Safe Enough to Play is Safe Enough to Learn at Every Stage of Development 

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By Licia Sky

We are born without language or understanding beyond our existence in the womb. From our very first moments of life, we seek comfort and connection from the reference of that original warmth and safety. We are relational, seeking, and exploring right from the start. We are born relational- giving and receiving- and we grow, thrive, and learn in the context of our relationships. We learn through reciprocity- vocal call and response, snuggle, be snuggled, give and receive; it is interactive, rhythmic, episodic, and always has an element of the unknown. This beginning of life can be likened to the first explorations of our world through play. This is fundamental to how we develop– how we acquire language, how we learn to crawl and walk, how we learn to recognize and interact with those around us, how we learn peek-a-boo, how we learn to laugh and delight in our ever expanding capacity to engage with the world around us.

Because of the many formative experiences we have along the way, including cumulative adverse childhood experiences, the opportunity to play sometimes brings up feelings in our bodies of fear or shame, and sometimes, it brings opportunities for hope and connection. How we engage with our world is, in part, determined by how we experience play. How much permission to play do we have inside us? How big or small are we allowed to be? How connected, hopeful, and joyful are we allowed to be? How does our ability to play affect how we move through the world? How can our capacity to play be enhanced or restored?

Over the Play-Based Healing Summit weekend, I was moved and inspired by the level of care, attunement, compassion, creativity, innovation, and potential for healing as shared by our partners in play. 

The TRF team worked behind the scenes to hold space for our speakers and our audiences at the 1st Annual Play Based Healing Summit, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to gather with you and practice embodied play. The Summit had been a dream of Bessel’s and mine for a long time, and we cannot thank you enough for sharing in this experience with us. 

When Ed Tornick and I first came together on this project, we had thought it would be a single day event. As we began discussing the schedule we noticed how much expertise in play is available, and in three days we still weren’t able to invite as many presenters as we would have liked. And yet, my heart feels full from what we were able to accomplish. 

From the first moments of Ed’s presentation about meaning making to the rhythmic closing with our Hip Hop friends, we were immersed in the myriad dimensions of play over the developmental arc of our lives. While all of the work presented over the Summit weekend was beautiful and invaluable to trauma healing and individual development, this Summit has room to grow. I look forward to continuing to build a community of players for many years to come. 

With love and gratitude,

Licia Sky, CEO Trauma Research Foundation

Photo Credit: Robert Collins

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