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The Healing Power of Play - Page 4


Why did I use the theme of tricks and trickery? Falling into an abandoned well that was supposed to be sealed over could be experienced as trickery of the worse kind, with nothing fun or playful about it. But doing several variations of this game with a range of puppets and going to extremes to punctuate the trickery as playful, joyous, and shared fun among friends I thought might help Bobby process the terrible "trick" played on him, while providing a healing antidote via the world of enthusiastic, funny, safe play.

On the way out of the office, the parents said it was the first time that their son or they had laughed since the terrifying accident. Given the distress of the child and the parents, we decided to make the next session two days later.

When the family arrived for the second session, I'd poured a small amount of water into a rectangular plastic container. While Bobby and his parents watched, all of us sitting on the floor, I put some of the play animals into the water, starting with the jungle animals. Then I had them splash playfully around, making gleeful noises, such as "whee! and "whoopee!" The lion roared—not scary roars, but muffled sounds of delight.

Bobby didn't seem visibly shaken, but the water was shallow, covering only the animals' feet. I took out the jungle animals and put in farm animals, then domestic animals, and finally people, including a whole family, who all enjoyed a romp in the water. When I started putting the farm animals gently into the water, I asked Bobby's parents if they wished to help. They started adding some of the sheep, goats, cows, and horses. Bobby then picked up a pig and tentatively dropped it in the water, and then did the same with a cow, a horse, and some sheep. Gradually, he became a little more animated, making grunting sounds and laughing as he dropped each animal into the water, though he didn't yet start engaging the animals in playful actions with the others.

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