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The role of play in role-playing

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Welcome to Oli's world, open to anyone who values a more inclusive future for all children and is keen to share their experience or has something to say. This week we discover the magic of play: Kim tells us about the journey into imagination and connection with her child Teo through role-playing.


When my friend Valeria asked me to write a short piece on the importance of play and, more specifically, of role-playing, I immediately agreed but, the truth is, I had no idea where to start. I have often been told that I overthink everything in life and yet I had never really thought about the real meaning of play. What does playing really stand for? And why is it so important for me and for my child? An apparently trivial question and yet….

I began to reflect on it, immediately running into a small paradox: playing is beautiful because it is instinctive, because it is intuitive, because it has the value of something that, after all, doesn’t require too much thinking.

Play allows you to travel and communicate on a different wavelength, at a level which I can’t and don’t wish to define or give a precise ontological value to, but which certainly reaches the heart…and warms it up.

Caught unexpectedly in this stream of consciousness, I decided to start from this paradox. Playing is one of the few activities that this nagging society of ours allows us to do which remains an end in itself, no rigorous justifications or motivations are required and which does not fall within the dynamics of competitiveness and hyper-performance to which we are all constantly subjected to.

Play is precious in its lightness, which must be kept and handled with love at all times, even when we talk about it.

But above all, play is as precious for children as it is for us adults who, perhaps, too often forget the importance of yielding to the very moment. One of the games I have always enjoyed playing the most with my son Teo is role-playing. We are both huge Marvel fans (truth be told, he was the one who introduced me to this crazy universe in which I am, I confess, far too involved, as a 40-year-old!) and we enjoy pretending to be our favourite superheroes. We play with the epic narrative that is offered to us, interpreting men and women without distinction of our own sex and becoming one with them. We fight, we get hurt, we make choices and sacrifices and sometimes we even die. But still, we always manage to save the world together. And, more importantly, we do so wearing super cool costumes!

‘It’s a time when children can be with their parents and they can have fun together’. Teo

There are countless archetypical elements that come into play in this game, presenting themselves to us under all shapes and forms. When we play we are confronted with power, love, sacrifice, salvation, forgiveness, trust, but also with the ability to modulate one’s strength so as not to hurt the other, being able to create a story together and with the willingness to stay together, for as long as possible. We both constantly learn something new. And the beauty of it all is that it happens in a natural, fun and light-hearted way.

So, in light of everything I have said, and trying to summarise where the importance of play truly lies, I prefer to ask my son Teo who will certainly be able to answer better and more honestly than I would, since he is not burdened with superstructures nor preconceptions.

‘Teo, in your opinion, why is it important to play?’

‘Because it’s a time when children can be with their parents and they can have fun together’.

As simple as that!




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