Old map of German empire

The Power Of Play


Bees At Play
These bees are actually playing.

Take a look at the animals in your life – whether they be neighbourhood cats or dogs, or magnificent beasts in a David Attenborough documentary. Not infrequently you’ll see them playing and very rarely in a business meeting or on a conference call.

Play is part of our evolutionary heritage and occurs in a wide spectrum of species – Yes, lions and and their cubs in the Serengeti, but even bees play. Play is part of our evolutionary heritage, is fundamental to health, and gives us opportunities to practice and hone the skills needed to live in a complex world. This begins from birth, and play is recognised as a human right of all children by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The definition of play is elusive. However, there is a growing consensus that it is an activity that is intrinsically motivated, involves active engagement, and results in joyful discovery. Play is voluntary and generally has no extrinsic goals. It’s fun and often spontaneous. Kids are often seen actively engaged in and passionately engrossed in play; this fosters executive functioning skills and contributes to school readiness (bored children will not learn well).

Play allows children to explore the rules of the world, develop relationships. High amounts of play are associated with low levels of cortisol – the stress chemical.

Even the annual game of Monopoly that my grown siblings, our mother, and I play at Christmas has a function: We get to argue in a playful manner, laugh a lot, and ultimately the fact that one of us bankrupted the others is forgotten about after about 10 minutes of gloating.