11-3 | Children’s Play in the Shadow of War

Article

Children’s Play in the Shadow of War

Daniel Feldman

Abstract:

The author demonstrates that war places children’s play under acute stress but does not eliminate it. He argues that the persistence of children’s play and games during periods of armed conflict reflects the significance of play as a key mode for children to cope with conditions of war. Episodes of children’s play drawn from the recent Syrian Civil War illustrate the precariousness and importance of children’s play and games during contemporary armed conflict and focus attention on children’s play as a disregarded casualty of war. The article compares the state of underground children’s play in con- temporary Syria with the record of clandestine games played by children in the Holocaust to substantiate its claim that children adapt their play to concretize and comprehend traumatic wartime experience. The article posits that play is both a target of war and a means of therapeutically contending with mass violence. Key words: play and trauma; play therapy; Syrian Civil War; the Holocaust; underground play; war play