Can play experiences support our human development?

Can play experiences support our human development?

Remember when you were a kid and they asked you what you wanted to be when you grow up? 

What was your answer? 

When we were kids we were like sponges absorbing and processing knowledge day in and day out, and we were not afraid of dreaming wild because nothing was too big for us. Everything was possible.

Kids learn and discover the world through play and maybe that’s why they are not scared of visualizing themselves as whatever they want to become.

Then we grow up and we start losing the spark. We start limiting ourselves. We start caring about what others think about us and our choices. We have doubts that make us insecure, and some of those insecurities we carry until the present day – Not many end up walking the path they visualized at those early stages in life.

Our choices evolve, for sure, but then, why is it that only a few have clarity regarding what they want to do with their lives after high school? 

Perhaps the problem is that we stopped playing!

Instead of cultivating play as part of our overall development, the traditional educational system radically replaces it with homework and tests.

I remember being at school swamped with work all the time. Our playtime got significantly reduced and that made school a boring place to be at, and an ordeal for many kids because creativity was taken away and we were forced to take life too seriously from a very early age.

Can the power of play help us learn life skills and acquire specialized abilities that fully support our personal and professional development?

I truly believe so!

A few weeks ago, my little cousin was riding a mini scooter, then he saw a ball, put the scooter aside, and started kicking the ball and playing around with it.

Less than an hour later, he was back on his scooter and with the foot he used to push off the ground, he was kicking the ball at the same time. A bit wobbly, of course, but he figured out that he could do the two things he had been enjoying for the past hour, simultaneously.

Why would he play with one thing only if he could kill two birds with one stone?

And he’s only 2.5 years old.

Also, a few years ago I worked with an international student taking a game development program at college.

His English was pretty flawless, so I was surprised that he had only been in Canada for 2 months and had never lived in another English speaking country before. It was actually his first time outside Ecuador, his country of origin.

I asked how he had learned his English because the way he communicated was remarkable.

“I learned through video games while playing them”, he said.

No language centres, no private tutors, no textbooks. He learned a language through play experiences!

Did it happen overnight? Of course not, but his hobby became the most effective way for his brain to process the complexity of learning a new language, and later on he turned that hobby into his calling!

I found that very inspiring. 

Through our conversation, we discovered an array of talents he had subconsciously developed by being a gamer. Talents he was not aware that he had since many times society and even his own family looked down on him.  

Our preconceived ideas make us judgemental, blind us, and prevent us from seeing beyond the obvious …

… and we seem to love that somehow!

So, if you didn’t become what you had in mind, no biggie! 

Most likely, you turned out awesomely, regardless. 

However, now that you look back, what skills have you developed throughout the years that are relevant to those first career dreams you had? 

If they asked you today, as an adult, what do you wanna be when you grow up, what will your inner child answer?

Written by David Mendoza for Orbit 5 


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