PLAY-ing EXPERTS (Part 1)


“It’s good for us to play

PREVIOUS: Childhood Play – Stages (#2)

ARTICLE: “The Importance of Play


ACoAs: Some of us may still think this topic is frivolous, not to be taken seriously. We seem to be even more afflicted than most people with the ‘Adult Syndrome’ – which is not seeing ‘nearby objects of amusement’, oblivious to the possibilities of joy

In fact, each of us DO have the ability to draw on a happiness & sense of humor that comes from inside. But we’ve been so conditioned to work hard, to suffer & shut up about it! that we can’t imagine ‘letting go’. It makes us uncomfortable, squirming in our seats.
You can’t ask us to just sit around & relax, do nothing, & try to have fun. For some that’s pure sacrilege, for others blatant disobedience

SO – it might helpful to read what some of the many students of Human Nature have to say about Play.

“Free play”, the purest form, is what kids are designed to do – imaginative, independent, self-motivated & unstructured – where children initiate their own games, & even invent their own procedures.

Free play is critical for “becoming socially adept – allowing children to develop competence, exercise self-control, follow rules, form interests, learn to –animal play–> get along with others, make decisions, make friends, regulate their emotions & solve problems” – without being traumatized! WOW.

Research into animal behavior confirms Play’s benefits, establishing its developmental importance : Playing & being playful provide animals & humans with skills that help them survive & reproduce

EXP: According to the AMA, when adults take a vacation from work, even a 4-day weekend, we’re more inventive, productive & healthier (fewer sick days) when we return
> And, a study led by Princeton researcher Alan Krueger found that people are at their happiest when involved in leisure activities

• There are many books, articles & whole organizations focused on PLAY, such as —> The American Journal of Play, The National Institute for Play, the National Museum of Play, the National Toy Hall of Fame, The Strong (educational institution studying play, in upstate NY), the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, the International Play Association, the International Center for the History of Electronic Games…..

Many of the most prominent researchers in the field of psychology (Freud, Jung, Piaget, W. James, Lev Vygotsky….) considered Play an intrinsic part of being Human, & had strong views on how important it is to child development.Freud
Freud regarded play as the way children accomplish their first great cultural & psychological achievements – noting how well & easily it allows them to express their thoughts & emotions

This is true even for an infant who may ‘only’ be returning its mother’s smile, called Attunement Play. He believed that young children could be unaware of or overwhelmed by their emotions, except by acting them out in play-fantasy.
> Other psychoanalysts noticed how children use play to work through & master quite complicated psychological problems of their experiences, which led to Play Therapy.

Dr. Stuart Brown, psychiatrist, in the late 1960s, was assigned to evaluate Charles Whitman of the U of Texas Tower massacre, & later interviewed 26 convicted Texas murderers for a small pilot study.

He discovered that most of the killers, including Whitman, shared two abuse/no playthings in common : they were from abusive families, and they never played as kids.

Since then he’s talked extensively to almost 6,000 people about their childhood, & again found “that a lack of opportunities for unstructured, imaginative play can keep children from growing into happy, well-adjusted adults.”  At age 76 he’s still hooked on playing. (TED Talk)

Research by Jenkins & Astington, 2000 / Leslie, 1987 / Singer & Singer, 1990 & 2005 – showed that make-believe (Pretend) play is closely related to the “Theory of Mind”. This important concept has to do with an awareness that one’s thoughts may differ from those of other people, and that each of us is capable of a variety of perspectives.

NEXT: Play-ing Experts (#2)

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