Did you play enough today

kids at play

If you were a child, it is a question that your parents should well be asking themselves. You might well be suffering from what Peter Gray called the play deficit.  He feels that children today are cosseted and pressured in equal measure. Without the freedom to play, they will never grow up.

He uses strong language in describing the effect on children:

In recent decades we as a society have been conducting a play-deprivation experiment with our children. Today’s children are not absolutely deprived of play, but they are much more deprived than children were 60 years ago and much, much more than children were in hunter-gatherer societies. The results, I think, are in. Play deprivation is bad for children. Among other things, it promotes anxiety, depression, suicide, narcissism, and loss of creativity. It’s time to end the experiment.

Someone who would be in complete agreement with him is Dr. Stuart Brown.  I was very struck by a TED video talk today titled Play is more than just fun. It’s 26 minutes long but well worth watching. The essence of his talk was that  humor, games, roughhousing, flirtation and fantasy are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults — and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age.

He was much influenced in his work by an early study on the University of Texas Tower mass murderer, Charles Whitman. Over the course of his clinical career, he interviewed thousands of people to capture their play profiles. His cataloging of their profiles demonstrated the active presence of play in the accomplishments of the very successful and also identified negative consequences that inevitably accumulate in a play-deprived life.

At the conclusion of his clinical career, he believed that play could be the key to discovering the giftedness that is in everyone. He also felt that there was not sufficient understanding of what play really is.

With the support of the National Geographic Society and Jane Goodall he observed animals playing in the wild. He began to see play as a long evolved behaviour which was important for the well-being and survival of animals. He was strongly convinced that humans are uniquely designed to enjoy and participate in play throughout their lives.

To further this work, he was the driving force behind the National Institute for Play  You can get a better appreciation of his thinking in the following video which is an introduction to his book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.

So back to our original question. Did you play enough today? It may be the most important thing you will do to ensure your brain is developing in a positive way. You will also have a very positive interaction if others are involved in your play. This is not something that should get in the way of whatever other chores you may have. Think of it rather as the best way of investing your time. Why not goof off and have fun.