Games and play have been a part of all cultures. Besides being a source of amusement and joy for young and old, they seem to have a significant role in socialization of young people and a means of social interaction for people of all ages. This was clearly evident during the recent frenzy of the World Cup. All boundaries of race, religion, class, caste and even political ideologies, were set aside to a common goal. Psychologists, educators and sociologists have long known that play is an essential way for children, and adults, to learn about themselves, their world, and the concept of rules in life. The use of play makes learning easier, transforms relationships, and creates a climate of mutuality.
Lullabies, nursery rhymes, peek-a-boo, bouncing on the knee, etc., make way for more imaginative and interactive play as a baby grows. Development of language, recognition of faces and facial expressions, and social skills are naturally developed through these activities. As the baby grows, the increasing cognitive and physical development allows for more complicated games that incorporate more complex rules and physical activity, from using gross motor skills to fine motor activities.
Bring to mind little children who take delight in playing with a string, an empty box, a noisy rattle, or just about anything. The reason we think of this activity as play is the delight visible on their faces. This kind of play does not need to involve another person. As the child grows older, he or she finds that delight in sharing activities with others. The developing brain allows imagination to bring even more choices to the use of the string, an empty box and a noisy rattle. Play becomes more complex and ingenious games are invented. Games and play become more complex and competitive as children get older.
While children are having fun, they are also learning about rules and order of things in the real world. Some games are about luck and chance while other games require strategizing. Some games require strength and endurance while other games require fine motor skills and finesse.
In the present times, physically challenging games and interactive play have been replaced, to a large extent, by more solitary play in the form of video games. Even when these games are interactive, the social interactions tend to lack some important ways of learning about feelings of others, i.e., reading the facial reactions of your opponents, sensing the emotional consequences of winning or losing. The greater loss, to children and adults playing these sedentary and solitary games, is the lack of physical activity and fewer opportunities to let off steam and engage with others in physical activities. There is growing recognition that a natural consequence of social networking and interacting on the internet may result in an impairment in empathy for others as evident in the increasing incidences of bullying in schools and cyber bullying.
It is not clear why, as we get older, we tend to devalue “play” and overvalue “work”. These two aspects of life may not need to be placed on opposite ends of a continuum and be mutually exclusive. A balance of play and work is not only essential for young minds and bodies but also for adults. The old adage, “All work and no play…..” is even more true today. A child who is encouraged to play and have a playful attitude towards life is more likely to grow into an adult who values the rules of engagement with others, knowledge of how society functions, and street smarts. These qualities make for a more SUCCESSFUL person than one with book smarts alone.
Play with this….
In your imagination create scenarios where you bring a part of your playfulness into your work (maybe 5) and/or bring the work ethic and strategies into your play (maybe 2) and see how this feels. Assuming you have a good level of discernment of the setting and circumstances, try testing it out. Keep playing with it until you reach a satisfying balance for yourself and others around you.