In it Wedge draws out the vital importance of children’s free play from a psychological perspective, saying:
“In play, the child creates a world into which she puts her thoughts, her imaginings and her feelings. The world she creates in free form is literally made out of herself, spun out of her own subjectivity. This created world, in turn, gives the child a sense of her self as an active, creative being. The child is the ruler of her tiny kingdom, and in it she feels deliciously free and alive.”
She addresses some of the consequences of play deprivation, which takes the form of well-intentioned over-scheduling or ‘enrichment’ as well as neglect, saying:
“The eminent psychologist Alice Miller says that when a parent tells a child to do something sensible and goal-oriented instead of aimlessly playing, the child’s world is overthrown. The child obeys because she wants to please her parent. But the child feels hurt, and withdraws her feelings into herself where they remain buried.
If this parental banishment occurs repeatedly, as it does with narcissistic parents who use the child to satisfy their own conscious or unconscious wishes, the child becomes depressed. Instead of having a sense of herself as a free and creative subjectivity, the child feels like an object–the object of her parents wishes. No longer the author of her own story, the child feels like she is playing a role in her parents’ drama. As Miller puts it in her classic book The Drama of the Gifted Child, the child puts away her real feelings and takes on a “false self.””
Linking this to the reported rise in children’s depression, Wedge draws out the correlation between children’s play and happiness, and adult creativity and theirs, reminding us of Winnicott’s statement in Playing and Reality that:
“the ability to play, to engage in the creative process is, more than anything else, what makes life worth living.”
In a not-entirely-unrelated note, I am also starting a new writing group in Cardiff, and am welcoming members. Email me if interested!