Stuart Brown — Play, Spirit, and Character
June 19, 2014

Who knew that we learn empathy, trust, irony, and problem solving through play — something the dictionary defines as "pleasurable and apparently purposeless activity." Dr. Stuart Brown suggests that the rough-and-tumble play of children actually prevents violent behavior, and that play can grow human talents and character across a lifetime. Play, as he studies it, is an indispensable part of being human.


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Animals at Play

[audio slideshow, 2:20]
Anyone who has a pet can testify that play is not exclusive to humans. And, in the wild, different species often are at odds. But, Stuart Brown witnessed something different. Here, he describes Norbert Rosing's striking images of a wild polar bear playing with sled dogs in the wilds of Canada's Hudson Bay.

Fellowship of the Rings

[audio slideshow, 2:51]
Stuart Brown pointed out that play can manifest itself in many ways: reading, hiking, painting…. For some adults in Santa Monica, the traveling rings on Muscle Beach not only offer exercise but a chance to resolve the angst of their workdays with the serenity of swinging in a beautiful setting.

Selected Readings

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The 2010 World Cup final expects to draw 700 million viewers in a few hours. And with all the fanfare and elaborate ceremonies preceding this championship game, soccer at its core is a game of universal appeal and absolute simplicity. Nowhere is this more obvious than on the continent of Africa itself.

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Adele Diamond studies how social dramatic play can build "executive function" (EF) skills in children's brains. EF is a container term for capacities like inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility.

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I have a philosophy of play that has developed over the years I've worked with children in and out of the context of preschool, church, and church camp contexts. For our culture today, I am struck by the dichotomy between the cares of the world and our nation and the life of a child. The following poem encapsulates for me a centering prayer for children and for the world, as well as echoes some of my philosophy of play today:

I will not play at war no more
I will only play at peace.
For if I play at war some more
The guns will never cease. ~ stc

In preparation for my own work with children in the context of faith, one assignment was to come up with a philosophy of play. The following brief statements and comments also shape the role of play for me as a Christian educator.

I believe in God the Playmate, Maker of every kind of place to play and every kind of playmate, both the visible and invisible.
As God's children, we are called into fellowship with one another and to be as a family: Both to live together as one and to work together in fun; at camp, at home, at school or at work, no matter where we stay or what we play.

I believe in Jesus Christ, our friend at all times, who is with us when we are sad, mad, and glad. He helps us to love all our playmates, even when it is hard.
As we seek to know one another, we can/may feel sadness, anger, or happiness. It is easy to play with others when we are happy, but sometimes it is hard for us to play with one another when we are grieving, lonely or scared. Some times it is hard to be with those we play and love when we are hurt or angry at things we have seen, felt, or heard. But even then Jesus is our friend and can be with us to cheer us up, until we are ready to play again.

I believe the Holy Spirit allows us to have fellowship companionably. Without fear of competitive games that make some losers, some winners, I believe we can be more in harmony with the Spirit and each other.
As children of God, we have also been given to each other as brothers and sisters. I believe the best choice is to choose to let each other know we care about one another's presence by giving each other positive regard in our play. We can choose to be inclusive and seek to share our gifts and talents with one another in such ways that everyone can play, and everyone can enjoy being a part of the fun in fellowship.

I believe that God also made us to share how we play and live our lives with others.
When we learn how to play, it helps us to remember it even better when we in turn teach what we've learned to others. Therefore, as children of God, we are not only playmates, but also teachers to one anther. We can share what we have gleaned in our walks of life to those we play with, teaching them and playing with them until they are able to also teach it to others. Then we can take our turn learning from them, fellowshipping in communion and love. ~stc

Let me refer to a time when I worked in early childhood education. For preschool aged children, play is life, play is their reality, and that is the natural language they speak; a time where the amazing stages of parallel play shift to the growing awareness of others around them and interactive play. It is a time of awakening, where children try out different roles in life through active play. It marks the stage of brain development where active dendrite growth peaks.

I think forms of play have largely remained the same; except for the growing edge of digital play, which actually takes the themes behind forms of play and puts them into unreal, physically passive contexts.

Forms of play still seem to remain along the themes of good guys, bad guys (especially through elementary school), trying on new roles (preschool dress-up clothes), and exploring creative expression from art expressions to imaginative play. The deeper issues behind these themes and forms of play include the foundations behind all human experience: the basic needs for each individual once the physiological ones are taken care of. These include safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization (Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs).

As a child, my own forms of play especially centered on creative expression. I would become any number of animals and/or their keepers fanciful and real with my little sister and act out their lives according to our creative minds. On my own with peers, I would tramp through woods and trails, make forts under trees, or on the other end of the spectrum, create whole space cities with Space Legos.

