Play is a fundamental need. It is also incredibly important in the evolution of our emotional intelligence. Not to mention the core of acting itself.
The definition of play is a 'freely chosen activity that gives an intrinsic sense of joy, keeps you so deeply engaged that it warps all sense of time'. For most young actors, this self-directed creative exploration is what has drawn them to acting. It’s completely natural that this is what they love to do and also the most powerful learning tool we have.
Children are obviously fabulous at this. But sometimes when acting becomes a job, play develops an association with achievement. Therefore becoming removed from the human, natural, true self and becomes attached to a result, a response from others or mentally focussing on the negative consequences of not achieving the desired result. In play however, the experience is more important than outcome. As sets are professional workplaces, its not always as easy to mirror the self-directed, safe space for creative exploration that first engaged your child with acting.
So lets talk about the benefits of play.
Because young actors can be incredibly busy and organised, the childhood exploration of ones self and the world through play can be easily forgotten. Sometimes negative mentalities and aggressive behaviour can occur and this is often due to a suppression of the play behaviour. Harshly disciplined and over controlled or very isolated children don’t learn the developmentally more complex patterns of play that we take for granted.
Whilst in appearance play appears purposeless, in fact , play has a deep and long-term purpose. The life skills we learn through play are:
Deeper engagement and understanding of oneself and the surrounding world.
How to process daily stresses, traumas and challenges we experience as humans.
This is why I emphasise the importance of allowing your child to have their own PLAY SPACE. Play is of equal importance as any school/ work assigned activity and should be treated as so.
Every parent wants to see their kids live as fulfilled and empowered as possible, therefore you need to understand what your kid’s natural bent towards play is and it needs to be prioritised and honoured but it also needs to be unorganised and unrewarded. This is a place of ultimate freedom for a child to explore themselves in the world. A place of natural development that is free from adult interception.
It is also noted that people who act on their play impulses; cultivate a job or play with friends or in other elements of their life have a more meaningful and fulfilled life. Your child has chosen a wonderful lens to see the world through, and that is one of PLAY.
I do hope that amongst supporting your child's acting career that time and space are given for childhood.
'Sometimes when acting becomes a job, play develops an association with achievement.'
'Play has a deep and long-term purpose.'
'Play is of equal importance as any school/ work assigned activity and should be treated as so. '
This article was written by Kaiya Jones (Actor, Filmmaker, Creator of Young Actors Mentoring) for parents of young actors.