Let the Children Play! Why is Play so Important for Learning and Creativity?
"Learning through play helps us to embrace uncertainty around change, provide support in our approaches to creativity, and ultimately, enhance our workplace collaborations and the innovative potential that creative leaders can cultivate" - Amy Jo Dowd, Head of Evidence at the LEGO Foundation
If there is one thing we know we need as we come to terms with an increasingly uncertain future, it's the ability to embrace and adapt to that uncertainty.
This uncertainty is in all aspects of our life, and especially in the world of work.
Gone are the days when a person's path through life could be easily mapped out for them in childhood. The world of work now is almost unrecognizable compared to even half a generation ago. Even in the last 18 months, we have seen global changes to work practices that were unimaginable before the start of the pandemic.
Children growing up these days are entering adulthood in a world that looks very different than the one they were born in.
As technological changes increasingly shape every aspect of our lives, and problems such as climate change impact more of our present and our future, we need to change how we approach life. And with that change comes the need to change how we educate our kids.
We need innovators, not rule followers
The mainstream education system was built to create people who can conform and adapt to the accepted wisdom. To do what they are told, and not question it. To learn what they are told, regardless of whether that learning is necessary, useful, or meaningful to them.
The innovations that take the world forward are never borne from rule-following. Every new discovery that has moved our civilization forwards has been the result of someone thinking “There is a better way to do this”.
The creative thinking that is needed for innovation comes not when we are sitting at a desk, doing as we are told. It comes when the mind is free to wander, to make brand new connections between ideas, to play with concepts.
The definition of creativity is “the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative”.
By its very nature, creativity IS play in action. And without creativity, we would never have even got as far as the wheel!
Play is vital for learning
When children play, they are learning.
Play is not some frivolous act that means nothing in the wider context. It is how all small animals learn the skills they will need to survive in the world they inhabit.
Think of the kitten fighting with a catnip toy. As it stalks, pounces, claws, bites, and beats that toy into submission, it is honing the skills needed to find food.
If you think of most of the toys and pretend games you played as a child, I bet that most of them essentially involved pretending to be a grown-up. I know that mine was.
I liked to pretend to be a shopkeeper and a teacher (mimicking what I saw from my parents' professions). I wrote stories and imagined myself to be the next C.S Lewis. I indulged in fantasy games and developed the imagination I needed to write those stories.
Roleplay games with friends and my brother taught me skills of leadership, adaptability, negotiation, conflict management, teamwork, collaboration, and much more. I played with my dolls and practiced the skills I would need to care for my children.
Playing in the playground taught me to take risks, and to move my body skillfully.
Yes, I would laugh, and enjoy what I was doing. But this play was about so much more than just idly passing the time. I was learning skills I would need to fit into the world as an adult.
This is what play is. It is how we learn to be part of the world we are living in. Not just in childhood.
Think of how you learn as an adult. You probably learn best when you're enjoying something and having fun with it. We are hardwired to respond better to the things that create positive emotion in our brain.
Learning that is fun creates dopamine, that makes us want to learn more.
Play as an educational model
At Galileo, we believe that learning should be enjoyable, that children should learn because they get pleasure and joy from it. Learning is not something that stops as soon as formal education is over.
The more we can foster a love of learning in people when they are children, the more they will want to learn and engage with the world around them as adults.
Not to mention giving them the joy of learning in the moment, simply for the sheer love of it.
You can see the love of learning, and the value of play in this wonderful video from Sam. He takes part in our Film Making club, led by video whizz Torsten.
“At the Filmmaking Club we explore, discuss and practice editing hacks. Those can be used for any kind of film or video making: short films, presentations, music clips etc. Last week I introduced the principle of cloning a person or object using the split screen effect. I encourage students to play with the editing tricks and to run small projects to try and test things. That's how Sam decided to "clone himself".
Sam’s two identical twins are so much like him it’s uncanny!
You can see the fun Sam had in the making of this video. Coming up with the concept, performing the roles, putting together the tech, and sharing the final product all required and developed some high level skills.
To Sam, he was playing and having fun. But it is easy to see the benefit learning will have for his future.
Not only the development of some incredible filmmaking skills, but traits such as persistence, vision, motivation and application of knowledge. Not to mention the boost of self-confidence and self-esteem that creating a project like this provides.
Sam might one day decide that he wants to pursue filmmaking as a career. Or he might not. It doesn't matter at this moment.
What does matter is that Sam has learned that he can create the things his imagination conceives. He has learned the process and joy of learning. He has boosted his skills, his personal satisfaction and motivation.
And he knows that he will be able to create other things in the future.
Because he was given the freedom to play, and explore his ideas, he was free to learn and create in the way that inspired him to WANT to learn.
That's learning worth experiencing!
What have you enjoyed learning lately?
Galileo offers a wide selection of learning experiences for children ages 8-18. Let your child choose their own path with this variety of fun, project-based experiences.