Today, looking back on how as a teacher I facilitated play for my preschoolers, the philosophy undergirding our school's principals focused on community, making choices that upheld community and experiencing logical consequences when choices were made that broke down community. Creative expression was celebrated, from story dictation to daily art projects to active imaginative play indoors and outdoors.
When I visit my old school today, I can step right back into this whole-child philosophy of discovery learning.

These memories shape my approach to life today in that I have a special place in my heart for early childhood development and look forward to being a parent someday; where I can once again exercise my imaginative side in understanding (or trying to!) life through the eyes of a child. In my professional life, without an understanding of discovery play, I would not have explored so many of my own options in settling on vocational choices. Play is and was essential, and I don't mean the digital kind!

Hi, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog site in Ie, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, superb blog!

Trent Gilliss's picture

Thanks, Edwina. We do have some display issues with IE7 and are slowly working on it.

As a theatre teacher who works with both adults and children I have the privilege of witnessing the similarities and differences in how we play at various ages. To play is to experiment, to try out, and to pretend. We don’t have to take ourselves, our ideas, our creations so seriously because we are “only playing”. There is room to fail. Or this is how we would hope it would be.
However, it saddens me greatly to see children explore and invent with such freedom and then have an adult come to my class and stand awkwardly before me, uncertain of what to do. I have to remind them again and again that we are only playing. They cannot fail. But somehow all the expectations to be good, to do it right get in the way of our natural inventiveness. I have never understood why we have to stop playing. What makes us decide; somewhere around puberty that playing is “not cool”? Obviously social pressures and the fear of embarrassment most likely have something to do with it.
But to me playing is an essential part of life. We don’t stop learning and exploring and so why should we stop playing and experimenting safely together?
When I teach I aim to allow students, above all, a safe place to play. The nature of play is to come together with others and experience joy as we discover more about life and the world. What could be more spiritual?

Play has shaped the parent I am now:

My eight-year-old daughter Adella played a beautiful game of basketball last season. She, as my neighbor who knows all sports puts it, is a great "ball handler." She can dribble that thing any way you want it and get it the hoop so a teammate with upper-body strength can shoot the thing. She's a fast-moving and coordinated 48-pound third-grader.

So why was she crying into her pillow an hour after the game?

Because No. 5 from the opposing team told her she hated her for guarding her and taunted her every time they were near each other on the court. The "I hate you" did in a little girl who seldom hears those words and never before has heard them directed at her.

Dad to the rescue: "That's trash talk, and it's unsportsmanlike. You give her a trash talk smile and let it go." Men are smart, practical, and in the moment. When the moment's gone, so is the problem. Oh, to be a man....

The tears continue; so does dad: "Players do that to get inside your head because if you're thinking about them and what they're saying, you're not doing what you're supposed to do--which is play the game. Don't let her in."

Ah yes, dear, but girls don't forget quite so quickly. Next morning Della says to me over breakfast: "Did you notice she played out of bounds most of the game?"

Me to Della: "Yup, Because people who talk trash play trash, too."

"How come her coach didn't say anything?"

Mother to daughter: "Winning is everything in that town, and that's what they teach. Your father teaches you to play well, and that little jerk couldn't handle you."

How is it a stranger, a nobody in my daughter's cosmology, could rob her of joy so swiftly? How is it cruel people--people who tell us we're worthless, who use us, who badmouth us behind our backs and insult us to our faces--have so much influence on the quality of our experiences?

My daughter will never forget No. 5 and trash talk. Will my daughter remember that No. 5's team won by 28 points and could have afforded to be kind? I won't let her forget that cruel people do business wholesale.

No. 5 didn't have it in her. My sensitive little girl does, though. Please God, we will build her up good and strong so nasty blow-ins won't hem her into a life of fear of abuse.

Hello ~ As school children in the 1950s, we were sent out to play "on the noon hour" everyday no matter what the weather - and it snowed, rained and scorched. It was the best part of the day even though it was tough. I remember standing in Mary Catlin's coat to stay warm. I was very little and my fingers froze. Our teachers, Sisters of St. Joseph in full habit, put on shawls and skidded down long ice chutes with black robes flowing. We played every game - pom-pom-pullaway; red-rover-red rover; dodge ball; witch-steals-the-child. We monitored ourselves on the playground - some kids were 'mothers' to others. We played our hearts out, never looked back, loved each other and let everyone play.

