Play Time! The Importance Of Play


“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” -George Bernard Shaw

The great philosopher Plato said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Could he be right? Is it possible that play – or essentially, doing things for fun – has a significant role in our self-development?

In today’s fast-paced world, play is often seen as unproductive, something only children do, or possible only if one has too much free time. But recent research has shed light on what great thinkers of old have always held – play is vital to our development and well-being.

Dr. Stuart Brown, co-author of the new book, “Play – How it Shapes Our Brains, Opens the Imagination, and Shapes the Soul”, lists several reasons why play is important:

  • Play keeps us happy. When we stop playing, we stop discovering. Our behavior becomes fixed, we are not interested in new and different things, and we find fewer opportunities to take pleasure in the world around us.
  • Play helps us innovate. Brainstorming is crucial to innovation and problem-solving of any form, and its basis lies in playful imagination. Solutions are nourished by fresh thinking, which play promotes. As creative genius Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
  • Play develops our thinking skills. Play often involves active problem-solving, frequently in a matter of moments, such as deciding when to take a shot at the goal or when to dodge an opponent. This is vital in developing critical thinking and alertness, both of which are required in a variety of everyday situations.
  • Play develops our thinking & social skills. Imaginative (eg. masak-masak) and cooperative (eg. team sports, board games) play require highly complex social intelligence, involving patience (to take turns, to wait for the appropriate time to act), responsibility (learning that every action produces a result), and empathy (the ability to see another’s point of view).

While on the surface, play may appear simple and meaningless, it is something that is crucial to our functioning. As play scholar Brian Sutton-Smith theorizes, “the opposite of play is not work, it is depression.”

So what are you waiting for? It’s play time!


Image: AttributionNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Trevor McGoldrick

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