How playfulness encourages learning

Everyone talks about the benefits of playing for learning and development. But what do we do to be a game? What can help or hinder us on that path? And what is it like to stay that way? If we can map out the path, including its obstacles and its benefits, it will be easier to create situations where children – in fact, all of us – can benefit from play. We can also better understand why and when trying to be playful is a misfire, those times when we see an opportunity to be playful and creative but it doesn’t succeed. We can see that this is likely to happen because one or more of the stepping stones are missing.

Our research identified four steps that seem important to be playable: autonomy, absorbing interaction, surprise, and a sense of competence.

First, the individuals who play must feel autonomous. The choice of what to do, say, or do should be up to the player. It shouldn’t be claimed by someone else orchestrating what happened, whether it’s an ambitious parent or a stressed boss at work.

Second, when people play games, they lose themselves in what they do and get absorbed in the interaction. There is a blurring between them and the materials or activity in which they participate. In looking at a material or a person, who notices the possibilities of an interaction by making it happen, it is no longer clear how an outcome is produced. Who built this tower? Who got that idea? Am I, someone else, or the Lego bricks? We all are.

Surprise is the third key part of being playful. In the interactions described earlier, players are likely to be less limited by a set plan of what to do. They engage in actions unimaginable before, introducing surprises. Things happen unexpectedly and are not designed on purpose.

This uncharted exploration, which led to surprises, provided a fourth aspect of playfulness: a sense of increased competence. Self -surprise is a big deal. In our research, we find that people get an unexpected enthusiasm about what they feel they can do, and it inspires them to see what else they can do.

Became concrete by making ducks

Our research did not begin with definitions or discussions of play. Instead, we arrange an encounter and allow people to walk us through their experience to turn a specific situation into a playful interaction.

For example, in one study, we gave five small plastic bags to 22 adults. Each bag has six Lego bricks of different sizes. Four are yellow – one has eyes on each side – and two are red. We then asked participants to use bricks to make five ducks in two rounds. In the first round, they are asked to make the ducks in ways that feel like a game. Second, they are encouraged to build it in ways that are not fun. After each phase, we asked participants how they approached the task and what they experienced in different parts of the process.

We found that the change in thinking made a big difference. When advised to be playful, participants said they felt a conscious need to be autonomous, not to think about the experiment but, instead, do what they wanted. Some have even decided not to make ducks anymore, but to build cars or buildings or whatever they feel like.

In contrast, when asked not to play, participants told us that they tried to enter mechanically, building according to instructions. Typically, they make five identical ducks, usually identical to a prototype we showed them.

They also describe different ways of touching Lego. The playfulness seems to make them participate in a more tentative way, noticing the bricks before they start building. Their sense of autonomy seems to allow ideas to flow freely within these absorbed tinkering. As the bricks were removed, they said.

When just playing people amazed themselves at the novel-like ducks that emerged. The wonder of their own actions makes them feel worthy. “Oh, I did it!” they said. They feel like they want to make a lot of ducks that are even more fresh and amazing. Because they feel autonomous, they say, “Let’s do it again.” They were encouraged to see what else they could do.

In contrast, few participants described the non -game situation as fun and inspiring. Following the advice mechanically will not lead to many surprises. It can be a bit fun to be faster to build, but such joy can easily become boring when faced with a quick, repetitive task.

Playfulness supports a virtuous circle of experimentation.

Playing games can increase motivation to learn

This experiment shows how play can enhance and increase intrinsic motivation: it provides motivation to do things out of personal interest, not because of some external need or incentive.

This development of an internal drive helps explain why learning is enhanced through play. Learning requires motivation for individuals to come back and not get tired of what they are doing. Playfulness supports a virtuous circle of experimentation, creativity, and learning, creating personal rewards that encourage people to repeat the process.

Photo provided by the author.

Improve aspects of playfulness

These experiments tell us that, if we want to support play and learning, we should try to develop the four stepping stones, or experiences, mentioned earlier: autonomy, absorbing interaction, surprise. , and feeling competent. How do parents, teachers, and others responsible for supporting the development of children (and adults) encourage these areas?

Let’s start with autonomy. In a kindergarten or other classroom, a teacher should explore opportunities for children to become autonomous. Doesn’t the environment have to be oppressive, prohibitive, or intimidating? What rules are absolutely necessary? What can be replaced with more open frameworks? Some kindergartens have “yes” wrists that represent a simple agreement: The child can do anything that day as long as his or her actions do not hurt anyone or damage equipment. Teachers love this simple idea, with many saying that it allows them to avoid constantly saying “no” and thus disrupt or hinder play.

What about art galleries or even public libraries? Many have many rules of what visitors can or cannot do. People are expected to remain quiet and not interact with other guests. They have to be careful. They cannot eat or drink. There are alternatives: The Aarhus Library in Aarhus, Denmark, has large, dedicated indoor and outdoor playgrounds. It has a large café, but guests can bring their own food and drink and eat it wherever they want. People of all ages and backgrounds mingle and mingle there. For those who need silence, the library has soundproofed, quiet reading and work rooms.

Similarly, Trapholt Museum in Kolding, Denmark. displays its permanent collection in a setting where visitors are asked to curate their own personal exhibition. They can look at the artwork and if they like a particular item, hold a chip on its nametag that stores the details electronically. Visitors are asked to create their own exhibit, starting with this artwork, creating a title, and combining other artwork to fit the theme or purpose.

Once visitors have collected eight artworks, they can visit a virtual room to place them in an exhibition space that is almost accessible to others. While the visitors have not yet touched any works of art, they interact with them, select them, think about them, bring them into a relationship with each other, and put them in their own exhibit. They made a will and probably had fun. Often, strangers will show their personal exhibitions to each other and laugh at their ideas.

We should try to develop four steps or experiences: autonomy, absorbing interaction, surprise, and a sense of competence.

Support absorbing interaction

How can children be encouraged to absorb the materials? Simply offer them interesting materials and ask them to interact with them (without telling them exactly what to do). For example, an adult might roll up old wallpaper in the yard and put finger paints nearby. She can tell the kids they can’t find the brushes and ask them to help find something else to paint. Can they paint with a stick? With just the sharp end of it? What would it look like if, instead, the stick was rolled on paper? What about the use of leaves? Rocks? tiil? Yes, it can be chaotic, but if the adult makes sure there is nothing of value to distract, the kids will play for hours.

Adults should be careful not to throw away children’s works of art after they are finished. Instead, they can hang them in a line to dry and next, ask them to cut or tear the works into interesting pieces and glue them to postcards to make birthday cards. Playfulness raises many possibilities.

Create surprise and competence

Adults also need to think about what causes surprise. One day, my daughter and I were walking through the woods and I asked her, “What if everyone we see were staring at us? Like a tree, for example. ” He was a bit confused. “The tree?” he asked. “Yes!” I replied. “But it has no eyes!” he replied. “Are you sure? I felt like it was watching us. And did you know that cabbages pull their leaves closer when the snails come? “

He grinned. And then he whispered, “The tree is my friend.” “How do you know?” I asked. “I already feel it! I love my green pants! ” Then he approached and whispered, “But I think the dandelions were afraid of Solveig (my second, 2-year-old daughter)-they knew he would feed them sheep.” I laughed too. “But maybe it just tickles when eaten?” I suggest. We went on for a long time, from surprise to surprise. And I found that I learned a lot from this conversation.

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