opportunities to practice skills like kicking, running, throwing and climbing children can master important motor skills that they will continue to practice later in life.

Children’s play ‘provides a primary behaviour for developing resilience, thereby making a significant contribution to children’s wellbeing’ Masten, A and Obradovic, J (2006), cited in Play for a Change.

How does play contribute to resilience?Playgarden Story - Climbing Ropes

• Emotional Regulation (managing feelings)
• Pleasure and Enjoyment (the feel good factor)
• Responses to stress and uncertainty (making sense of things)
• Being creative (using imagination and creativity)
• Learning (developing life skills)
• Attachment to people and place (meeting & making friends)
• Problem solving (I can fix this myself)

A rich play environment is a varied, inspirational and interesting physical environment that maximises the potential for socialising, creativity, resourcefulness and challenge. It is a place where children feel free to play in their own way and on their own terms. Quality places for play offer all children and young people the opportunity to freely interact with or experience the following:

• Other children and young people – with a choice to play alone or with others, to negotiate, co-operate, fall out and resolve conflict
• The natural world – weather, the seasons, bushes, trees, plants, insects, animals and mud
• Loose parts – natural and man-made materials that can be manipulated, moved and adapted, built and demolished
• The natural elements – earth, air, fire and water
• Challenge and risk taking – both on a physical and emotional level
• Playing with identity – role play & dressing up
• Movement – running, jumping, climbing, balancing and rolling
• Rough and tumble – play fighting
• The senses – sounds, tastes, textures, smells and sights
• Feelings – pain, joy, confidence, fear, anger, contentment, boredom, fascination, happiness, grief, rejection, acceptance, sadness, pride and frustration