Thursday, March 1, 2012

Play - Our Most Important "Work?"

I had the most wonderful day yesterday... I spent the whole day playing with my three-year-old grandson.  We biked over to the park (him in the seat on the back of my bike), played on the playground--swinging, sliding, teeter-tottering, and playing "pirate ship" where the slide platform was our ship, and where we jumped off and swam with the dolphins and met up with a friendly shark and took him along with us as we then biked over to the intracoastal to sit on the dock and watch the boats go by as we had our lunch (friendly shark had fish for lunch).  After lunch we biked down to our local nature center (with friendly shark swimming along next to us) to walk through the butterfly garden and the natural hammock and climb the lookout tower.

                                                         This is our "pirate ship"
A few years ago I read the book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, by Stuart Brown, M.D.  The title tells you what Dr Brown wants you to know..   People NEED to play, for so many reasons, AND all throughout our lives, not just as children.  The book begins with a scene where dogs, horses, adults and children have all come together in a spontaneous play moment that is "captivating, gleeful, unexpected, and short-lived..." that "energizes... enlivens... renews..."  But there's more, much more, than that to play.  Dr Brown says:
It has evolved over eons in many animal species to promote survival.  It shapes the brain and makes animals smarter and more adaptable.  In higher animals, it fosters empathy and makes possible complex social groups.  For us, play lies at the core of creativity and innovation.
 Of all animal species, humans are the biggest players of all. We are built to play and built through play.  When we play, we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity, the truest expression of our humanity, the truest expression of our individuality.  Is it any wonder that often the times we feel most alive, those that make up our best memories, are moments of play?
I found this video on TED with Dr Brown...   Stuart Brown:  Why play is vital--no matter your age:

Play comes in all forms and is different for all of us.  It could be playing games of skill or running on the beach, or it could be writing software, playing the piano, or developing a new recipe.  I just finished reading Martha Beck's latest book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, where she advocates that "real play is actually a wildly creative application of deep practice.  It means picking something hard and doing it at a level that's almost too difficult."

Play is important, every day, for everyone.  Read these books!  And whatever form your play takes, get going and PLAY!

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