Learn from play

Children learn from play. Hold the front page. Who could believe it? Whatever will they think of next?

I heard it on the news so it must be true, yet anyone who has ever had children knows this to be self-evident.  Children learn the social norms of interaction, collaboration and hierarchy through play.  Anyone who has had a puppy or a kitten will also know that play is a fundamental way of learning.  It is a try before you buy.

The real news is that this holds true for more than children and furry animals.  Adults also learn the same way.  Play is pleasurable and pleasure is a major force in the learning process. You learn what you like and you like what you learn.

What is play?  Wikipedia tells me it is a range of voluntary, intrinsically motivated activities normally associated with recreational pleasure and enjoyment.  Play is commonly associated with children and juvenile-level activities, but occurs at any life stage, and among other higher-functioning animals as well.

Play is often interpreted as frivolous yet is not just a pastime activity.  Not only does play promote and aid in physical development, it also aids in cognitive development and social skills, and can even act as a stepping stone into the world of integration, which can be a very stressful process.

Stop me if you don’t agree.  Everyone likes to play.  Tell me then, why is it that we forget what we already know?  If play is such an important way of learning, why don’t we use it at work?  There, training is nearly always formal, with flipcharts and PowerPoint presentations, yet it is the ice-breaking sessions, where people have to interact, that get the most juices flowing.  That’s when people laugh and have fun.

Play should play a much more important role in what we do.  People are good at what they like and like what they are good at.   Play helps hone the skills and natural talents that people have.  I’m not talking about gamification which, to me, is a more about the application of points scoring and competition.  I am talking about full-on unfettered play

We should go to work and play.

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