The Power Of Play: How To Use Play To
Build Young Children’s Character, Enhance
Their Coping Skills, And Foster Better Parent-Child Communication

 ©Janice Cohn, D.S.W., A.C.S.W.



If love and work are the areas that help mold us in our adult lives, then love and play (in a sense, a child’s work) does the same in childhood.  But what has happened to children’s play in America, as we enter the millennium?  And what does this mean for children, parents and, ultimately, our society as a whole?

It is increasingly being observed, these days, that the line between childhood and adulthood is ever narrowing and is, in some cases, being downright inverted.   A recent article in The New York Times declared, “Many experts on children and family life wonder whether the changes in the way Americans work, live and take in information are making childhood obsolete.”  We now see young children from the earliest grades of elementary school with packed appointment books; juggling play dates, lessons of various kinds, computer time, television time and organized sports involving hours of team practice.

In the ideal, childhood is a time of fun, discoveries and experimentations.  It’s a time for children to play and “make-believe.”  A time when children can be silly and mischievous, and can daydream and spin fantasies that have nothing to do with the real world.  It’s also, of course a time to learn, and to gain a sense of one’s self, and the surrounding world.

But that idealized vision of childhood is fading fast.  Today, learning and acquiring concrete skills has become the focus of many young children’s lives—children who have yet to enter kindergarten or first grade.

Encouraging young children to simply play and daydream is becoming an increasingly rare occurrence.  We now expect children to play and learn at the same time.  Educational toys and hardware are currently the “hot sellers” for children in pre-school through third grade.  And the target group for these products seems to be getting younger (approximately nine to eighteen months).


What Does This Workshop Do?

This workshop will examine the intended (and unintended) consequences of these trends, and will address:

  • The importance of play in children’s development

  • How the concept of play has changed over the years, and why that matters

  • How we can understand what children’s play tells us about themselves

  • How we can enter into play with children—what to do and not do

  • How we can use play to enhance our communication with children

  • How we can improve children’s coping skills through play

  • How we can use play to foster courage and compassion in children


How Does the Workshop Do It?

The workshop utilizes the current research in this field, anecdotal material, and encourages interaction from participants.  Specific, concrete guidelines will be offered, and Dr. Cohn’s pamphlet, Tomorrow’s Heroes: Building Character and Compassion Through Play, will be made available to workshop participants.



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