A Child’s Work

the Importance of Fantasy Play”

Vivian Gussin Paley (University of Chicago Press, 2005).


The author describes how children not only learn through play, but also adapt to complex situations, emotions, fears, etc. Even solitary play is “socially oriented” if dolls or stuffed animals stand for other people. According to Elena Bodrova and Deborah Leong’s “Tools of the Mind,” there is evidence that children today are less able to “self-regulate,” because they aren’t allowed or encouraged to engage in fantasy play (compared to the 1940s).

The recent fashion of burdening young children with a rigidly organized curriculum that’s overcrowded with abstract and irrelevant information, robs children of the opportunity to imagine and create according to their own internal motivation. In part, I think that adult anxiety over supposedly “inappropriate” play and the perceived need to keep kids under constant surveillance, even interrogating kids about what they were playing when the Authorities weren’t watching, is an expression of adult insecurity and an attempt to make adults feel more secure at children’s expense.

This book offers many examples of children engaging in fantasy play, the adult's reactions and attempts to encourage fantasy play, and why the children benefited from it. Highly recommended!