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Play Is One Of The Highest Forms of Learning – MoreRants

Play is strongly associated with intense thought activity and rapid intellectual growth. Yet, we cut back on play dramatically as we enter into adult life.

Is it that we think our intellectual growth is done? Probably not – I doubt that even comes into question since I doubt we cutout play consciously. Or, is it that society doesn’t look kindly on playtime for adults, instead encouraging more work and less play?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Whatever the reason, when we dramatically cut down on our play time it hurts our growth, both intellectually and physically.

“The desire to arrive finally at logically connected concepts is the emotional basis of a vague play with basic ideas. This combinatory or associative play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.” – Albert Einstein

If kids pay more attention to academic tasks when they are given frequent opportunities for free play, why wouldn’t we want to continue this as adults? The answer is easy: you’ve been influenced to work hard and then and only then, if time permits, you can play.

Research suggests that the way kids play contributes to their ability to solve divergent problems. For instance, in one experiment (Pepler and Ross 1981), researchers presented preschoolers with two types of play materials: some were given materials for convergent play (i.e. puzzle pieces) and others were given materials for divergent play (i.e. blocks). Kids were given time to play and then were tested on their ability to solve problems.

The result? Kids given divergent play materials performed better on divergent problems. They also showed more creativity in their attempts to solve the problems.

I’m deliberately adding play into my everyday routine. The last four things I did that I consider play:

1. Took an old speaker apart with my daughter.

2. Made a card for my sweetheart.

3. Created a new protein ball with the added constraint of not using any ingredients I had used before.

4. Made a Rockabilly playlist on Spotify. You might like it, check it out.

All four of these things met what I consider the three key components of play for any adult:

1. The activity is for enjoyment, not required to generate revenue.

2. It involves exploration, and by definition, exploration is a form of investigation.

3. I’m not at a desk, I’m on the floor, at a craft table, or in the kitchen.

The three key results of play for any adult:

1. Play is a tutorial for coping with real life challenges, especially when you play with others.

2. Reduced anxiety resulting in heightened compassion and empathy.

3. The ability to concentrate on non play activities for greater lengths of time.

The dictionary definition of ‘play’ is: to engage in an activity for enjoyment rather than a serious or practical purpose. I define play similarly but with one key differentiator. To engage in an activity for enjoyment that serves a practical purpose.

My practical purpose of play is to aid in my cognitive development and reduce stress. When I play I think differently. When I play the electrical frequency in my brain changes from a rolling boil to a simmer.

Because play is self motivated, anything learned during play is knowledge gained without the perception of hard work. This is in contrast to activities that we perform as duties. When learning is perceived to be arduous, our ability to stay focused may feel like a limited resource that is drained over time. And it’s hard to achieve a state of flow, the psychological experience of being totally, and happily, immersed in what you are doing.

Play is an obvious gateway to the state of flow and you will not find your sweet spot, or find flow, or do your best work, without spending a good part of your week playing.


1 Comment

  1. Brilliant post…couldn’t agree more. It’s energizing and invigorating to just do something a little less ordinary and fun!

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