"What do most Nobel Laureates, innovative entrepreneurs, artists and performers, well-adjusted children, happy couples and families, and the most successfully adapted mammals have in common? They play enthusiastically throughout their lives."
~ Stuart Brown, Institute of Play
Play is often described as a time when we feel most alive, yet we often take it for granted and may completely forget about it. But play isn't a luxury - it's a necessity. Play is as important to our physical and mental health as getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. Play teaches us how to manage and transform our "negative" emotions and experiences. It supercharges learning, helps us relieve stress, and connects us to others and the world around us. Play can also make work more productive and pleasurable.
Despite the power of play, somewhere between childhood and adulthood, many of us stop playing. We exchange play for work and responsibilities. When we do have some leisure time, we're more likely to zone out in front of the TV or computer than to engage in creative, brain-stimulating play. By giving ourselves permission to play with the joyful abandon of childhood, we can continue to reap its benefits throughout life.
Some of the reasons we play:
- to learn
- to create
- to feel challenged
- to pass time
- to calm and focus ourselves
- as spectators watching others
- competitively to win
- for the fun of it
- for the joy of it
Play connects us to others
Sharing joy, laughter, and fun with others promotes bonding and strengthens a sense of community. We develop empathy, compassion, trust, and the capacity for intimacy through regular play.
Play fosters creativity, flexibility, and learning
Play is a doorway to learning. Play stimulates our imaginations, helping us adapt and solve problems. Play arouses curiosity, which leads to discovery and creativity. The components of play - curiosity, discovery, novelty, risk-taking, trial and error, pretense, games, social etiquette, and other increasingly complex adaptive activities - are the same as the components of learning.
Play is an antidote to loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and depression
When we play vigorously, we trigger a mix of endorphins that lift our spirits and distractions that distance us from pain, fear, and other burdens. And when we play with other people, whether they’re friends or strangers, we are reminded that we are not alone in this world. We can connect to others in delightful and meaningful ways that banish loneliness.
Play teaches us perseverance
The rewards of learning or mastering a new game teach us that perseverance is worthwhile. Perseverance is a trait necessary to healthy adulthood, and it is learned largely through play. Perseverance and violence are rarely found together.
Play makes us happy
Beyond all these excellent reasons for playing, there is simply the sheer joy of it. Play is a state of being that is happy and joyous. Jumping into and out of the world of play on a daily basis can preserve and nourish our own hearts, and the hearts of our communities.
Play and relationships
Play is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. Playing together for the fun of it brings joy, vitality, and resilience to relationships. Play can also heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Through regular play, we learn to trust one another and feel safe. Trust enables us to work together, open ourselves to intimacy, and try new things. By making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your love relationships- as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends.
Play helps us develop and improve our social skills
Social skills are learned in the give and take of play. Verbal communication and body language, safety and danger, freedom and boundaries, cooperation and teamwork: all are discovered and practiced repeatedly during infant and childhood play. We continue to refine these skills in adulthood through play and playful communication.
Play teaches us how to cooperate with others
Play is a powerful catalyst for positive socialization. Through play, children learn how to "play nicely" with others - to work together, follow mutually agreed upon rules, and socialize in groups. As adults, play continues to confer these benefits. Evidence even shows that play may be an antidote to violence. In fact, those who avoid or have never learned to play may become lost in the world of fear, rage, and obsessive worry.
Mutual play can heal emotional wounds
When adults play together, they are engaging in exactly the same patterns of behavior that positively shape the brain in children. These same playful behaviors that predict emotional health in children also lead to positive change in adults. Studies show that an emotionally-insecure individual can replace negative beliefs and behaviors with positive assumptions and actions by living with a secure partner. Close, positive, and emotionally-fulfilling relationships heal and create emotional resiliency. Play provides a safe and joyous context for the development of such relationships.
Psychiatrist and writer Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has studied play extensively. He describes play as a flow state that requires just the right balance of challenge and opportunity. If the game is too hard or too easy, it loses its sense of pleasure and fun. Maintaining a flow state in games with others requires all participants, regardless of age or ability, to feel challenged but not overwhelmed.
When you observe your child at play at Creative Minds Learning Center, they are socializing and learning together. CMLC encourages play time and creativity for both teachers and children.