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Play = Harmful?

rppatel's picture

Rina Patel

Paper #6

October 10 2014


Play = Harmful?

Play has limits and play has categories. Some people have a false sense that play is simply ignorant bliss.  In my experience I’ve heard many adults talk about how children have zero worries and zero cares other than to eat play and be merry. However limits both physical and societal can turn play, a traditionally very innocent and purely joyful act, into something very destructive.

In her post on Serendip, Weilla Yuan talks about the struggles of her friend that had limits placed on play by her parents. Because of these limits Weilla’s friend struggles socially. The type of play she was limited to was destructive to her mentally. She must play computer games on a daily basis. She feels shy when trying to make friends. Weilla talks about how her friend didn’t really have that chance when she was younger to interact with other children. As a result Weilla says her friend now struggles making necessary connections with people now.

The chapter, Playing in industrial ruins talks about destructive play. Destructive play is when children seize the opportunity to get violent with abandoned industrial complexes. Smashed parts and broken glass are present throughout these old complexes. Dirt bike races and slamming cars into the old walls are also common practices. Teens and older kids find a lot of enjoyment in being destructive. But destructive play isn’t “productive”. The New York Times Article, Taking Play Seriously discusses how play can act as a preparation for the future.  I don’t think that physically destructive play can provide practice for the future. But I think destructive play can act as a good way to get energy out of the system. The New York Times article mentions that animals that didn’t play energetically when younger were more likely to exhibit symptoms of ADHD when older.

Physically destructive play is a very different way of approaching play. I question however if physically destructive play is better than mentally destructive play. Someone who engages themselves in physically destructive play is still stimulating themselves more than Weilla’s friend. Even though engaging in violent behavior is considered bad, people are still okay with physically destructive play.

By not having the chance to physically play destructively. Weilla’s friend was stuck playing destructively towards herself. Weilla’s friend had a sort of famine of play. She had a lack of play stimulus. Without that chance to try different play it is hard to determine whether or not Weilla’s friend is naturally introverted. The article, Taking Play Seriously mentions that in times of war and famine it is natural for play to decrease. I wonder if the same could be said when there is a famine of opportunity for play. With the case of Weilla’s friend she was cut off from opportunities because of pressure from her parents. Other children loose the opportunity because they aren’t close to a place to play.

In the New York Times article Taking Play Seriously brown discusses why children need play stimulus from a young age. And argues that play prepares young ones for the future through providing opportunities for practice. I question, though, what skills can destructive play provide. With mentally destructive play, Weilla’s friend lost social skills. Physically destructive play teaches violent skills.

The societal limits placed onto Weilla’s friend made play something very destructive to her. The rules and regulations placed at Playgrounds and traditional places of play encourage children and teens to play destructively in urban ruins. Urban ruins provide a “safe space” to experiment with behaviors we are told are violent and bad. Because society told us it is bad to destroy things we use play as an opportunity to try.  If play was only about enjoying oneself and wasn’t limited to parental and societal expectations it wouldn’t be as destructive.









Works cited

Edensor, Tom, Bethan Evans, Julian Holloway, Steve Millington, and Jon Binnie. "Playing in Industrial Ruins." (n.d.): n. pag. Web.


Henig, Robin M. "Taking Play Seriously." New York Times. New York Times, 17 Feb. 2008. Web.


Yuan, Weilla. Web log post. Changing Our Story: Shifting Identities, Altering Environments. Serendip Studio, Oct. 2014. Web.