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Play, Learn, Evolve

May 17, 2011

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?

We should retain child play in adulthood
Retaining play in adulthood, promotes learning

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

We gather from the above that play is a whole lot more than simply fun. And that’s exactly what psychiatrist Stuart Brown addresses in his TED Talk.

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.

The essence

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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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2011 06:27

    It’s a release from routine and offers a time of refreshment and renewal.

    Thank you for sharing.


  2. May 18, 2011 19:34

    We enjoy playing games as adults; I enjoy writing – it’s the same… you do what you enjoy; you play and you can do it very well and be successful.


    • May 18, 2011 19:57

      Dear Mike,
      You know a funny thing happened as I was writing this post. I realised I don’t play as much as I used to. I love writing too. I love it a lot. It gives me a natural high when I get the words right; in the right flow; the right rhythm; the perfect meaning. I really love writing. But it’s not the same as play. At least not to me.

      I see play as something psychical; or a combination of something psychical with your mind. Where you can totally let go; totally stumble and totally be free and non-judgemental. Like for instance dancing or swimming; or just running around like an idiot… Stuart Brown is right; just jumping up and down like a mountain goat can make you feel pretty good. That to me is play.

      And I truly believe that in the rush and multi-tasking of a 40 to 60 hours work week; lots of us as adults have forgotten how to really let go and just play. In an innocent child-like way.

      Thank you for your comment.
      Greetings, Evita


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