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Plangry is a term of art describing play anger. In Plangry play, players pretend to express anger and related strong emotions. This play attempts masking Play Face with I Want To Eat You Face. Such play may seem very real to an observer since much of the activity revolves around recreating the body language, facial expressions, language, and tone of real anger.

Some examples:

  • “Let’s play I’m-the-Dad-and-I’m-mad-you-won’t-drink-your-orange-juice-because-I-poured-the-kind-with-pulp.”
  • “How about you’re a dragon that’s upset because I stealed your gold and rubies.”
  • “We’re going to be heroes that are mad at each other and decide to settle it with a fight.”

Playing at being angry is a safe opportunity to toy with strong emotions often looked upon as negative. In the safe harbor of play, children have a chance to experience both feeling and expressing these strong emotions (“You be the grandma and tell me we have to play at home and I’ll get upset.”) as-well-as being the recipient of such emotions (“You be the angry king. Yell at me and send me to the dungeon for making you mad.”).

Playing at being plangry is also a way to get attention. Picture a seven-year-old pretending to be upset at a younger sibling’s birthday party to grab some attention from Aunt Agnes.

Such play is preparation and practice for a lifetime of managing and receiving strong emotions. Playing “Mom is grumpy and mad because the baby won’t go to sleep” is preparation for when Mom really gets mad.

With young children this type of play is most noticeable in dramatic play spaces but is observable in block play, game play, and even at the painting easel if you keep an eye out for it. Children may also play at being plangry in social situations. Pretending to be upset at a peer or parent about something that’s not really upsetting, for example.

Adults play Plangry as well– with children and with other adults.

Animals also engage in Plangry play—picture a pile of 8-week-old chocolate lab puppies growling and snarling as they tug and tumble with each other.

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Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.

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