By Reyne Rice, Toy Trend Expert and Youth Market Specialist
First posted on the YourToyCom.com blog forum and community website serving the toys, games and childrens’ technology industries, on behalf of the Spielwarenmesse. Spielwarenmesse is the leading and largest International ToyFair in the world, held annually in Nuremberg, Germany in early February.
The Role of Play in our lives, throughout all of the Stages of Life, from Cradle to Grave.
Have you recently stopped to think about play in your adult life? There is a reason for play, for adults, for teenagers and for children. Although play means something different to each of us, at the various stages of our lives, it is still an essential ingredient to staying young and to creating balance in our lives.
I have always loved the following quote by George Bernard Shaw: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” The more playful we are, the younger we appear to other generations, and the younger we feel. But besides a feel-good experience, there are many tangible and intangible effects of play, on our lives.
In a recent article by Alfie Kohn on Creativity Post.com blog, the author reviews many of the ways that play is being re-defined in very strict and unimaginative ways. He suggests that we need to revive creative and open-ended play, in order to encourage the free-thinking and inventive opportunities that arise during periods of “flow” and daydreaming. Role-playing and other creative acts of play also teach children that it is OK to try on new roles, and that imagination is actually encouraged, as a way to determine what our true passions are in life. With trial and error, children learn what appeals to them, and this developmental stage, where play is a catalyst, is an important part of shaping their future preferences and career goals. Time and time again, when we see the amazing things that have been accomplished by visionaries, it is not the small idea that gained their acclaim. It was thinking big, dreaming big, and enthusiastically reaching for that big idea, and accomplishing it, despite the naysayers.
Alfie claims: “Play isn’t just for children: The idea of play is closely related to imagination, inventiveness, and that state of deep absorption that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi dubbed “flow.” Read virtually any account of creativity, in the humanities or the sciences, and you’ll find mentions of the relevance of daydreaming, fooling around with possibilities, looking at one thing and seeing another, embracing the joy of pure discovery, asking “What if….?” The argument here isn’t just that we need to let little kids play so they’ll be creative when they’re older, but that play, or something quite close to it, should be part of a teenager’s or adult’s life, too.”
Alfie goes on to state: “Play teaches academic skills, advances language development, promotes perspective taking, conflict resolution, the capacity for planning, and so on.” And with the more recent approach to brain games and mind-bending activities, it becomes clear that all ages and generations can benefit from mental play, to build a richer and longer-lasting mental acuity. With the introduction of the Kinect by Microsoft, and the Wii by Nintendo, multiple generations are now playing together more frequently, in the family entertainment room, and enjoying the outcomes that bring the generations together, for shared play experiences.
Our adult perspectives on play and our children’s definitions of play are expanding, both with technology options and with physical and traditional play concepts. By expanding upon what we consider as “the play experience”, we are opening the door to more creativity and imagination. When Feb 2012 rolls around, keep an eye open at the Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair, Nurnberg, for new ways to play. Challenge yourself to take on a new perspective on play, and see if it doesn’t just bring a renewed spring to your step, or more frequent laughter into your life. We belong to one of the most important industries in the world, and our work, invites play. We all deserve to play. Take advantage of it.