It’s no secret: I believe in the power of play. When we set aside our serious resolve and a little bit of dignity in order to have a good time, we free our minds to absorb information in a fresh and effective way. Play awakens the imagination and the intellect. “Humanity has advanced,” Tom Robbins said, “when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.”
That sense of play is on full display at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Check out this NY Times Article, “Where Children Discover Their Inner Child.” Eat,Sleep,Play: Building Health Every Day is an interactive exhibit that harnesses the power of play to teach children about their bodies, and what they can do to stay healthy. The exhibit includes the Royal Flush, which uses an over-sized toilet and Mary Poppins style voice to talk about bodily functions. As you can imagine, it’s a big hit. Kids find poop inherently humorous. (A trait they share with more than a few health care professionals!)
Using play as a teaching tool is great for kids. It’s also an effective strategy to connect with adults. We live incredibly busy, scheduled lives. Our brains are working all of the time. We wake ourselves up in the middle of the night, thinking of the six million things that need to be accomplished the next day. (Or is that just me?)
Play interrupts. When we are playing, everything else – work, chores, errands – simply falls of the radar. (Think back to how hard it was to ‘remember’ to do your homework in fourth grade – especially during kickball season!) Play frees our mind to be receptive and open to new information. At the same time, play is fun. Learning information while you’re having fun creates a positive association in the mind. It is easier to remember things we learn while we’re having fun.
What are some of the best ways you’ve seen the power of play used in education?
Extra Reading from JNJ: Check out Shirley Trout on Humor in the Classroom!