Updated: Mar 29
Have we lost touch with the incredible power that play can afford our lives? In our oh-so-hectic-and-distracted modern world, have we become too busy to play like the generations that came before us? What positive changes could take place if we became more present?
Debi John, founder of Play Healing CIC and self-described "play pollinator", joins Second Mountain Comms' Ben Veal as the special guest for episode two of the #GoodJourneysPod, the podcast series that explores the lives of inspired people and their inspiring stories.
Debi is a play consultant, trained play therapist and the creator of PAUSE, PLAY, CONNECT, a framework that aims to inspire parents and carers to play with their children in a modern, memorable way. A passionate advocate of the transformative power of play, Debi draws on 20 years' professional experience in safeguarding, education and the creative arts to reinforce the power of play in our incredibly busy lives.
Episode two of the Good Journeys with Second Mountain podcast is out now.
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THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF PLAY
"Play is needed in our society today"
Speaking candidly about her experiences, both as a parent and as an expert in purposeful play, Debi believes that play has never been more vital than in today's uncertain world.
"We are living in this really stressed out society ... over 80% of the parents that I work with struggle with play or just don't have time for it," says Debi. Play has become "this separate thing that kids do", yet Debi's mission is to "empower parents [by giving] permission to play your way."
building connection through play
"Play is powerful. Play heals communities."
Play Healing was birthed out of Debi's own personal experiences: "I found myself really lonely as a parent. I had two kids and a dog, I had a husband, and I would still be sitting there sometimes going: I feel really disconnected. I feel lonely. I'd talk to my mum and she was like: 'Well, we're all built for connection, Deb. It was like this penny dropped ... we need connection, it's in-built in all of us. How do we get there? Through play and curiosity; play builds connection."
Coming through the education system as both a secondary and primary school teacher before undertaking extensive training to become a play therapist, Debi is clearly passionate about sharing the power of play with others: "Play is powerful. Play heals communities if we let it."
Pausing for mental health
"We want that harmony in our family."
Play Healing's PAUSE, PLAY, CONNECT framework lies at the heart of the Wiltshire-based Community Interest Company, which has worked with both families and corporate organisations across Europe including, recently, directly supporting Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
"The application just seems to be far-reaching and permeating so many areas at the moment," says Debi. "Pausing for our own mental health affects our ability to connect with our kids [and] our workforce."
The Play Healing framework is grounded in the concept of attunement: "Sometimes I use [the] analogy of turning a guitar ... making it sound harmonious again. We want that harmony in our teams at work. We want that harmony in our family. And the only way we can tune is when we're in a relaxed and responsive enough state so that we can be that fully present adult and really see that child in front of us."
Many parents, of course, have been profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown, which flipped family routines upside down overnight. Working closely alongside numerous families throughout the pandemic, Play Healing has witnessed some significant changes for the better, particularly amongst fathers: "I've seen a real shift in their understanding. They're taking more of an interest in the child development side of things. They are giving themselves more permission to parent and be part of their journey. It's just been incredible."
Episode 2 of the Good Journeys with Second Mountain podcast is out now.
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