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Children need a playful world to thrive and survive

As we gear up for our Annual Conference later this month, we hear from With Kids, who will be leading one of the 25 thought-provoking workshops taking place across the two-day event.

Improving the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children, With Kids offer early therapeutic intervention by skilled and experienced therapeutic staff to help every child to flourish.

Ahead of presenting a workshop on child trauma during day two of our conference, we speak to Play Therapist and Clinical Supervisor, Jeanne McLaughlin, about why play is so critical for every child’s development.  

The team at With Kids are experts in play therapy, why is play such a powerful means for understanding and supporting children? 

Playfulness is an evolutionary strategy that allows human beings to attune to their internal state and engage others. It has no construct, no framework, no purpose and is spontaneously in the here and now. It is a way of “being” rather than doing and prerequisite for play to happen. Children need a playful world to thrive and survive, even in the most difficult environments or situations.

As a nondirective child led play therapist, my job is to step into the playful world of the child and see things through their eyes. This does not mean play must always be fun and joyful. Play can evoke a sense of fear or discomfort such as when a child spins around until they feel sick or puts out all the lights to sit in the dark with a torch. Playfulness is the process that children instinctively understand helps relieve internal physical and emotional anxiety. Children unfettered by layers of adult experience  can swing easily through emotions of joy, fear, anger, confusion and back again. They seem to know that to be spontaneously playful releases the feel-good chemicals into the body such as serotonin, dopamine and reduces the release of cortisol, all without adult direction.

With Kids runs projects in different communities, including a 13-year project in the East End of Glasgow and two projects in Wester Hailes and the South West of Edinburgh. Why is it important to be integrated within the communities of the children and families you are working with?

The communities that we work in are at a socioeconomic disadvantage with intergenerational patterns of trauma and disrupted relational attachment bonds. With Kids sits in the heart of the community with a focus on building relationships, resiliency and offering support to help families make independent changes in their lives. We know from experience that supporting lasting change in a community needs a long-term viewpoint with children and families playing an active role at With Kids events and groups.

With Kids team are often developing their knowledge and practice. Are there any new areas of research you are currently exploring?

At With Kids, we run the MSc in Play Therapy at Queen Margaret University (click here for more) and have an input to the new MSc Infant Mental Health at University of Glasgow (click here for more). As an established centre of Play Therapy in Scotland we work extensively with the age group three to 11 years. In the last five years we have been working to develop an infant mental health programme that helps to support vulnerable parents understand and respond to their baby in a way that creates a stable foundation to the attachment relationship.

What are you looking forward to experiencing at this year’s Annual Conference?

Children in Scotland are an innovative and forward-thinking organisation who put children at the centre of all their projects and training. They ensure that children’s voices are strong and heard. The conference events are always a delight with shared knowledge and experience from a range of third sector organisations, policy makers and children’s workforce. This year is exciting with so many great speakers and workshops, we cannot decide what to book first! (The solution - book them all!) We are looking forward to meeting other delegates, presenting and being part of the change in how we think about children’s experiences.

Join Jeanne and the team at With Kids at our Annual Conference on 29-30 May at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Click here to find out more and book your place. 

About the Author

Jeanne McLaughlin is a Play Therapist and Clinical Supervisor working at With Kids for 12 years.

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Annual Conference 2024

Join us on 29 & 30 May at Scottish Gas Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

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Our services

We offer we offer a range of services that provide support, advice and representation for children and families

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