Learn Forward asks the question, “How are we all, children, parents, and teachers, on a journey towards thriving?” If that’s our question, it seems natural to have a conversation about the power of play, what children do best.
My little girl described her play in a playground game that a mixed-age group of girls made up.  I think she called it Dominion and it had a queen and people, caves and keys. The object of the game was to get the keys back through an elaborate game of tag. While I didn’t get all of the details, I can tell the game was filled with the spirit of play.
Mitchel Resnick in his book Lifelong Kindergarten argues that all of life needs to be more like our most nostalgic sense of Kindergarten, where finger paints, play-doh, and imaginative play abound. Parents and educators worry that infusing such play throughout the learning environment may not have the rigour and structure needed, yet, our Resnick believes our open-ended play holds essential ingredients required for the future:  “curiosity, imagination, and experimentation.”

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Purposeful play helps us explore design challenges.

Play includes curiosity and imagination.

Just like in the above story of active play on the playground, children engage in complex and creative play-making when they are together in unstructured environments.  Their ideas take them to far-off lands where they have terrific adventures.

Play is experimental and takes risks.

It doesn’t have to arrive at the correct answer and the final solution for all time, it holds space to try new things and adapt based on results.  It considers out-of-the-box ideas and divergent thought.

Play arises out of boredom.

Our school’s Admissions Advisor, culture-creator, and mom-of-four writes a terrific post on the blessing of boredom for children, particularly when it is screen-free.  You can check it out here.

Play is learning.

“Through play more than any other activity, children achieve mastery of the external world,” writes Bruno Bettelheim.

What does play have to do with our design process in our homes and classrooms?

Famous educators John Dewey takes the idea of play deeper by saying, “Playfulness is a more important consideration than play.  The former is an attitude of mind; the latter is a passing outward manifestation of this attitude.”
Adults, could we infuse our lives, our homes and classrooms, even our challenges with an attitude of playfulness for us and our children?
Consider a design challenge in your classroom like, how can I engage the very diverse learners in personalized learning?  Or, consider a design challenge at home like, our mornings are gruelling, how can we enjoy before-school time more?
What if we incorporated a spirit of playfulness into our design process?  What new ideas, imaginations, or possibilities would appear?
This week in the hallway of our school, a mom crawled in with two reticent children late on a Monday morning. As she bemoaned the process of getting to school, I could feel her pain. I have the same challenges in my own home.  So, I mentioned on the fly we were using The Greatest Showman soundtrack to enliven our A.M. energy and then dancing during the dressing.  She smiled and said, “That sounds like a great idea.  We will try that tomorrow.”
I realize it is a simple example, but I wonder how our spirit of playfulness could broaden our design process, even as adults.
Here’s a great secret!  Often, our children are experts at play.  If we could all work together on our design challenges for thriving, their spirit of playfulness would inspire us and give us the energy to try new ideas. I guarantee.
Where do you see the spirit of playfulness in your life? How does it make you feel?
For the sake of the children,
P.S.  If you’ve missed our previous blog posts on designing for thriving, you can check them out here: