We are in the business of creating the magic of play; designing tools that inspire imagination, creativity, wellbeing and exploration into a child’s abilities.
After years of playing, researching, designing toys and facilitating play workshops here is my definition of play:
‘Play is the outcome of manifestations of connections with ourselves, others and/or our surroundings, to achieve deeper meanings.’
Play takes many forms. It is the foundation for our development, emotional and mental wellbeing; is a fundamental component in creating cultures and even in its frivolous state, it is entertaining!
Learning, connecting, adapting becomes natural while we play.
But what is the state of play?
It is proven that there is decline in children’s playtime. According to survey conducted by Smarty Pants (2019), more than 89% of pre-school aged kids take part in some type of play (sensorial, active, pretend, social, games…) but this figure drops down to 68% in tweens. Sadly, it’s even worse by the age 12, where the study found only 13% of children play outside!
Interestingly one of the top trends of the recent years theme is nature. Outdoors play is not just important to develop physical skills but social skills as well; it is critical for developing resilience, risk-taking and collaboration.
Every year, with the start of school, my heart sinks as I have a sad feeling of free-play time being taken away from kids. Overscheduled timetables, a decrease of recession time and adult-directed activities; children’s space of imagination is invaded by rules, false aspirations and worries of future. This leads to lack of playfulness and as a result lack of creativity.
According to the World Economic Forum, in 2020 creativity was the third most important skill needed for future success in the workforce after complex problem solving and critical thinking.
Doesn’t it sound like a dystopia? Are we in the midst of apocalypse of play?
Not really, and despite all these insights and the facts, there are some positive signs!
There is a rise in understanding the deeper level of the importance of play and playfulness, and more brands from diverse industries are campaigning for the power of play.
We are in a turning point – there is a greater need to play then ever before, and this is not just for children, it is for all generations.
We have an important role on this journey!
The toys and games we design are like time capsules. In every play workshop that I have faciliated, I could see the changes of the expressions of participants: adults become kids, kids become adults. It’s amazing to observe how play – all of a sudden – takes people into different realms.
As designers, developers and practioners, anything we design has a fundemantal power: the power of creating versions of ourselves and societies.
We are the magicians of play and we should be mindful of using that power!
Yesim Kunter is a play expert and play futurist. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org