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While experiencing his way of being with children and wild animals, Fred Donaldson had noted a specific sequence of interactions and certain qualities that characterized this. He says, Original Play helps a child re-develop the universal skill she was born with and fosters creativity and imagination.  It maximizes joy, intelligence, health and self-esteem not based on the loss of others self esteem, and creates in the child a basic trust in their world.  It significantly enhances relationships with others because it teaches loving kindness in place of aggression, allowing peers to stay companions rather than becoming competitors.

According to Dr. Donaldson, there are a number of specifically proven and anecdotally shown measurable outcomes of Original Play:

Emotional-Behavioral Benefits:

• Reduces fear, anxiety, stress, irritability

• Creates joy, intimacy, self-esteem and mastery not based on other’s loss of esteem

• Improves emotional flexibility and openness

• Increases calmness, resilience and adaptability and ability to deal with surprise and change

• Decreases tactile defensiveness

• Offers a healing process for hurts


Social Benefits:

• Enhances feelings of acceptance of difference

• Increases empathy, compassion, and sharing

• Creates options and choices

• Models relationships based on inclusion rather than exclusion

• Provides an alternative to an aggressor-victim model of relationships

• Decreases revenge and need for self defense

• Improves touch and nonverbal socialization skills

• Increases attention and attachment capacities


Bio-Physical Benefits:

• Positive emotions increase the efficiency of immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems

• Decreases stress, fatigue, injury, and depression

• Increases range of motion, agility, coordination, balance, flexibility, vestibular and   proprioceptive motion, and fine and gross motor exploration

• Integrates sensori-motor, kinesthetic and emotional responses


Cognitive Benefits:

• Increases efficiency of brain function

Video demonstrating Original Play with Fred Donaldson


Many years after she began playing with children and developed what she called Innate Play, a friend of Eleanor’s handed her the book, The Vision and Practice of Belonging: Playing By Heart, by O. Fred Donaldson, PhD, which described a similar way of being with children to what she had developed. Dr. Donaldson had named what he does, Original Play. Eleanor was immediately intrigued to learn more and wrote to Dr. Donaldson. Consequently she met with him in person several times and attended a number of his workshops. As she learned more of what he was doing, she incorporated what he had learned and developed into her innate play with children.

O. Fred Donaldson, M.D.

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