A friend and I were talking about playing. This is not about the children you understand, they’re all adult now, we were talking about us and what we’d been playing at!
Play gets a bad press. Our target and objective obsessed culture – and education – leaves little room for play. It’s increasingly squeezed out of our lives, squeezed out of childhood, definitely squeezed out of learning.
The crime of that is that play is a very profound and valid way of learning.
But at the risk of being accused of ‘wasting time’ most of us don’t do it any more.
My friend and I are both branching out into new realms. And both of us need to put in a huge amount of hours to develop the skills needed. Much of this is experimentation and trial and error. Basically we need to play around our subjects to learn and become practised at them.
But the label of play – to describe our associated activities in that way – gives us the shivers. For we’re supposed to be ‘working’ aren’t we?
And that’s where the confusion lies. Play is valuable work too.
You rarely come away from playing with various materials (think cooking, becoming proficient with your latest gadget, or all kinds of creative activities) without having learnt something.
Playing is an extremely useful form of research. Many important discoveries have been made by accident, and some of our most renowned genius’ like Leonardo Da Vinci for example, have come to greatness through playing around with ideas.
By making less and less time and opportunity in children’s lives – and education – for them to play, we are denying them valuable chances to develop their minds and skills. Whether that’s tiny tots playing with what’s around them as a form of discovery, children playing with bricks, books, junk, tools, utensils, household stuff, art and crafts materials, or teenagers with their gadgets, games and technology; understand that this is how they are learning and developing.
It’s all valuable research into the stuff of life. The stuff of work. Development of the mental as much as the physical. Development that will enhance their capacity to learn.
Play, learn, research; they are all inseparably interlinked. (Interesting article on the benefits of play here)
So we should encourage our youngsters to play as much as possible. It is never a waste of time.
And as my friend and I discussed; that applies to us adults too. We’ll just call it research from now on!