July 14th, 2009

Playing to Learn

Video: Jane Goodall in The Promise of Play

Summer is in full swing, and students of all ages are finding ways to pass their days — summer school, internships, camp, jobs, family roadtrips,  you name it. But the most important thing they do this summer might just be one “that spontaneously is done for its own sake . . . appears purposeless, produces pleasure and joy, leads one to the next stage of mastery.” In other words: play.

In a recent episode of “Speaking of Faith”, Krista Trippet spoke with Dr. Stephen Brown, a physician with a background in neurology and psychiatry, who became fascinated with the question of why humans (and animals in general) play. He now heads the Institute for Play. Brown tells us:

When one really doesn’t play at all or very little in adulthood, there are consequences: rigidities, depression, no irony — things that are pretty important, that enable us to cope in a world of many demands.

In childhood, rough-and-tumble actually seems to prevent violent behavior, and play can grow human talents and character across a lifetime.  Play can be a glimpse of the’ divine’ – an act that emerges innately and spontaneously if the individual, or animal for that matter, that’s capable of playing is safe and well fed.

As scientist Bob Fagen said: “In a world that’s continuously presenting unique challenges and ambiguity, play prepares [children] for an evolving planet.”

So watch the videos or listen to the entire program. And then go outside and play!

Play, Spirit and Character [Speaking of Faith, NPR, 7/2/09]

National Institute for Play

The Promise of Play [PBS]

Serious Fun? [Taking Note, 6/30/09]

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