Here is a poem I wrote about those days about the playground at Our Mother of Sorrows Elementary School about 1954. We played in and around the cemetery and church and under full-size statues of saints and the crucifixion. The 150-year-old church was used to hide escaped slaves, the KKK burned a cross on the rectory lawn in the 1920s - it is the oldest, rural Catholic [Irish] church in New York State - built on Paddy Hill about 10 miles northwest of Rochester.

Sacred to the Memory

Slater, Sheehan, Byrne
chipmunks scatter across your names.

McGuire, Maio, Fleming
green jumpers, tan blouses
all sitting
eyes forward
hands folded
feet flat on the floor.

Cleary, Larkin, Lafferty, McShea
ice slides, black flowing
habits skidding on boots
across the fields of snow.

Farnan, Beatty, Brennan
David, Mary Jane, Janice.
Sister Jeannine, Sister Mary Alacquo.
Mary Catlin let me stand in her coat
on the noon hour.

McMannis, Roberts, O’Rourke
Helen, Bill and Stoney
secret place in the upstairs bedroom
for the underground railroad.
Leonard, Margaret and Mary Jean
Theresa of the Little Flower.

Today I read the names
scratched in the bricks
where the heart-knifed lady once stood
as we played briefly under her rose-petaled feet.
where the cross was our friend,
and the mother of sorrows
cradled the head of her son in her lap.

Barbara Lamb Carder, 2000

Brings back the fondest of memories, only my school was St. Ann's and the nuns were Sisters of St. Ann! Best years of my life ever growing up! Thank-you for your post.

I'm 45 years old and I have recently rediscovered an aspect of play I'd forgotten about -- role playing. There are costume parties year-round now in New York city, and I've found that it's surprisingly good fun to dress up as someone with an ostensibly different personality -- a pirate, or a billionaire or a dancer. But beyond just the fun, I began to notice that the role-play had an effect on my everyday life. It seems to exercise the parts of my psyche that I keep under wraps all the time, thus leaving my core self more calm and centered when it's time to go to the office or dinner. There's a pirate and a billionaire and a dancer inside me all the time, and it behooves me to let them out once in a wile.

Since 1983 I've been learning to be a clown.
In 1984 I started teaching clown workshops.
At one workshop at the university I was attending, I had about 10 participants. One of the games we played was lieing right next to each other in a line on the gynmasium floor. From one end of the line, we took turns rolling over the others in the group.
Later in the workshop one of the men was startled to hear that some of the women in the group were members of a Catholic order.
The next time I invited him to a workshop he said firmly, "No rolling over nuns!"

In my first year of ministry, I am continually drawn back to a moment in seminary that has served as the genesis for my own (re)thinking of play.

I was taking an experimental preaching course on the spatial elements of the Book of Acts. Each week we were asked to "occupy" (literally and metaphorically) a different space associated with a particular text. From these places we were to write, respond, and preach. On the very first day, we met in the quad rather than a stale classroom. As the class began, a large parachute was unfolded before us, the kind we all remembered from our elementary school days.

"What should we do?" asked the professor.

Slowly, our memories sprang our bodies into action and it wasn't long before we were taking turns teaching and indeed playing our favorite parachute games.

The exercise was never explained, never processed. Later, half way through the course we were brought in one by one to let the professors know how it was going. I told them, one a preaching professor and the other a New Testament and ritual scholar, that I was happier during that class time than any time I could remember in recent years. "It's like holy play," I said.

The ritual theorists perked up and remarked that play was considered the highest form of ritual.

Play has become my hermeneutic for both preaching, study, and in many ways life. Now, working with youth at a church I see that we're raising a generation that does not know how to play, how to flirt between freedom and structure, who does not know the poetry and jazz and playfulness that makes up the created "order."

I would wager to say that while one can understand faith without being playful, one can not have it unless one understands the give and take, the unpredictable pitfall and grace that constitutes the fabric of play.

Rob McClellan
Associate Pastor for Youth, Their Families, and College Ministries
Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church

This is not my story, but I wonder if this obituary will be of interest to you re your upcoming program. Particularly the last line...

It is not only memories of play tht shape who I am now, or affect my approach to life. It is what I do after work - now - every Tuesday and Thursday. As a parent, I am glad my children see what I do and how much it means to me.

My story doesn't include any rough-and-tumble, because it is about play among grownups. It is actually a structured kind of play, but I thought of it when I heard your solicitation for stories because I once described it to a friend as "my ministry." I am a Quaker, which not alot of my dance students know, but in our religion we've done away with the laity and all consider ourselves to be ministers or potential ministers, vocal or otherwise. So when I share my gifts with people, it is my ministry.

