Saturday, June 6, 2009

Surprise! We Need More Play, True Play.



These sound like rather lofty goals for play. Dr. Brown argues, though, that over emphasis on achievement in America “demonstrates a lack of appreciation for what freely chosen play-based activities contribute to long-term life satisfaction.” (112)

The essence of play is freedom. This is why structured “play,” the overemphasis on organized sports and organized activities with young children may actually be detrimental to their development. People, including children, of course, do need some structure. The key is balance.

Most interesting to me is how Dr. Brown finds a role for play in the workplace. He has consulted with many Fortune 500 companies on using play to foster creativity and innovation.

One of Dr. Brown’s research techniques is to take a “play history” of a person, which he has done with everyone from Nobel Laureates to mass murderers. These play histories can be quite telling.

The NASA JPL Lab (Jet Propulsion Lab) found that engineers who tinkered with machines of all sorts as children made better problem solvers than equally qualified engineers who had not been tinkerers.

Charlie Whitman, the shooter in the “Texas Tower Massacre” at the University of Texas in Austin, killing 15 people, wounding 31, in 1966 was found to have had virtually no play at all during his childhood due to an extremely domineering father.

From the time I was about 7-years-old and on into high school, my passion, my favorite play, was digging holes—building play houses or forts underground, digging tunnels, moving many cubic yards of dirt with bucket and shovel. I now know how dangerous this was at times, but that’s how play is sometimes.

You may think I chose a book called Play because summer is here, but that is a coincidence. Besides, Dr. Brown argues that play is something we all need year round. “The opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression.” (126)


See Dr. Brown give a talk at the annual TED Conference (Technology, Entertainment, Design).
See also the National Institute for Play, founded by Dr. Stuart Brown

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