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Mar 20

When Did You Last Have Playtime?

No, I don’t mean THAT sort of playtime. I don’t know. Blimey, mind like a sewer you. Anyway… in my previous article about Laughter Yoga I was exploring aspects of the science of laughter. This got me thinking about the wider impact of play and I mean play time as opposed to a script that a bunch of actors stage. Then I cam across an feature in the science magazine Scientific American: Mind, and finally one of my readers commented on the Laughter Yoga post saying how it got her thinking about play.

According to  Scientific American: Mind magazine there have been studies into how playtime, or lack of, effects the development of children into adults. The suggestions from psychologists seems to be that play “afford benefits that last through adult-hood…”

Whilst this is not directly linked to the science of laughter, there is certainly a connection between the two. It seems that when the article refers to this form of free play they are referring to unstructured play, as opposed to the rigours of game such as football, basketball and so on. The unstructured variety seems to help foster creative responses according to  Anthony D. Pellegrini at the University of Minnesota.

Here are some facts as laid out in the article:

1. Childhood play is crucial for social, emotional and cognitive development.

2. Imaginative rambunctious “free play”, as opposed to games or structured activities, is the most essential type.

3. Kids and animals that do not play when they are young may grow into anxious, socially maladjusted adults.

Whilst the main bulk of the article focuses on the benefits of play for the development of children, there is a small section on the potential benefits for adults.

It seems that without play adults may end up getting worn out by the “hustle-bustle busyness that we get involved in” according to evolutionary biologist Marc Bekoff from the University of Colorado.

So with that in mind how can adults get more play in their lives?

Stuart Brown, psychiatrist and founder of the National Institute for Play in Carmel Valley, California suggests three ways to do this:

1. Body play – We should participate ins one form of active movement that has no time pressures or expected outcome.

2. Object play – Use your hands to create something you enjoy (it can be anything; again, there doesn’t have to be a specific goal)

3. Social play – Join other people in seemingly purposeless social activities.

If we’re still not sure what to do then it is suggested that we try to remember what we enjoyed doing when we were kids. In my case that was climbing the walls of local garages and then sitting on the roofs.

It seems that ultimately what matters is now how we play, but that we play.

How does this all relate to public speaking and the science of laughter? We’ve already seen that there are benefits to laughter, such as stress reduction. There are similar benefits attributed to free play. I believe that free play is directly related to humour and the science of laughter.

The more playful we are, the easier humorous ideas will come to us. Not only that, but like the use of  humour in the workplace, free play certainly as benefits for the workplace environment.