Playing Is Not Just For Kids
I saw a great piece on the news last night about a new pensioner’s playground which has been built next to the under 5s playpark. Basically, it’s designed to encourage the over 70s to participate in some gentle exercise, working on their hips, toning their legs and their upper body. However, the by-product of this ‘gentle exercise’ is laughter, and this to my mind is actually far more important. If you click on this link, it will take you to the BBC story where you can watch the news clip of elderly men and women trying out the equipment, and they look like they’re having an absolute ball!
It started me thinking though, that it seems like the only time in one’s life when it is appropriate to play is if you are under 5 or over 70. What about the 65 years in between! One of the (many) reasons why I home educate, is that I don’t think our education system emphasises enough the importance of free play for a child’s development once they’ve hit primary age (5+). There is a programme on CBBC at the moment dramatising the education department’s attempts to close the boarding school Summerhill, which is a very special place where the students devise their own curriculum and there’s no obligation to attend lessons. In other words if a child wants to spend the whole day at free play, then they are more than welcome to. This is exactly how I (un)structure my own children’s education. It is a child focussed approach with an emphasis on free-play. (More on this here)
However, I also believe in the value of playing for those who have left their childhood behind and made the move into the world of work and responsibility. There are so many ways to make room for playing in your life, and while you, or perhaps disapproving others, may think that it’s a ‘waste of time’, you may find that the resulting benefits render play anything but a ‘waste of time’. Just for starters, taking the time to play:
- Facilitates the learning of new skills.
- Develops a keen curiosity about a wide variety of topics.
- Encourages creativity and innovation.
- Increases productivity by aiding concentration.
- Creates new perspectives.
Some of the ways I like to play include taking photographs, brainstorming for new imaginary projects, making voice threads, drawing big colourful mind-maps, writing blog posts (!), colouring in, planting seeds, trying out new social media (Twitter, StumbleUpon, Facebook), making origami cranes, devising new recipes, winning at Cluedo, beachcombing for shells, thrifting through vintage clothes, going on the swings at the playpark, feeding the ducks, and foraging through the local woodland. For me, playing is all about discovery, innovation, and enlightenment. How could it possibly be a waste of time?
How do you play, and what benefits do you see from integrating play into your day to day life?
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