In the course of maintaining physical fitness, there are obvious health benefits. But when I teach a dance/fitness class, I teach it straight from the heart for non-fitness reasons. There are so many pressures on normal people today. I teach my class like a respite from all of that. I never make comments about body fat content or bathing suit season or keeping off the holiday pounds. I don't need that fear-based motivation. I may refer to the holidays or stress in general. But my comments about the body are along the lines of how well it responds to exercise and how to do it safely. When I say, as I often do, "Your glutes are gonna love you for all those squats," I don't really say why. The music keeps going and I don't have time, but I really mean much besides controlling fat and building muscle. I think it builds self-esteem for people to be fit. And to take the time away from family, home, etc simply to go to fitness class - sometimes that takes strength too. To begin certainly takes courage.

My classes are corporate, so I have to keep my own faith out of it. But I do feel that, as a person here on earth, I have something to share and those are my gifts. We each have a gift or gifts. It is by teaching dance/exercise that I have found a way to share mine. I enjoy my own gift so much more when I use it to lead classes that are good for other people. I hope very much that, as a result, there is a moment here or there when people in class feel more aware of their own gifts. Or at least a break from the pressures of our lives that may form a barrier between a person's everyday identity and the sweet, covering, and consuming contact with what I call grace, or the reason for being here on earth.

I think I am not alone in thinking about the past and the future so much that I lose the opportunity to live in the present. That is one thing that dancing in class gives us. You can't think about the past or the present when you are keeping up with the dance routine. You don't have a choice but to live in the moment. Thanks for asking.

Play, i.e., making forts, running, twirling, skipping, and making up scenarious, even gathering at night to play "kick the can," dancing, being silly, all elicit joy, pleasure and inspire confidence and hope, both now and as a child.
I discovered a renewal of play in my adult life when I started to join other adults in InterPlay. I became a leader in InterPlay, where story, movement, sound and stillness are paths to spontaneity and play. New ideas and relationships, deep laughter ease and grace have been the gifts that have convinced me I MUST PLAY to stay healthy and happy.

(InterPlay is an international movement and can be accessed at

In my lifetime, I have seen the full circle, from neighborhood games of hide and seek and kick the can with everyone playing, to the extreme of playing video games alone, back to encouraging free-form neighborhood games and social connection. I think that games that taught leadership, caused us to be creative and cunning, games that involved physical, psychological, emotional, and social elements led to self esteem and confidence later in life. We organized our own play, it was not some date chosen by our parents. I encouraged my son away from solitary, video-oriented experiences, instead to play physical games, chess, board games, and card games that encouraged strategic and critical thinking. Twelve years ago I left a carear in investment management to become a child psychologist and play therapist. I spend my days helping children play through trauma, grief and loss from death, divorce, and adoption. I find my best work is often teaching parents how to play with their children to rebuild their relationships. There is no better way to connect with a sullen teenager than through their own game. When I played with my children and my adolescents, I learned their personalities, their strengths and weaknesses, and molded their characters. Being a play therapist has made my life rich in the smiles of children, the appreciation of parents, and the improvement of my community, all through the healing power of play.

I used to play at sports and swim to fill time and be with people. I played with wires and making things.
I am not afraid to take things apart and do things that may be risky.

I think play is the ability to imagine things differently and not feel locked in. Play is the slack in life. The way that newness can most easlity come into life. That is why play is usually fun.

Hello my name is Phil Johnson I am currently working on my Phd at the University of Iowa. For my research I am attempting to look at play from an evolutionary perspective and investigate how play has shaped the mammalian brain and more specifically how a lack of play in humans can lead to a loss of neuroplasticity which is associated with all kinds of psychopathologies. In its essence "play" can not be understood as an activity but must be recognized as a mental or neurophysiological state. When approached from this direction it becomes apparent that play can exist in virtually any circumstance or any experience as long as there is an absence of fear or threat. If one is to look at the purpose of play in the evolution of the mammalian lineage there is no doubt that play has been THE fundamental characteristic or quality that has given homo sapiens their ability to think creatively, imaginatively, etc. The Dutch thinker Johan Huizinga was correct in his labeling humans as Homo Ludens as opposed to Homo Sapien. Play is the most important aspect of human life but has yet to be appreciated. It will take extremely intelligent people to grasp this concept but eventually it will change the landscape of every human society on earth.

Play has helped me look at life as a challenge and a choice. As a kid I did it just for the fun of it but now as an adult I do it as a choice to always remind myself to have fun no matter how busy I may get. One of my favorite things is our weekly tag team nights. We do things like play freeze tag, dodge ball and most recently laser tag, which is a game I played often as a kid. I particularly like laser tag because I am a peace educator and it helps me remember and understand how play combat can be enjoyed when it is just a game and not thought of as glorifying violence as a problem solving method. Its important not to take oneself too seriously and understand the positive aspects of combat games such as the building of decision-making, leadership and teamwork skills under pressure.


