Brief Notes on the Psychoanalytic Theory of Play


1. Psychoanalysis stresses the importance of fantasy and symbolic play.

2. The child can use symbolic games to resolve or master conflicts which are otherwise passively endured.

3. Play facilitates the learning of identity, the definition of roles and the acceptance of rule- regulated behaviour.


4. Play is the child’s natural mode of self-expression.

5. When a child plays freely he can express his inner feelings and problems, he can express his personality.

6. Through play the child gains satisfaction from exercising capabilities, mastering his motor skills.

8. Desires which cannot be satisfied because they are too threatening for the child himself to recognize, or desires which cannot be satisfied in reality are represented symbolically in play.


9. The child is able to attain mastery over ego-threatening and painful experience as well as gain a degree of satisfaction of unattainable goals.

10. In psychoanalysis, play has important therapeutic value because of its cathartic potential.

11. Erikson supported the psychoanalytic position that play has defensive and cathartic elements and added that play is a means by which the child learns to cope with the environment.

12. Model situations are created by the child through whom he learns how to adjust to the demands of external reality.


13. Erikson distinguishes three phases of play development: Firstly, the sphere in which the ego attempts to adjust itself to the world. During this stage the senses and body coordination’s are exercised. Secondly, the microsphere in which an attempt is made to gain mastery over experiences through the projection of internal feelings upon toys. Finally, the microsphere in which the child is exposed to other children.

14. Through this contact the play behavior of others can be observed and social rules can be learned.

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