Several years ago, in the beginning stages of Lupine Lane becoming a school, there was finally an opportunity to step away for a day for some continuing education in the form of a conference on play in San Antonio.  My eyes were wide and my mind was racing with possibilities while I was there and when I returned.  I learned so much.  Stuart Brown, an expert on play, was the key note speaker.  He gave such an incredible talk at the end of the day.  Since he’s from Austin, I’ve corresponded with him to see if he could come talk at our school.  The scheduling hasn’t worked out yet, but I have found the talk online as a TED Talk.

Stuart Brown: Play is More Than Just Fun

In this talk, Stuart talks about why play is so important to human development.  He studied Charles Whitman, the man who shot into the crowd from the University of Texas Tower in 1966, killing 13 people and injuring 31 others.  He discovered that there was a major deficit of play in his childhood.  He has also studied other murderers and has found consistent evidence of a lack of opportunities to play.  In times such as these, perhaps these points are more important than ever before.

Dr. Brown examines play in nature–he shows animals at play that looks like they are fighting and how innate it is in all of us.  He argues that preschoolers should be allowed to rough house–“dive, hit, whistle, scream, be chaotic”–this is a hot button issue that comes up every year–how far to let kids go so they stay safe.  Dr. Brown talks about all that kids learn from participating in a good tumble with buddies–they learn social cues, emotional regulation and develop cognitively and physically through these experiences.  It’s all about a balance and teaching them through these experiences.  It’s also about the adult present being able to tell the difference between play and actual fighting.  Perhaps, because there are so many adults present and stopping play before it even starts, kids are never going to understand the nuances of rough and tumble play versus fighting.  I understand why this is, but I also understand the need for the play.

Stuart Brown talks about just how important play is to our well being and success.  He discusses how we should all hark back to our own childhood and think about the experiences of fun, joy and adventure that really resonated with us.  We should think about how those experiences connect with us today.  For some of us perhaps those play experiences as children translated into what we do today as adults.  I know for me, I set up classrooms in my basement as a kid and spent my allowance at the teacher store at the local mall.  I loved playing school.  I loved creating the classroom environment and then living out what we did every day at school.  And for me, this did translate directly into what I do every day for a living.  Dr. Brown says that we should all look for these threads of connection–he says that when some people that see has worked with do this, they change careers all together.

Something that really resonated with me and connects with the post from last month: Play Based Learning: Are We Doing It Right? is when Dr. Brown raises this point:

“If the purpose of the play is more important than the act of doing it, it’s probably not play.”

This is something we should consider when we construct these play scenarios for kids or try to direct their play.  Kids are way smarter than we are when it comes to play–in fact, as Dr. Brown discusses, play is something we do less and less of, to our own detriment, as we get older.  We need to let the kids play–they know what they are doing without our interjections, guidance or redirections.  They know, innately what to do and how to do it.  Those that don’t know innately, only don’t know because they haven’t been given the opportunity to do what they are meant to do as children.

It is vitally important to our future, our health–mental and physical, our safety and our well-being and overall happiness that we allow the kids to play, unencumbered by us.  And, maybe that we offer ourselves, as adults the same opportunities to allow ourselves to play and enjoy–and then, see how that affects the rest of our lives.

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