Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Serious Need for Play

"Work and play are words used for the same thing under differing conditions." Mark Twain.

The title for this blog is from an article of the same name by Melinda Wenner in a recent issue of the Scientific American MIND [Vol. 20 No. 1]. The article makes a very strong case for the importance of play, not only for children, but for adults as well. She cites Stuart Brown, psychiatrist and founder of the National Institute for Play who suggests that adults have three ways in getting more play into their lives

1. Body Play. This involves participating in some form of active movement that has no time pressure or expected outcome. 2. Object Play. Using our hands top create something we enjoy, and 3. Social Play. Joining other people in seemingly purposeless social activity.

I'm not so good at that one!

Around the same time I was reading Kevin Carroll's book The Red Rubber Ball at Work. He also cites the work of Stuart Brown and others. This from Carroll's introduction to his book.

"Think back to your childhood and to the years dominated by playtime, when there were endless hours to fill and the only agenda was to be captivated in the moment, to have fun. Playtime was also productive time, even is as kids we did not realise it. hat we thought was entertaining was also instructive. Activities we called soccer, tap dancing, marbles, blocks and tag were also exercises in resourcefulness, planning, strategy, design, decision making, creativity and risk taking."

Carroll continues. "In play we did not avoid obstacles; we looked for them by voluntarily challenging ourselves. We eagerly tackled insurmountable odds - height, speed, lack of money - to make our desires reality. We voluntarily tested ourselves and accepted failure as part of the play. We ran, stumbled, and got up to run again. When we lost again we simply started a new one. When something did not pan out as intended we came up with a new solution until we are satisfied. Far from frivolous time, childhood activities were constructive because they strengthened our resolve as well as our skills. Play gave us courage and instilled confidence. No doubt about it, play required us to invent, analyze, innovate, socialise, plan and problem solve."

These are among the very same skills required at work. Why then, do play and work seem so contradictory? Buy Carroll's book. Its a great read.

Carroll again. "By the time we enter the workplace we have effectively relegated play to weekends and vacations. Worse still, competition and deadlines further stifle our ability to exercise many of the productive instincts that play stimulates, such as creativity and imagination. How sad that we as adults push play to the margins of our lives, forgetting that play is not frivolous at all but highly productive."

Have you played today?

No comments:

Post a Comment