The Work of Play: Developing Self-Regulation in Early Childhood

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Date(s) - July 12
9:00 am - 4:00 pm

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About the Instructor

Gilbert Foley, Ed.D., serves as Consulting Clinical Psychologist at the New York Center for Child Development (NYCCD) in New York City and Co-Clinical Director of the New York City Early Childhood Mental Health Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC) : a collaboration between NYCCD and McSilver Institute, New York University. He is also adjunct professor and Co-Director of the Personnel Preparation Program in Infant Mental Health and Developmental Practice at the Adelphi University Institute for Parenting, Garden City, NY.  Dr. Foley is a retired tenured faculty member of Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology where he taught for 20 years in the Department of School-Clinical Child Psychology and coordinated the infancy-early childhood track. As Senior Clinical Supervisor in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine-Bellevue Hospital Center, he was an innovator in the technique of reflective supervision. While serving as the Chief Psychologist in the Pediatric Department of the Medical College of Pennsylvania, Dr. Foley trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and also completed a fellowship at the Yale Child Study Center with the late, Sally Provence M. D. For eleven years Dr. Foley served as the Director and Principle Investigator of the Family Centered Resource Project, a Federally Funded model/demonstration, outreach and technical assistance agency providing training to the infant/early childhood intervention community nationally. Dr. Foley‘s clinical and teaching career has been devoted in large part to working with infants and young children with special needs and their families. He is the author of several books and numerous articles. His most current book with Dr. Jane Hochman, “Mental Health in Early Intervention” is published by Brookes. The Loss-Grief Model developed by Dr. Foley, is the official approach of the Colorado Department of Education parent program. He lectures and consults widely, nationally and internationally, having recently returned from South Africa, China and Israel. He was an invited presenter at the First International Conference on Preschool Education in China sponsored by UNICEF and Nanjing University. Dr. Foley began his career as the psychologist for the Berks County Childcare and Preschool Education Programs of the Berks County Intermediate Unit.

About the Program


Play is the portal through which young children are afforded access to a vast array of developmental opportunities. Among these is the occasion to practice regulation in spontaneous, self-directed, holistic and responsive ways. In play, children are in a relatively constant flow of selecting and shifting attention, starting and stopping, planning and grading movement, modulating states of arousal, affect and activity level, changing vocal volume, initiating and responding to social bids, and solving problems. Indeed, play is an action arena that promotes the development of self-regulation without the need for an imposed task!

This day is devoted to the discovery of play in concept, practice and strategy as an invaluable intervention medium for mental health clinicians, educators and therapists from across disciplines. The nature of play and an overview of the typical stages of play in the first five years will be reviewed. The core features of sensorimotor, functional and symbolic play are identified. Vignettes describing how play serves a regulatory function are used to illustrate and punctuate concepts. A framework for the construct of regulation is presented and counterpointed against the primary sources of dysregulation in young children including: excessive psycho-sensory stimulation, states of intense emotional arousal, anxiety and conditions of toxic stress. The factors contributing to the development of self- regulatory capacity including: temperament and constitutional factors, cognitive control in the form of executive function; positive parenting, attachment and internal representation as well the capacity for symbolization are reviewed in the context of the expected progression of the acquisition of self-regulatory capacity. Specific regulatory functions of play are identified and explicated including: play as regulatory practice, play as novelty and investigation and play as roles and rules.

Principles and practices drawn from psychodynamic play therapy and Developmental, Individual-difference, Relationship-based (DIR) approaches, illustrated by case based teaching, will translate play concepts into practical strategies for clinicians and educators. Opportunities for participant questions and clinical problem solving will be afforded.

Participants will be able to:

  1. Identify and describe the stages of typical play development
  2. Define the concept of self-regulation
  3. Explain the factors that contribute to dysregulation and the development of self-regulation
  4. Discuss how play promotes the capacity for self-regulation
  5. Apply play therapy strategies to facilitate self-regulation


Click here fore the PDF version of the  FLYER


Organizational NYS-AIMH Members

We welcome all organizations that share our mission of supporting the mental health of young children.

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