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Problematic Play

EmmaP's picture

I think of play as a time for moving outside of the confines of the everyday, through activities like imagining and acting out fantastical scenarios, as children seem to do naturally, or by taking on new roles. Play becomes problematic when, rather than encouraging exploration of possibilities, it's limited by societal expectations or other unnecessary regulations. One of the places we see this most often is when parents, teachers, or even peers limit the play of others based on gender. Parents might refuse to buy their son a doll, because they consider it a girl's toy. Teachers might let boys roughhouse at recess, but stop girls from doing the same. This kind of restrictive play contributes to gender stereotypes, which can discourage people from pursuing opportunities later in life. Play is meant to create a space for people to explore and imagine freely, so it's counterproductive to try to guide children towards playing a certain way based on their gender. As we discussed in class, childhood is not a space seperate from the adult world, and indeed it shares many of the same problems. But I would take that a step further and say that many "adult" problems, like gender inequality, often have roots in what we experience and what we're taught as children. In this sense, play not only has the potential to be problematic for children, it can also have a serious impact on one's entire life.