Bild: Paint with all the colours of the wind: If there’s a reason why kids should play, then adults should play, too! , :bsz international: PEDAL researching the importance of plays Foto: lux

:bsz international: Cambridge University is researching the importance of play and playful learning for children. But do we ever outgrow the need for fun-filled activities?Have fun while learning, children need to be able to goof around, don’t be so serious – there are lots of arguments claiming that playing is vital and healthy for kids. There’s just not a lot of scientific evidence – yet. Cambridge’s Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning (Pedal)– partially funded by the Lego Foundation – seeks to rectify that: “The aim of the Pedal centre is to conduct rigorous research into the importance of play and how playful learning can be used to improve students’ outcomes”, says Professor Vignoles, a member of Cambridge University’s faculty of education. Although the chair heading Pedal – the professor for play, development and learning – will probably focus their research on minors, there’s a lot to be said for everyone making play an integral part of their life.

Kids supposedly learn valuable life-skills via playing: Problem solving, creativity, forward thinking, teamwork, focus – in short: know-how that’s coveted in the adult world. So why not keep learning and improving on all of that even as a grown-up? After all, the arguments in favour of life-long learning are compelling. So let’s keep that “childlike mindset”! The head of research for the Lego Foundation did say that they hoped for “an academic who is playful, extremely curious, open-minded, imaginative and creative – someone who can think of new ways of doing research and work across different disciplines” to score the coveted job of Professor Play. Seems like there’s now another way to success other than being as mature, logical, and analytical as possible.

Homo Ludens

Play is a universal constant – children don’t have to speak to play and neither do animals. Play is older than culture, as the cultural theorist Johan Huizinga described in his work “Homo Ludens” (Playing Man) from 1938: Play is free, separate from ordinary life and has its own reality and meaning. The experience of the player is what’s essential.

Playing is a liberating force and it’s no wonder that in the recent past there’s been a kind of Play-Renaissance: There are more colouring books for adults or game nights than ever, more and more toys are targeted towards adults (and not only the naughty ones!), there’s murder mystery games, escape rooms or interactive Improv. Not to mention video games, Life Action Role Playing (LARP) or mobile games … Granted, most of those have rules and/or a clear objective. Free playing and being playful for its own sake is mostly what children do. Adults seem to need structure – can we only let ourselves go within the confines of the rules?

I vote that everyone should be free to just horse around and do something just because they want to experience it. Because it seemed like a good idea at the time – sound familiar? Maybe “drunk you” knows something that “sober you” is way too mature for …

The urge to play is something that is inherent to all creatures. It’s something natural and while it is important to research it and find out as much about it as we can, we shouldn’t forget to just do it: Be playful, let loose and free your inner child!

:Stefanie Lux


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