In my last blog I dug into the meaning of playfulness. In the this post I inquire why playfulness is important to learning.


1 – In play we connect to each other

When the workshop room fills with laughter, when participants turn to each other, when they start to relax and feel at ease we are ready to start.

Anything that invites playfulness – any game in any medium, any event, any opportunity you create – is a profound gift to the people who accept the invitation. It builds community. It builds tolerance, acceptance, compassion, creativity, spontaneity, the capacity for joy and enjoyment.
Bernie DeKoven

It is the famous ice breaking or warming-up games’ purpose to do this work. Maintaining a playful atmosphere throughout the whole workshop not only fosters curiosity and inquiry it also creates the social bond. Connectedness is precious for sharing and learning. Participants who feel at ease are more likely to open up to each other and find the trust to share their thoughts more openly and more freely. The readiness to engage in a conversation brings more and deeper inputs to the table, and this makes the exchange more interesting, more relevant and more meaningful for all participants.

Even if we play just for the sake of playing, something happens with us when we play that would not have happened otherwise. Play is not just for fun – it can be serious too. In play we meet each other in new ways.
Mathias Poulsen

2 – In play we are alive

Human beings are inherently playful all life long, no matter how old we are, no matter in which setting. I would guess that the Marshmallow challenge was played many times all over the world and filled many workshop rooms with joy. Maybe we have to be brave to be playful and creative and we need confidence as facilitators to invite others to play. This reminds me of the Kelley brothers great book Creative Confidence.

When we play we engage fully, we use all our senses, we are more than ‘talking heads’. This reminds me of my study time. I grew up in Switzerland, the country of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. One of the first things that inspired me at the teacher training college was his holistic approach of learning by “head, hand and heart”.

When we give ourselves the permission to be playful and approach our daily tasks through the lens of playfulness even vacuum cleaning can be fun.

For Daniel Goleman and Daniel Siegel having fun at work is critical because when we are in play we are alive; we are socially and emotionally energized; and playfulness stimulates our brain.

Adult playfulness demonstrated robust positive relations with life satisfaction and an inclination to enjoyable activities and an active way of life.
René Proyer

3 – In play we are active learners

Play turns us into active participants, gives us agency and helps us become catalysts of change.
Counter Play

Nicolas Hayek, founder of Swatch, once said in a radio interview that his office is his atelier. I guess he saw his atelier as his playground; a place where he was playing with ideas and possibilities; a safe place to welcome crazy ideas. He must have been a playful man somehow as he also experimented with how many wristwatches he could wear at once.

To me the crucial point is that when we play we are active learners. We do things. We test and explore. We are in a mode of inquiry.

Play is the work of working something, of figuring out what it does and determining how to operate it.
Ian Bogost

Why do you play? 

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