| December 3, 2013

Play: How it Shapes the Brain / Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul         Meghann Snow

A talk that I was drawn to was by Dr. Stuart Brown, in which he spoke about the importance of “play” that occurs in young children. I am most drawn to this subject because I have been hearing how “play” has been diminishing in classrooms and it upsets me a great deal. Dr. Stuart gave a great definition of play which he states, “ play = nature between animals and people creates natural development.” In play we learn to cognitively stimulate our social and emotional developmental qualities. If we grow up neglecting this part of our lives then we will not learn proper social manners, and probably all be depressed.

The one thing that struck my attention is he called play as a type of “ballet of play.” I grew up being athletic, and classically trained ballet dancer, and in life play is what we learn through natural experiences. Dr. Brown is comparing animal play to the way human behaviors exhibit play. He talks about a notion of fixed behavior where it is ridged and unclear.  He says that “a ballet in nature is when carnivorous behavior overrides a short fight to the death, where they are in an altered state, a state of play, which allows them to explore the possible, through play signals, which empower these animals the same way that empowers us.”

He digs further and explains what play is through a checklist beginning from first born experiences through youth. I feel that he strikes all the main important targets that give children this safe way of communicating and learning social cues. In which these cues help children develop how to act naturally in the world. At birth, he talks about a bonding process which connects baby and mother through facial interactions, the joy of the mother translates to the baby, this creates a type of attunement which is a part of play in the earliest experiences.  Creating this base provides a foundation in which a more complex play is able to expand into our youth. He talks about how play creates emotion resiliency, and how infants are using play to organize themselves using natural tendency and involuntary motions. If we did not have these early experiences then our cognitive, social and emotional experiences would leave us un-stimulated and we wouldn’t be able to communicate our needs as human beings.

Dr. Brown also talks on topics of body play, which is “a spontaneous desire to get our selves out of gravity.” “Just doing it for our own sake, if it’s purpose is more important than the act of doing it, and then it’s not play.” When we have a forced interaction our bodies are not learning it’s becoming a mimic. When we are experiencing something real our body takes in the pleasure and we learn from our environment. The next type of play is object play, the human hand in the search of the brain and vise versa.  Hand and eye coordination creates knowledge which our bodies in order to manipulate our limbs. We need to be able to explore, and mastery ways of learning of the self. Lastly, he touched upon the important topic of imaginary play. In imaginary play there comes social play, where complicated sharing is a fundamental play in which creates a partner of play. Imaginary play encourages exploration of the individual sense and real type of seniors. He states “the more playful the teacher, the better the outcome.” I experience this in my classroom with 3’s everyday. I feel like I learn so much about my children through their play. If it’s the type of food they like, what they did this past weekend, their interests. It’s important that the children learn from their outside experiences and they like to bring those experiences in the classroom to share. This play is the central position of joy. Without play and joy life would be one big depression pot, and nobody would want to be friends with that. Would we? Not me! So lets keep playing and have fun!