“Trying to define play is like trying to define love. You can’t do it. It’s far too big for that.”
– Gordon Sturrock
If you’ve never given the concept of play much thought, the above quote might seem a bit odd to you; presumptuous even. I assure you, it isn’t. In the world of a child, and if we let it — us adults — play is a process of utmost importance. Did you notice my use of the term process there? That is key. Play is just that — a process. It is not a product or a destination. Play is a process through which children learn about themselves, their peers, the world at large — and their role in it.
Due to a variety of factors, including the current education system, the popularity of structured activities and after-school “academic enrichment” programs, and parents’ schedules, many children are play deprived in today’s society. Play deprivation is real and harmful, and cannot be remedied by playing organized sports or video games. Simply put, those types of leisure pursuits are not true play.
We are seeing a growing body of research on the importance of play. In fact, play is popping up in articles seemingly left and right. But it is not only the importance of play that should resonate, but the real and startling impact of play deprivation. That said, because as a society we currently view play as something frivolous, it is easy to let this research pass us by and go on with business as usual.
Think about it. What would your gut reaction be if someone said that they work in play for a living, or they are a play researcher and theorist?
By the American yardstick, how would such statements be measured? Many people would think, “Oh, how fun!” and wouldn’t give it any deeper thought than that. But it is much deeper than that, and it is my hope that we can all join together to be a voice for play — in our communities, our schools, and our homes.
Let’s not take the fun out of play, but in turn, let’s not be fooled into thinking it of little importance due to its fun nature. Let’s play and learn and laugh together, and make sure we make enough time for living in this life.
See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru