Children’s insecurities and frustration show up directly or symbolically in their free play. The aggressive, destructive, unsocial, or antisocial attitudes are acted out in play.
As professionally mature physical educators, health educators, and recreation specialists we must try to decipher the real meaning must try to structure play situations that will facilitate release and expression of impulses, feelings, and fantasies.
Games and sports often become substitute responses which redirect behaviour and satisfactorily reduce the original instigation by satisfying emotional and social needs.
Hambridge illustrates how structured play therapy enables child and therapist to bring energy to bear where it will count. The therapist acts to focus attention, to stimulate further activity, to give approval, to gain information, to interpret, or to set limits. The structured play situation is used as a stimulus to facilitate the independent, creative free play of the child in treatment.
In tracing the evolution of play therapy, Lebo concludes that if play therapy had developed solely from the theoretical explanations of play it would be used to educate children to play properly.
Bernstein asserts that play is a natural means of expression for the child and can be clinically useful in diagnosis, therapy, and research. Play may diminish anxiety in children and be helpful in evaluating the need for psychiatric help.
Cox in studying sociometric status and individual adjustment before and after play therapy, found that sociometric status was shown to be an effective index of adjustment for a group of 52 orphans, aged 5 to 13 years. The findings supported the theory that the sociometric status is a sensitive and valid index of behavioural change.
Chittenden used play situations as a means of helping children get a better understanding of their own problems and as a means of finding whether they gained in understanding. Play was used also as a means of direct teaching of manners and techniques that would help children to avoid quarrels.
Shaw found that an inconsistent or conflicting environment retards the development of socially sanctioned behaviour. He showed quite dramatically the influence of the group, or small segment of society and its mores, upon the attitude and behaviour of individuals.
Wattenberg noted that in any group of full-fledged delinquents, the first signs of behaviour difficulties appear in later childhood, often before the age of ten. For eleven year olds, poor school performance and gang activities are strongly related.
Frustrations met in school may have led to hostile feelings which were vented in destruction of property or fighting. The author suggests that for those who failed in efforts to earn social recognition in sports or scholarship, daring deeds of theft and bravado may have been compensation.