Power of Play

Power of Play


Question for you; when was the last time you played? I mean seriously played? I’m talking about playing to have fun, experience joy and laughter, with no certain outcome attached to it, played to the point of losing track of time or whatever thoughts you had in your mind prior? Let’s face it, we live in an achievement addicted world, one that promotes constantly being on the go and is often stress filled. While there are lots of self-care practices, play is rarely embraced or viewed as an essential component for balance and well-being.

Before we go any further let’s take a moment to figure out what “play” even means?! In scientific terms, “To play is to engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.” That definition comes from the Oxford Dictionary. Play researcher and author Dr. Stuart Brown would define play as follows: “Play is purposeless, all consuming, and fun. If its purpose is more important than the act of doing it, it’s probably not play.” Brown resisted an absolute definition of play because it’s so varied. What is play to one person may be viewed as work to another. While there are variations as to what one may deem as “play”, there is plenty of research that supports how critical it is to our overall well-being. Stress management, social relationships, problem-solving, motivation, and a sense of purpose are all developmental areas impacted by play. Research has highlighted these nine benefits of play:
1. Creates humor, optimism
2. Deepens social & emotional engagement with others
3. Grows life (survival) skills
4. Answers the big questions, “What really motivates me?”
5. Calibrates our stress response
6. Develops internal locus of control
7. Increases physical health
8. Increases problem solving
9. Test personal capabilities through risk taking

For us here at ULEAD, we believe in the power of play, so much so that it’s one of our core values. We believe purposeful play opens opportunities for learning, deeper engagement with others and life filled with joy. Due to this value, play has an integral role in all that we do. From internal office dynamics to program planning and facilitation/implementation, play is something we are constantly engaging with and looking to incorporate. In addition to all of the research that supports how critical it is for folks to play, we have also seen it help an individual/group open up and connect. Due to this, play has an essential role in the learning and teaching process and is ultimately interwoven throughout our time with groups. I invite you to engage in whatever sets your soul on fire, brings joy to your heart, and a smile to your face laughing. I challenge you to make time to play today!

Kailey Paszko, Youth Engagement Specialist at ULEAD

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