Play Helped Me Through Foster Care


Guest Blog By Elizabeth Sutherland


…in a small town tucked away in the Great Smokies, lived a little orphan girl who didn’t seem to have a care in the world.  Her clothes were worn and tattered. Her hair was dangling in her face and as she was running, the wind would strategically place it behind her ears.   Every time you saw this little girl, she was always carrying an empty milk jug with the top randomly cut out and storming off into the woods.  One might ask.  Where was she going?  Who was she going to see?

As she was making way to her destination through the woods, she was picking up leaves, worms, sticks, insects, etc. to fill up her empty milk jug.  As she was collecting, picking and pulling, she would accumulate little scratches that embraced her skin from the briar patches that seemed to high-five her along the way.  She didn’t seem to have a care in the world.  She was on a mission.

So what was her mission?

She had her imaginary classroom that she had to attend to and the items she was collecting were her students.  She had made this little classroom of hers out of leaves and sticks.  She would hold sessions every day and at the same time.  This was something that was really important to this little girl.

The Role Play has for the Life of a Foster Child

Being a foster child or an orphan, children need to find something that they can connect to, this little girl from the Great Smokies was actually NO ORDINARY LIZ.  As a child, growing up in the system and prior, due to the environment that I had no control over, I needed to find something to shield me from the cruel world that I was living in.  Running off into the “fantasy” world of playing school teacher for an hour a day helped me stay focus on who I was for a moment as well as having to think about what was going on around me.  I felt protected. I believe we shouldn’t discourage those who want to have an “imaginary” friend or play a certain role as this may be the best defense mechanism that these children in care have in moving past some of the most traumatic experiences in their sweet lives. I know for me, I stayed out of trouble and seemed to be more driven!  Let children be who they want to be!

So the next time you find yourself getting ready to throw out that empty milk jug, use your imagination and find your next inspiration!

As fate would have it, NO ORDINARY LIZ lived happily ever after…

Discover A Whole Book Of Playful “Therapeutic” Ideas


Elizabeth-Sutherland-guest-blogger-transfiguring-adoptionAbout Elizabeth Sutherland:
Liz is a  National IFS Experienced Recruiting
Associate supporting the IFS functional groups
at PwC.  Liz is very passionate about the
well-being of children in general and is a
published author in the book, Growing Up In The
Care Of Strangers, as well as sharing her
thoughts and experiences in a new book, A Foster
Care Manifesto: Defining the Alumni Movement.  She has been featured
on Spirit 90.5 FM radio to share her life story as well as Fostering
Families Today magazine. In her free time, Liz enjoys volunteering
in her community, taking spontaneous road trips to new and
adventurous places, blogging, meeting new people, being out on the
water and simply enjoy what life has to offer. ​


What do you think?

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  1. What a touching post! I was a foster as well. Getting into my own fantasy world helped me as well. I also played school and ended up being one for about 10 years. In the future I plan having my own foster kids.

    • Thank you so much for posting this. I think that many foster or adoptive parents forget the power that play can have in the life of a child. It’s good to hear from folks that can attest to the fact that imaginary play was vital for them. Take a look at our Guide to Magical Creatures Around Your Home project on this site. We welcome your feedback.

  2. I love this story. Pretend play fosters big imaginations which we need more of. I would think if you had little control over your life, creating your own world would be soothing. And look, now you are a gifted writer so that big imagination led you down the right path.

  3. Wonderful post! Fantasy really helps children learn and work through issues that they may have. I think imagination is the key to a happy childhood, and this can be especially true for foster children.

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