Seven questions for Simona Anstett, play therapist from anomis Spielpädagogik
Ms Anstett, when is a toy useful?
A toy is useful when it encourages creativity and stimulates the imagination. The trick is to find a healthy balance and change toys according to the growing needs of the child. A one-year-old might well be happy with a block of wood for a car, but a four-year-old would rather have a fire engine with proper wheels and sirens. Or, better still, a fire engine with accessories which can be added later (or made by the child).
Why do young children like repetition so much?
Constant repetition helps children build their strength, makes them feel safe and gives them a sense of confidence while simultaneously encouraging forward thinking. Creative activities such as building towers – and knocking them down again – are particularly popular because the three-dimensional world and laws of statics and gravity are explored in a playful way.
How important is winning and losing?
Children who want to play together must learn to abide by certain pre-defined rules or rules they have agreed upon together. Many children (and indeed some parents) find it difficult to stick to rules and don’t like losing. Yet positive development is only possible if children learn to do precisely this. The child experiences the joy of winning, but must also be able to deal with the inevitable feelings of anger and frustration if they lose. Fair play in games contributes to positive personality development and helps shape their social behaviour. What’s more, they learn that they may have to try out different strategies in order to succeed.
How useful are magic/handicraft/experiment kits?
Children like to experiment, explore, discover, try things out independently and be creative. These kits offer the chance to do all of the above and, if nothing else, tend to be a great exercise in patience and perseverance. Children can uncover secrets and discover answers to questions whilst playing. Incidentally, your house contains enough material to conduct many amazing experiments.
Why do children of all ages enjoy role play so much?
There are no limitations to role play: anger, frustration, annoyance, fear, happiness, desire or fantasy – anything currently affecting them can be communicated through role play. You don’t even need someone else to role play with: cuddly toys, dolls and natural materials such as wood are all ideal for the task at hand. Old towels and clothes can be transformed into fantasy figures, and boxes and chairs into a playhouse in the blink of an eye.
Classic role-play games like the post-office counter or supermarket checkout are also important. Children are excellent observers and love to slip into the role of others and imitate different figures and professions. In doing so they can process positive and negative experiences from everyday life and unconsciously develop their social skills.
What should I play with my children?
Games should be age appropriate. Small children, for example, only require space and a variety of objects such as cardboard boxes, tins, bricks, cloth, etc. Realistic details only become important as they get older. The older they get, the more complex games become. A good game should capture their imagination, excite their senses and make them want to play it again and again.
It’s important that parents don’t let themselves get too frustrated if their children refuse to play a game even if the age indicated on the game is appropriate. There are simply some games children don’t find entertaining or that they find too easy/difficult. Short-term deficits may occur during certain developmental phases of a child but these can always be made up for at a later stage.
How important is playing with children of the same age?
Games with other children are a totally different ball game. Interaction with other children is crucial to a child’s social development: showing consideration for each other, being helpful and making compromises and decisions independently are all vital social skills. They also learn how to stick up for themselves. Playing with other children of the same age is not a substitute for playing with parents but rather an important addition to this.
Simona Anstett is a qualified play therapist whose company anomis Spielpädagogik offers a number of play courses and coaching sessions for children, parents, grandparents, teachers and companies alike.