Childhood Core Needs: Spontaneity & Play

Updated: Apr 1

Spontaneity and play nurtures creativity, resilience, problem-solving, motor skills and social skills in children. This allows children to let their imagination run wild, try new experiences, make discoveries, express themselves, make room for “just being silly”, and enhances overall wellbeing.

However, not all children are able to meet this core need. Some children may be prevented from spontaneity and play when they find themselves in an unpredictable, unstable or unsafe environment, or when playful expression is discouraged or punished. Also, restrictive caregivers who excessively focus on academic or sporting success may create an environment in which children don’t allow themselves to be spontaneous or playful. As a consequence, this may hinder their opportunities to practice imagination, creativity, or playful socializing.



So what can we do as adults to help to fulfil the need for spontaneity and play in our children? Here are a few ideas:

· Encourage age-appropriate play within defined limits of safety and priorities

· Use the opportunity to bond with children through play

· Ensure children that you value their imaginative world

· Provide children with a limited number of toys to ensure they are not overwhelmed by choice

· Allow children to be bored and engage in day-dreaming

· Praise creativity and play as part of a balanced life that also includes chores and other tasks


The need for spontaneity and play remains relevant for us as adults. Our energy and mood are quickly lifted after engaging in spontaneous fun or playful activities. We tend to enjoy playing games, especially with others, and these are often accompanied by laughter and relaxing.


If spontaneity and play was denied to us as children, we may struggle to let our hair down and be silly. This has been associated with mood and anxiety disorders. However, regardless of our childhood, with the right tools, we are able to meet this need in adulthood without letting the past control us. The way we would treat children now, is the way we can also nurture our own inner child.


To find out more about how to help your children experience spontaneity and play or to successfully meet your own need, book a consultation with Dr. Terrighena on (852) 2715 4577 or e.terrighena@mind-balance.org.

Dr Esslin Terrighena - Psychologist in Hong Kong

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