Play, Learn, Evolve
Modern day society teaches us: men work and little boys play. In other words, you either shape up and act like the heavy contender you are or you risk losing out by playing the buffoon. For it is what it is and ‘never shall the twain meet’.
Most of us relate to this. Face it. If you need someone to do business with, you’d go for the one with the track record and the austere look. Not the joker. Wouldn’t you?
In his Growing Down, Madhur Chadha starts by asking us the question “Have you ever watched a kid play?” To continue by pleading for adults not to restrict children in their play as this might restrict them in their abilities.
Instead he argues, we grown-ups should pattern ourselves to children and ‘grow down’: “…what’s the harm in trying? Do what makes you happy once in a while!! Be a Kid.”
We play, we learn
An interesting thought. LiveScience takes this idea a step further in the article People Need to Play More. They extensively discuss a new theory which suggests society will break down if adults don’t take time out to play.
This remarkable theory is based on the work of developmental psychologist Peter Gray. Gray studies hunter-gatherers societies and believes that:
“Early hunter-gatherers used playtime, humour and inclusive joking around to overcome the innate tendencies toward aggression and dominance. The thinking goes that play was necessary to make cooperative societies possible.”
Gray elaborates on this in The Human Nature of Teaching II: What Can We Learn from Hunter-Gatherers; where he explains the structure of these societies and the position of play. He specifically focuses on the way child-like free play is conducive to self-education.
Children capable of educating themselves, is a concept Sugata Mitra adheres to. His Hole in the wall project (featured in Learners teach thyself) shows us how children —with no digital background whatsoever— teach themselves to use a personal computer. Solely through play.
Play is more than fun
Brown, who has made play his life’s work, sees a strong correlation between our adult-life and our play-history. Brown’s research further shows that play not only enhances creativity, social and cognitive abilities; it also enhances our adaptability to various (dangerous) circumstances.
Brown concludes from his studies, that play isn’t a preparation for future tasks in society. If you stop a cat from playing; he’ll still grow up to be a predator. And not all children who play at being firemen grow up to be one.
In fact, contrary to what modern day society teaches us, Brown states that we are actually “designed to play.” And, “The opposite of play is not work; it’s depression.” Neglecting play as part of our ‘human being’ or as a transformative force; not only means we lose our unique capacities; we also risk losing out on life’s (professional) opportunities.
The essence of Brown’s teachings: play is an important and necessary part of our biological entity. Similar to sleep and dreams.
If play means this much —to both children and adults; imagine all we can achieve, just by being playful. Come to think of it, this wasn’t such a bad idea by Madhur Chadha.
Now it’s your turn
How do you look at child-like free play? How has your own play-history influenced your adult-life? And how are you infusing play in your life today?
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