top of page

Let the Children Play!

This month we remember Youth Day here in South Africa. Besides it being a day off work, what are we remembering?

Whilst the uncomfortable memory of the history remains, 16th June 1976 is a date burned in many hearts. What started as a peaceful demonstration quickly escalated into a life changing day. 500 young people, including school students were killed as they protested about the fact that they were prohibited from learning in their native language. The famous photo of a Makhubu carrying Hector Pieterson who had been shot by South African police speaks to my heart. Politics aside, what those children experienced that day, and what many, many children experience these days, is horrendous.

Can we pause for a while and think about the youth in our communities, our families and even our homes...

Our children live such vulnerable lives. I say vulnerable, because I am aware of all the development and formation that takes place during this time of life. Bodies, minds, emotions, morals, values and so much more is changing; all the experiences children have, speak into this process - for better or for worse.

I am deeply aware of the traumas our youth are subjected to today, in 2023. Violence has become so apart of our lives, not just in South Africa, but worldwide. The TV shows young people are exposed to, the domestic violence some grow up bearing witness to, the trauma of school shootings, and the list could go on - these are all big things to experience! How does this generation cope? How do they process everything?

My journey of working with children began 17 years ago. Those days of Friday Kids Club were a training ground for me. I now have the opportunity of working with children in the therapeutic playroom, and what a privilege that is. God has opened doors for me to be with children and see different levels of vulnerability - emotional and spiritual. I am able to bear witness to their stories, their voices, their struggles and their experiences.

Through my time in the playroom, I have come to understand the power of play. Children don't always have the words they need to express what is happening in their lives. Play Therapist, Gary Landreth, said “Toys are children's words and play is their language”.

The counselling playroom can become messy - literally and emotionally - but the power of holding space for a little person is HUGE. Play allows children a way of making sense of the world and their unique interpretation of it. Play gives room for raw emotion, uncertainty, and much expression.

Imagine a child playing out the events of that awful day of 1976, using dolls or action figures to set the scene. Through play, they are able to externalise their emotions in a safe environment, they have a space to process the fear, anger, and sadness they may be feeling; and this gives them to courage to integrate those intense feelings into their evolving understanding of the world.

Time in the playroom also gives little people a place to explore and experiment with different problem-solving tactics, while building resilience and fostering a sense of agency in the face of hardship. Another gift the playroom offers to children is a space where their experiences are validated. As adults it is so easy to brush past the injustices our children experience. Having life experience on our side, it is easy to sometimes move forward without actually processing what particular things may be like for those of the younger generation.

Let's not forget about teenagers. Behind what some adults label as 'moodiness' or 'typical teenage behaviour', is a young person waiting to be heard! The listening endeavours may need to get more creative with this age group, but the need is just as big!

While counselling spaces can be very helpful; not all children and young people have access to them. My hope is that more adults become safe spaces for young people to turn to. Young children and teens need these spaces and safe people with whom they can share their experiences. Are we, the adults, the older so called “wiser generation”, attuned to the cries for help?

Play is not a waste of time, but rather a powerful tool for healing.

Let the children play!


Recent Posts

See All


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page