An idea to ponder from the NAEYC conference

"It is in the space between inner and outer world, which is also the space between people--the transitional space--that intimate relationships and creativity occur." D.W. Winnicott 

a Florida alligator I met in Orlando

One of the best things about going to the  NAEYC conference in Orlando last week, was getting to meet some people who's work I admire. I also saw some good presentations, including Vivian Gussin Paley's keynote address "Who Will Save the Kindergarten?" and another one that was called 'Where is Play Today?', and was sponsored by people from the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood.

This was especially relevant since it was given in the heart of Disney-land, one of the most prominent marketers to young children. In a way it was a sad talk, since in many ways play seems to be an endangered species these days. But on the other hand, research is really on the side of people who think children need time to play meaningfully. That means, play that is creative and not merely imitative of screen entertainment. Perhaps the fact that research confirms the benefits of play over and over again is helping to elevate it's stature among all people who care for children.

During the session, President of CCFC Susan Linn introduced us to some of the ideas of D.W. Winnicott, who I had not known of before. She described his ideas about a "holding place", which is the space, for instance, between a Mother and an infant when she is cradling him in her arms. It is within this safe space, she said, that children have a chance to 'generate', rather than just receive emotions, language, and other stimulation. So, when a baby smiles or coos, and then the person who is holding her smiles back, the baby has generated that good feeling between them. In this way, according to Winnicott, people come to know that they can express their 'true selves' safely. 

 It is this kind of space that people find in play, where they can instigate something and find a friend who will respond...where they can do something silly and generate a reaction in another person, or pretend to be a cat and find another "cat" that wants to build a house under the table with them. Winnicott believed that it is only in play that we can be our true selves.

"It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self."

podcast of my presentation at NAEYC 2011 which should be available soon


  1. I'm so glad that you're blogging some of your conference experiences. This post is timely for me - this week my family is taking a break from video media entertainment, which means minimal use for adults and no screen time for the kids. That "space between" is exactly what I feel like we have been sacrificing. Thank you for giving me a phrase to describe it.

    You have also reminded me that I'm long overdue for reading Cohen's "Playful Parenting".

  2. I heard Susan Linn present a year or two ago. She is such great presenter. I subscribe to her organization. And Ohhh I wish I got to hear Vivian Paley! So glad you had the opportunity to be re-energized.


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