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Theoretical Framework


There is now a body of work that confirms the pivotal role of play in the healthy development of children. It is the context in which the brain grows, especially in the early years when the right hemisphere of the brain is in rapid development. The right hemisphere requires experiences, not information to grow, and so play is what children need most in order to develop a brain that can later be used for “higher learning”. 

The erosion of play time has been documented. Concurrently it has been noted that there is a significant increase in the diagnoses of mental health disorders and ADHD. Many are concluding that there is a link between the two.

This is because play also provides an outlet for the expression of emotion. Emotional health is all about emotional movement. In play, pictures are drawn, stories are enacted and re-enacted, fears are given form, frustration is vented, and games are engaged in to allow emotions to come out.

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WEBINAR: Why Play Matters 

Eva de Gosztonyi

Why do children play and why do they need to play? We are now learning that play is more important than we ever thought both in terms of brain development and also for emotional well-being. Join us to find out about why play is so important, about different kinds of play and about how you can support your playful child.

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Interview: Dr Gordon Neufeld on the topic of Play

Dr Gordon Neufeld

"Play – at least the kind that builds brains, forwards development, and serves our emotions – is becoming an endangered activity among those who need to engage in it most and this includes us as adults. The science of play reveals the mind of Nature and gets to the very heart of the developmental approach." Dr. Neufeld

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Webinar: The Power of Play to Take Care of Us 

Deborah MacNamara

In this webinar, Neufeld Institute faculty member Deborah MacNamara PhD talks about why play--for children and adults alike--is critical to our survival in times of stress. Dr. MacNamara explores why it is in our nature to play, how play can heal and restore us, and why we will need to lean on play more than ever in the days and weeks to come.

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Webinar: Creating Playgrounds for Emotional Expression

Tamara Strijack and Hannah Beach

When emotions stop moving, we start to see the signs of problem behaviour. Expression of emotion is the first step in emotional development, and yet many children, adolescents and adults can get stuck here. We all need safe places to express the emotions that are stirred up within us, as well as release pent up emotional energy. The challenge is finding those safe places. In this session, we will explore natural playgrounds for emotion to come out and play, and how we might facilitate this process - for our children, our adolescents and ourselves.

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EDITORIAL: True Play: Why Kids Need Play Sanctuaries for Their Emotions

Deborah MacNamara

Play is not urgent. It will not wake a child up in the middle of the night like a bad dream or a bladder in need of release. Play isn’t something that hijacks a child’s attention like an empty stomach in need of food or an injury in need of first aid. While the instinct to play is inherent to all mammal species, it isn’t bossy nor does it demand the space it requires.


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Resisting the Pressure to Make Play ‘Productive’

Hannah Beach

It’s Spring break and my son has two glorious weeks off of school. It’s been interesting for me to witness how our current culture’s values of ‘production and outcomes’ crept up on me. I have found myself having to be grounded again in what I know to be true: free play matters. It’s absolutely essential to emotional health and well-being.


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Why We Can’t Let Play Disappear from Children’s Lives

Mona Delahooke

An essential ingredient has been slowly disappearing from children’s lives: free, spontaneous play. Many factors have converged to cause the decline of play. Technology absorbs more and more of children’s attention. Schools pile on academic pressures earlier and earlier. And parents are increasingly opting to place their children in structured extracurricular activities.


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The Incredible Power of Play

Colleen Beck, The OT Toolbox

Play is the essence of childhood and it’s the means for children to develop and grow! The incredible power of play is a tool and a means to children development. It’s through play that kids learn. Kids delight in games, toys, and creative play while developing skills like fine and gross motor development. They learn to self-regulate. They learn to communicate, manage their emotions, and gain valuable sensory input. Play is powerful for kids!


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