To Play or Not to Play

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The most common question I get asked whenever I mention the School of Play is this: “The School of Play… what’s your demographic?”

What people really want to know is: “What kinds of adults want to play?” And, more importantly, “Are these adults like me?”

Based on my observations:

1. Adults who come to play at the school usually have a healthy sense of curiosity and some memory of play associated with past happiness.

2. The adults come from a diverse background with a shared desire to play more in order to achieve more of what they want in life. There is no stereotype of a typical player (or playmaker as I like to call us). This is evidence that play satisfies a fundamental drive and supports the ongoing development and maintenance of adults, not just for children.

The Risk of Play

It’s a well-known phenomenon that play isn’t all laughter and lightness. True play also comes with a degree of risk, stretching us beyond our comfort zone so that we can grow to become the person we want to be.

The Reward of Play

The reward of this risk-taking is a sense of freedom that many of us rarely get to experience as adults in our everyday life. And rarely at work. Engaging with more play outside of work is one way to begin to address this imbalance.

Do you dare to play?

Play means different things to different people but the benefits of play remain the same for those who have fun and let themselves enjoy life as it comes. When we play, we feel a sense of connectedness, to others and to ourselves. We feel a sense of belonging and play gives us hope so long as we keep going in pursuit of our life’s purpose (including figuring what it actually is).

What more can we ask of something seemingly simple and modest as pure play?

Yay or Nay to Play?

When we play, we become present as our whole selves and with this comes a great joy, relief and reassurance that we actually have what we need to overcome the challenges we face – at times, with a little help from our friends, of course!

So what will you choose to say the next time you’re invited to play?

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!

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!