There is plenty of research about why it’s important for kids to play – it helps creativity, learning, social interaction, developing language skills, dexterity, as well as physical, cognitive and emotional strength. Play is part of education; it’s recognised as a critical part of a child’s formative years and is encouraged in all aspects of life…that is until they become an adult.
So why isn’t play just as important for adults? At what point do we become less interested in all the fun, creative things that were so important to us before the age of 18? And more importantly, why don’t employers see the value in play to help employee performance?
The science proves it
The Washington Post article, Why it’s good for grown-ups to play reflects on work by professor of recreation, sports and tourism at the University of Illinios, Lynn Barnett, which says significant research is being put into the benefits of adult play. Barnett says, “at work, play has been found to speed up learning, enhance productivity and increase job satisfaction; and at home, playing together, like going to a movie or a concert, can enhance bonding and communication.”
They even say playfulness attracts the opposite sex and makes you younger!
OK, well they didn’t quite put it like that but a study in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences, says that playfulness in women “signals youth and fertility” and in men means they are likely to be a good partner. The study said that playfulness is an underestimated character trait and acknowledged that the need for play in daily life was a basic need – to relax, keep yourself amused, a way to escape, for entertainment, stimulation and basically just have fun!
Build it like Beckham
Even David Beckham plays for fun. In 2010, David Beckham said in an interview with Yahoo, that he has a passion for LEGO and loves playing with it. (Given Mara’s passion for LEGO, we’d gladly offer Becks an opportunity to come to visit/work with us and play with ours! It only seems fair.)
And it’s not just about individuals, cities can have fun too
Move over smart cities, playable cities are coming for you. That’s right. Cities all around the world are now branding their towns as “Playable Cities”. It’s based on the fundamental ideal that play creates social value in the spaces that we use on a day-to-day basis. Why install a boring park bench when you can install a playable xylophone bench that encourages people to play OR a slide at a train station instead of taking the stairs. We can have fun and interact with each other. What an idea – social interaction and community activity!
Look up from that smart phone and smile
Seriously, play is just a catalyst for bringing people together no matter their social standing, how much money they have in their pocket, where they are from or where they are going. Can you imagine it? A space, whether it’s workplace, a neighbourhood or entire city that encourages engagement and social interaction through play.
For the policy wonks and number crunchers, there are tangible benefits for adapting spaces for play (even in the workplace!).
Creates economic value
Positive health benefits – play reduces anxiety and improves mental health
Encourages physical activity and supports healthy lifestyles
Helps people be more creative
Has a positive impact on social values of a community
Creates a positive sense of identity
Helps to break down barriers
Encourages inter-generational interactions and engagement.
Check out the cool work that organisations like The Urban Conga are doing in the United States. And never fear, the team at Mara are hard at work bringing play to our communities. Swing by anytime for a game of Connect Four, Jenga or Quoits, maybe play with our office cat, Pancho or grab a pillow and a box of LEGO and get creative.
AND watch this space - the Mara team will be bringing a little bit of guerrilla play to a community near you!
If you want to know more about how play can help your community get in touch or call 02 49654317.
#engagement #placemaking #stakeholderengagement #play #urbandesign #planning