A Play Confession

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When I listen to people talk about play for long enough, they eventually tell me this: “Come to think about it, I don’t really play. I spend most of my time working and I’m too tired to do anything else when I get home. And if I happen to have any spare energy, I feel that I ought to spend it on something worthwhile instead of squandering it on play!”

It’s uncanny because this has always been my default response ever since becoming an adult. In spite of the compulsion to achieve all the time, I’ve come to recognise there is a direct correlation between how much I play and the amount of energy and happiness I feel. In fact, the more I play, the more energy I have, the happier I feel and the more I grow, the more I achieve.

And that’s why I make sure I play at least once a day for at least 15 minutes. Why? Because research shows that getting your daily amount of play is at least as important as taking your vitamins or ensuring you have a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. It’s not always easy to find the time to play, but I know I’ll feel better for it when I’ve played.

Playing to Survive or Thrive?

Judging by the large number of people doing the zombie shuffle during the daily commute, the majority of adults aren’t getting their daily recommended amount of play (15 minutes of play a day should help you overcome most of the ennui or challenges you face according to Dr Stuart Brown, a world-renowned expert on play).

What’s more, I’m seeing a recurring pattern. The more ambitious, hardworking and successful you are, the more likely you are to neglect play. Over a prolonged period of time, this could result in chronic play deficiency. And if we continue to live a life of all work and no true play, we may well end up coming face-to-face with our own Terrible Yoot (in the form of Depression and Despair).

So why not treat yourself to plenty of fun this summer and welcome the autumn with a night at the Curiosity Carousel held in the ultimate fun and crafty venue of Drink Shop Do?

The Meaning of Play

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Imagine. We’re sat in a field together on a fine summer’s day among friends and I ask you, “How do you play?”

If you find yourself bubbling with a myriad of answers and become increasingly excited just thinking and talking about play, then it’s likely you can play and want to play.

If you start reminiscing how much fun you used to have playing and wish for more play in your life now, then it’s likely you don’t currently play enough but definitely still want to play.

If, on the other hand, you become blocked and need a definitive definition of play before answering the question of “How do you play?”, then it’s possible that…

… You can play but some reason(s) you won’t play (otherwise you would have just started playing by making up answers in order to figure out the meaning of the word “play”).

… Or perhaps you can’t play and won’t play. “Can’t play” in this instance refers to the possibility that you’ve forgotten how to play or may be you never learned how to play in the first place. “Won’t play” means you are unwilling to play even if you knew how.

Play-QuadrantWhat’s do we mean by “play”?

Just as there are more than 70 definitions of intelligence, there are many definitions of play.

Dr Stuart Brown, play researcher and founder of the National Institute of Play defines play as:

  • Seemingly purposeless
  • Voluntary
  • Inherent attraction
  • Time flies by
  • Reduces sense of self-consciousness
  • Potential for improvisation
  • Desire to keep going

I’ve been testing Dr Brown’s definition and have discovered it resonates strongly with a key finding from my own play research: There is no one-size-fits-all definition of play.

After all, we’re individuals. That’s why it’s important we explore what play means to us. For ourselves. And in that exploration, we gain insights into our understanding of play and our relationship with play.

And if we play with our ideas of play for long enough, somewhere along the way, life-challenging and life-changing questions start to crop up such as “Who am I?”, “Where do I come from?” and “What kind of person do I want to become?”

Over to you, My Friend. How do you play? Be you a Play Seeker or Play Skeptic, come along and join us to learn more about play!

The First Mini Play Adventure in the World

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“You’re a what? A change agent? I thought you were joking when you said that’s what you do.”

And it does feel like a joke much of the time if I’m to be honest.

I met David last Saturday at a mini play adventure, the first event run by The School of Play. The moment I heard my soon-to-be friend David’s words I knew we were going to have lots of fun together.

And so it was that seven strangers met on a beautiful sunny afternoon at Milton Keynes Museum talking, playing and contemplating how we play and our multiple intelligences externalised through play.

I was delighted to discover that there are other adults who, like me, long to play more in their lives and are willing to pursue it wholeheartedly. And as we explored our ideas of play, amongst buttercups and concrete cows, an invisible thread appeared that connected our individual definitions of play.

It turns out one of the reasons adults want to play is because it helps us be authentic. And we want to be authentic because it feels good. Because it connects us with our true selves. Vulnerability researcher Brene Brown calls this “living wholeheartedly”, to show up and allow yourself to be seen. What our mini play adventure demonstrated was that to be authentic, we need a space that is safe and non-judgmental. The same condition necessary for true play.

Play for a Change

Creating The School of Play has been a long-time dream of mine, promoting happier adulthood through lifelong play. Having spent the past 15 years being paid to play as a change agent in large corporations (from airlines to biscuit manufacturing to financial institutions), one of the most effective and efficient ways I’ve found that keeps me going and growing is to play our way through change.

Making Play History

If we wish to change the world, we need to first change ourselves. I hope you’ll join us at the next mini play adventure on Saturday, 25 June, at the historical and beautiful setting of Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire. What better way to transform into our better selves than through play in the company of friends? Hooray!

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Life Without Play

Pop quiz

What’s the opposite of play? Many of us would say work. Now imagine a world where there no movies, no music, no jokes, no fantasy… What’s the opposite of play?

According to Dr Stuart Brown, an expert on play, it’s DEPRESSION.

Watch this interactive presentation (preferably with friends and colleagues to maximise the chances of more play together), inspired by the theory and experience of play where we’ll demonstrate why play isn’t just essential for creativity and innovation, but crucial to our survival and overall well-being.

We’ll begin with the definition of play and then investigate the relationship of work and play and demonstrate how, instead of being mutually exclusive, both are necessary for personal and group creativity and achievement. We’ll finish off with useful guidelines for bringing more play into your life. And if you play your cards right, you’ll get plenty of ideas to achieve your recommended daily amount of play!