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The Case for Play as a Lifelong Tool for Learning

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Warning, this leisure read may have you thinking about play. I hope it makes you want to really take some time to do that. Like they say, there is no time like the present. Whether you’re on your own, live in a nucleus or extended family, the action of play or being playful, have benefits for all ages. Play is an experience that engages all of the senses. It addresses social, physical, emotional and intellectual needs. It allows for people to open up to one another and have fun. And it is within these special moments of fun when the excitement starts that the true essence of play shines through.

The Oxford dictionary defines play as engagement in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose. And also, activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, especially by children. Meanwhile, scientists say that play is one of the main ways in which children learn and develop many skills. They develop their language skills, emotions, and social and creativity skills. It also helps to nurture imagination and give a child a sense of adventure.

This is all grand, however, it almost sounds like that’s the life cycle of play as an activity. Once you’ve passed childhood, play becomes this illusive thing that only lingers in memory. But businesses have come about with a model to engage adults of all ages in play as well. Some incorporate play in their model for work as part of meetings to bring out the creative side of their employees, to open up their minds, relax and produce. While others specialize in adult play activity in the form of extended retreats and getaways, as a way to experience new things, feel good and to rediscover one’s self.

Related Read: Why a Creative Environment Matters

According to the International Play Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (IPEMA), play isn’t just about goofing off; it can also be an important means of reducing stress and contributing to overall well-being. Play has been shown to release endorphins, improve brain functionality, and stimulate creativity.

Therefore, whether you experience play during a meeting energizer or teambuilding exercise, or treat yourself to play that is more physically challenging or relaxing, you are learning. The following are benefits of learning through play that applies to every stage of life and every age.


Problem solving and learning cause and effect

This benefit is usually achieved in groups. It makes the experience better as you work through a challenge or activity together. It gives others the consent that it’s okay to share ideas and have fun with one another.


Learning how to play with others through compromise, conflict resolution and sharing

No time for sulking here, because in this learning benefit the feeling of accomplishment is far better. It reiterates that working together as a team to overcome differences and get to the point of consensus, is good.


adults smiling and participating in a warm-up game involving clapping in unisonDevelopment of fine and gross motor skills

Just about every play activity requires you to use your hands to grip, hold and pass objects. It also gets you to move other parts of your body. It’s a welcome invigoration of the brain to send messages to the part of the body that has to perform the activity.


Nurturing their creativity and imagination

These are activities that ask you to go to the recesses of your mind and bring out your inner child. Remember that little boy or girl who could think up a story or make up a game, like that? Some meeting venues design their spaces with tchotchkes that trigger creativity and imagination.


Discovering their independence and positive self-esteem

Play activity props up and celebrates you. Participating in and doing well in activity, especially new forms of play, boosts your own esteem. The feeling of accomplishment that comes with letting yourself try, maximizes independence and tells you, yes you can.

• • •

So I propose this abridged meaning for play as a lifelong learning exercise: not to knock Oxford’s definition, but to make the case for our point of view. Try on this meaning for size and please share your thoughts. Play is engagement in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose for all ages.


Related Read: Why Work Space Matters: a Tri-alogue with Kira and Matt

Related Read: Allie from improve it!, on Why the Space Matters



Headshot of Catalyst Ranch Marketing Manager Amanda Pink, smiling.Amanda Pink is the Marketing Manager at Catalyst Ranch

(312) 207-1710 or

Catalyst Ranch is a unique meeting and events space located in Chicago’s West Loop, supported by a professional staff dedicated to providing a stimulating and electric environment that ignites the imagination.