Jump, skip, dance, move, play. Play; a partaking in an activity for the sole purpose of satisfaction or amusement. People play from childhood and although for many this morphs and changes into something different as we grow we still take part in play in some form.

We can play computers, board games, card games, games of the imagination like Lego or, slightly oddly in my case as a child, with rocks and leaves. We can also play with people, something I want to look at a bit closer later in this post.  Playing has developed into a huge thing that helps people develop in numerous ways. The enhancing of the imagination through play is a great thing that can help children work through complex themes and ideas in literature, it also exercises their brain in a fun and engaging way. Play can also help children interact and communicate. A Lego building initiative exists that helps autistic children develop their communication skills by having one child giving the instructions and the other constructing the model. Seemingly simple to many but to children on the autistic spectrum it can be quite a challenge but it has been shown to be effective. Why? Because it is play and they are to some degree gaining satisfaction and enjoyment out of building Lego. Play can also be used to help professionals discover what has been troubling a child, normally a problem within a family which they feel they cannot speak about but they instinctively play it out with toys which can then be interpreted by those trained.

So play can take on a far more important role than merely being an amusing pastime but what happens to play as we grow older? Well many still play their computer games but most lose that brilliant imagination that help us construct play out of almost everything; our form of play largely switches to a version of playing with people.

As children we played with other people in building dens, being pirates, spies and so on. As children get older they start play fighting, a way of showing strength in a non-aggressive way. It seems almost instinctive in boys. We can see how this form of play is very different to Lego for example. As people grow to teenager they start “playing up”. This is challenging authority and doing things out of the ordinary, normally to get a reaction; this is the start of playing with people in a mind way. As some people go through the teenage phase they can sometimes find a slightly different way of playing with people, similar to “playing up” it is looking for a reaction. They may put across strong views or make ignorant statements to see if people react how they think they will. This can be made very specific and is almost a challenge to see how well you know someone as to manipulate their attitude exactly how you predicted. The thing about these latter forms of play is that most people don’t even realise they are doing it or if they do they don’t know why they are doing it. It doesn’t seem like play, at least in the general concept of it; however, if you break it down it can be seen that in partaking in such activities we achieve some form of satisfaction or amusement, it is normally the sole reason we have done it so to all intents and purposes it is play.

Play, laugh, sing, write, dream