Before we get into the nitty gritty of it, let’s play!
With someone near you try this. Countdown from 3 and after 1 both people say an animal. Then take a few minutes and discuss what a combination of these two animals would be called, and what it would look like.
Where are you? At work? At home? Of the office supplies on your desk, which one would you be and why? Or if you were a kitchen appliance which one most represents your personality?
The work of Dr. Stuart Brown in his book “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” has been one of the most influential reads of my career.
In it Dr. Brown discusses why we play, why it is a vital practice that need not be dropped after adolescence in favour of becoming a “grown up” (whatever that means). Alternatively this book promotes play at all ages for a myriad of health and social reasons. The work of play has become so highly regarded there are institutes dedicated to its study (www.nifplay.org) and therapy regimens in place for a number of difficulties from depression to relationship crises.
Have we forgotten how to play? Can we remember? Can we help the future generation never lose this ability and create communities where our leaders have grown up with a sense of play and all the benefits it carries?
I believe the answer is yes to all of those questions. One of the most well known facets of performing arts has it right there in the name, a “play”! A dear friend and colleague of mine have found ourselves imparting this awareness to our performance students. At this point they have all heard us say “it’s called “a play”! Not “a work”, not “a suffer”, not “an insecurity”” Let’s play!
It is my firm belief that children who are exposed to performing arts and who choose to continue its study through adolescence, whether it be dance, music, or theatre, are more likely to retain the ability to play. Play, believe it or not, is practiced. Children, of course, don’t know they are doing it, but it’s practiced nonetheless. Myself and my staff are blessed to “work in play”.
It need not be complicated, something as simple as the games outlined above can provide a car ride’s worth of entertainment with hilarious discussion to further emphasize to your child the importance and delight of play. And when can it start! Early! Below is a link of ways to engage your infant in play, long before they are using monkey bars and scaling the slide in the “wrong” direction.
See Dr. Stuart Brown talk about his work in play here:
Engage your infant (and yourself) in play with ideas from here:
And find out a few surface scratch reasons to encourage and emphasize the importance of play in your home here: