I recently taught a day-long workshop for a fantastic group of early childhood educators on intentional teaching and the power of play. In preparing for that, I spent a lot of time reading Dr. Stuart Brown’s book,Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (*affiliate link).
Brown is a leading play researcher and the founder of the National Institute for Play. He’s a proponent of play not just as a child’s need, but as a human need. As I found myself underlining and dog-earing pages along the way, this quote in particular stood out to me, and from several perspectives.
First, just the initial phrase: “When we stop playing, we stop developing…” That concept, that development and play are intertwined, is backed up by science. Studies show that play causes the brain to release growth-promoting chemicals, and that on the opposite end, learning environments that are overly stressful actually cause barriers to learning in the brain.
Play and development work hand in hand, and it’s easy to promote that in the world of early learning. But that wasn’t the full context of this particular quote. This quote lies in the context of human needs. We ALL need play. Brown’s research and experience show that those who continue to play experience more longevity and a higher quality of life.
So as you work to protect play in the lives of the children you love and teach, think for a moment about how you promote it in your own life as well. Where do you find your opportunities for play? Do you play as you cook? As you exercise? As you have a living room dance-off, or a poker table face-off? Do you play as you create or compete or perform?
Wherever you find the satisfaction of play for yourself, value it. Protect it. Drink it in. It’s hard to be a champion of play in childhood if we don’t recognize our own need for it as well.
Read more about the power of play at the Play Matters Blog Hop hosted by Encourage Play!