Once, during PBC block, I observed two students at the Imagination Center.  Tiny, shy Abby and boisterous, overbearing Nick, were certainly unlikely playmates. But they had already spent a good fifteen minutes happily arranging furniture in a dollhouse, and a handful of dolls had been negotiated and divided between them.  Now they were setting the scene. I like to call this metaplay, and it went something like this:  

Nick said, “Pretend I’m the dad and I have to go to work but I can’t find my keys.  And then a robber stole my car. And it’s a mystery.” Abby chirped, “Ok, pretend that I’m from 911.”  Nick began tipping the strategically placed furniture on its side. “And the robber dumped all of the things out to find my car keys, and. . .”  Abby interrupted in alarm- “No, don’t dump the baby crib,” rearranging the block that apparently represented the baby crib, “because the baby is sleeping in there.”  Nick paused, but accepted this demand and continued “ok, pretend. . . .” Amused, I am suddenly reminded of a different kind of “play”- that of adults in an improv group.  The first rule is to accept the other person’s “pretend” and to keep going. But here, shy Abby, half Nick’s size, and definitely half his volume, stopped and altered Nick’s pretend.  For her, tipping the crib was a non-negotiable. The baby was in there. Abby recognized that her ideas mattered, too. And in her play, she was practicing confidence skills and self-efficacy.   And Nick, in order to keep the play going, accepted her demand and continued. He was practicing compromise and perspective taking. In their play, without even realizing it, they were successfully practicing relationship skills– one competency of the five Social and Emotional Competencies recognized as essential for healthy development by C.A.S.E.L.



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