The Power of Play


When you were a kid, what were some of your favorite playtime activities?  Did you enjoy building forts out of blankets?  Playing a game of tag with your friends?  Putting on talent shows for your family?  Stuart Brown, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul invites us to bring more play into our lives by conducting a play history.

Here are just a few highlights from my play history: When I was little, I enjoyed drawing, painting, coloring, making things like books or games, playing with my stuffed animals and Strawberry Shortcake dolls and pretending I was Pipi Longstocking.  When I was about seven or eight, I used to do “fashion shoots” with my friends.  We’d get dressed up, put on frosty pink lipstick and sparkly blue eyeshadow and strike poses for my Kodak disc camera.  In college, I got a kick out of passing scribbles back and forth with my friend Julie.  As our environmental studies professor droned on about eutrophication we’d create funny pictures out of each other’s doodles.

Reflecting on my play history and on what has always brought me joy, it’s pretty clear to me that I have The Artist/Creator play personality perhaps with a dash of The Storyteller.  While I’m not great at telling stories (and am even worse at telling jokes!), I have The Storyteller’s emotional connection and vivid imagination.  Stuart describes eight play personalities including: The Joker, The Explorer, The Kinesthete, The Competitor, The Artist/Creator, The Director, The Storyteller and The Collector.  Your play personality may be a combination of a few of the types.

While Brown doesn’t like defining play as it’s more of a state of being, he describes play as not seeming to have a purpose, something we engage in voluntarily and want to do again and again, where we lose a sense of time, we become less self-conscious and we experience improvisation.  Even though play seems to have no purpose, Brown asserts that play, which combines emotional, physical and intellectual experiences, is essential to our continued growth and development.

Check out his TED Talk below to hear his brilliant insights firsthand including amazing examples of play in the animal kingdom and how play in the workplace increases innovation.

If you’re hankering for some creative playtime and are near the Boston-area, then please join Leah Piken Kolidas and me for our Creative Play workshop on September 19th.  And, if you can’t make that, then come play with us over at the Creative Juicy Living podcast with Connie of Dirty Footprints Studio as Leah and I talk about Creative Play today at 3pm PT.

One thought on “The Power of Play”

  1. Thank you for this post and the link to stuart brown. I’m including it as a “tool of transformation’ within my ‘hotel’: onehalfcenturymark a place of exploration and play. I can’t wait to do my play history…mine has always involved costumes!
    play on!!! patti

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