A question about how to play in war-torn Syria comes from Rita, living in the middle of a war zone:
“…I live in Damascus Syria. Where is at the moment there is war. I usually teach autistic children, but because of the situation, I am trying to help as many children as possible. Most of them are going through a hard time like Mortar falling in front of them or hitting their families or seeing explosions and dead people in front of them etc.
I usually gather them to play in groups and try my best to let them express their fear as much as possible. But I am not an expert on this subject. I have been asked to give some advice to a group of college students that are volunteers in a group responsible to play with poor families children. I hope you can help me with some idea to give for the group…”
An extract of my response:
… My heart goes out to you and the children. Thank you for the work you are doing, because I am convinced that by inviting your children to play, they will have many opportunities to share and learn – all within a fun, non-threatening environment – and hopefully forget about the terror that is going on around them for a short while.
An old Chinese proverb says that one can learn from a person in an hour of play than a day of conversation, and I believe this to be true. I know from experience that when my groups are willing to enter the head-space of “play” – anything is possible. All pretence is lost, and people are able to be who they truly are. This is my wish for you and the children you are embracing.
Take a look at www.playmeo.com and sign up for a Free account to get started. You will find lots of wonderful, fun activities, suitable for adapting to the children you work. Focus on those activities which are particularly – FUNN – Functional Understanding Not Necessary. Such as Lap Circle, Everybody Is It, Jump Tag, Jump In Jump Out and Knee Tag as some great starters. Many of these free activities come with video tutorials which will make it easier for you to learn them. They are also ‘no-prop’ style activities, so you have everything you need to get going.
FUNN is one of my most potent weapons in cutting through the many challenges we humans put in our way to truly embrace our humanity. Fun is contagious and is very hard to stand away from. And once enveloped by fun, many of the issues which occupy our waking minds just disappear – if only for an hour or two.
Then, once your children are playing and having fun, then I think you’ll find that opportunities to share and discuss what is going on in their lives will occur much more easily. The children will be feeling much more relaxed, and more willing to ‘open up.’