“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” ― Plato
I have recently finished reading a fascinating book about Play, entitled:
Play: How it shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, written by Doctor Stuart Brown and the founder of the National Institute for Play.
Children, as they grow up, play alone, with friends and in larger groups, Play to them is innocent, fun, and carefree. Then all of a sudden, normally in the early teen’s we tend to drift away from play into more adult activities. As adults, we tend to think of play as a guilty pleasure, a distraction from the real world of work, away from social responsibilities; a distraction of getting on with our lives.
The start of Chapter Two caught my imagination. He mentions talking to a bunch of engineers in Silicon Valley from Hewlett-Packard, a company I used to work for. He defines the properties of play as:
Apparently purposeless: play done for its own sake, which is why as adults so many people think of it as a waste of time….
Voluntary: You do it because you want to, not because you are forced into it
Inherent attraction: It is fun, it is not boring, you get enjoyment from it
Freedom from time: When you are doing something you really love doing, you lose track of time. You become completely engrossed in the activity.
Diminished consciousness of self: When you are playing, you forget perhaps how silly you look or act. Think about face painting with the kids. You end up looking like something has escaped from a nightmare – as the kids have painted your face – but you don’t care.
Improvisational potential: In play, there is the element of chance, you never know what is going to happen next.
Continuation desire: We want to keep doing it and when it is over, we want to keep doing it.
I love the following passage at the end of Chapter three – We are built to play.
When we stop playing, we stop developing, and when that happens, the laws of entropy take over – things fall apart. ………
Dr Brown then goes on to define Play Personalities. The definitions are described in adult terms. So what type of Play Personality are you? You might be combinations or multiple types. Are you:
The Joker – most of us will know someone who is a joker, normally at the centre of the crowd at any social gathering.
The Kinesthetic – those people who need to move to be able to think. My daughter has a very strong kinesthetic tendency, always dancing, moving about, even to the extent of having music playing, the TV on, texting on her mobile phone and doing her homework – all at the same time!
The Explorer – People who constantly seek new places, new adventures, or even new feelings, emotions or mental stimulations.
The Competitor – we all know someone who is ultra-competitive, who wants to win. Win always.
The Director – someone who wants to lead events, meetings, and loves organising. We have a friend that is so organised, every aspect of their lives is planned. Try meeting them for coffee and it is organised with precision, timing and you get the feeling that there is no impromptu moments in their lives.
The Collector – someone who collects objects, One person at work collects Star Wars figures. Another collects cars. Each one is happy, Each to their own I say.
The Artist Creator – this person loves to create; whether it is cooking, gardening, painting, writing, music, poetry, etc. I love to garden and find great pleasure in working outside to create a wonderful place to relax. I also enjoy planting seeds – normally vegetables – and watching them grow; looking after them and nurturing them. Finally, harvesting and eating the fruits of my labour. Finally,
The Storyteller – this person has a vivid imagination and can either be a writer of books or a reader of books. This is me. I have such a vivid imagination and loved nothing more than sitting down with the girls; when they were little; when it was bedtime and reading them stories, using accents and different tones to give life to the characters. I went into the primary school on more than one occasion to read to the whole of a year one year group – 80 young faces looking at you as you read them a story – wonderful.
The central question that gets posed throughout the book, is why do we play? What possible benefit is there to play?
Well, it would appear that it is one of the most effective ways to implant memories; social norms; learn new skills; connect abilities long ago learnt with new scenarios and in doing all of this, learn what works for us to deal with the world around us.
I leave you with the closing words from chapter three…….
When we stop playing, we start dying.