First Congregational Church
Greenwich, Connecticut
August 12, 2007
Rev. Alexander Harper

The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. —Exodus 32.6

Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness; that my soul may praise thee and not be silent. —Psalm 30.11

David danced before the Lord with all his might . . .Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. —Samuel 6.16

A Parable

IMAGINE that the great Day of Judgment has come. Now your turn has come at last. You find yourself standing before the throne of heaven. You're asked what were the most significant things you ever did on earth. After you stop trembling and your teeth stop chattering, what do you think you might answer? What was most important in the days of your years on this earth? You might remember your work, some of the ways in which you bore your share of the world's labor. You might recall your friendships, those you loved. You might report your worship of God, your loyalty to the church of Jesus Christ. All those sound respectable, even a little noble.

When you've finished, God looks at you and smiles, with what for all the world looks like a twinkle in a divine eye. Then the Voice from the throne asks, "Didn't you ever play?"

You can't quite believe what you think you heard. Surely, on this most awesome of occasions, the God of heaven and earth couldn't have asked that. "I fear I heard you wrong, Lord. Did you ask if I ever prayed?"

"No, played," replies the great Voice, with an eye still twinkling. "Didn't you ever take a vacation from seriousness, let down your hair, trip the light fantastic?"

"Well, yes, of course, Lord," you answer, still flustered and puzzled. "I played, but mostly as a child. Grown up, well. a little poker (low stakes), a little golf (well, a lot), races with my 50-foot powerboat. I certainly didn't think that would be important here!"

The great head above the throne shook slowly — not up and down but from side to side, head in hand.

That's the end of my parable, but not the end of the serious question embedded in it: Have you ever played? If you've grown up, do you still take time to play? Can you be playful without embarrassment and apology? Of course, everything has its time and place. Writes Ecclesiastes (3.1-3): There is . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Or have we grown so stiff and formal, so captive to a sober-sides image of adulthood, that we've forgotten how to play with abandon -- without looking at watches and fearing that we're "wasting time," "being silly" and "forgetting our age"?

I'll make a confession to you: ministers are especially prone to this disease we can call "rickets of the playful joints." But you knew this anyway. Whether ministers naturally speak, dress and act with such rectitude, or whether we're like that because people expect it, the clergy image is heavy with solemnity. Just look at this black robe!

You may have the same problem as you grow older. If so, beware! A wise Boston physician, Dr. Richard Cabot, once said, "We do not grow old because of years or lack of exercise; we grow old because we lose our ability to play."

Play and Religion: Friends or Enemies?
Why on earth should a sermon deal with play anyway? Didn't we come to church (wiping the smile from our face) to worship, not to play? You'd rightly resent it if I turned our service into a game of hop-scotch or indoor baseball. Eyebrows are still raised at clowns in church or balloons on Easter or Pentecost. (I should know: my late wife Jean (some of you knew her) was such a clown.)

Yet worship includes reflection on how God sees and wills our life, our whole life and not just our prayer times. Play is indispensable to wholeness of life; it's just as vital as love and work and worship. Without play, they go sour too. In the right time and place, and in rhythm with the rest of life, play is as necessary as the air we breathe and the food we eat.

Surprising to some, the Bible affirms the importance of play for adults and not just for children. To be sure, the prophets often show a profound uneasiness about "playing like the pagans."

Consider one example: In the book of Exodus, the Israelites are camped beneath Mt. Sinai. They've been waiting for weeks for Moses to come down the mountain. The Bible describes their routine: The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

Now Moses is uneasy when he sees them playing, but largely because they were picking up other pagan habits as well. Idolatry is what he fears, not playfulness. Worship of false gods is what does you in, not games. On the other hand, Moses may have been a sourpuss.

Later in the Second Book of Samuel, we encounter King David before the famous Ark of the Covenant, that "portable church" the Hebrews carried on their pilgrimage to the Promised Land. What does David do at the ark, before the Holy of holies? How does he worship?

And David danced before the Lord with all his might.

He danced! He worshipped with artful play. But Michal, David’s wife, a puritanical princess, spots David. He’s stripped down for strenuous body movement in sacred dance. She scolds him mightily for what she thinks blasphemy. For her, dance and play are enemies of religion.

Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. (6.16)

Poor Michal! Dance and play are at once natural, human, profound as well as delightful. But the Michals of the world don't know it. There are always misguided souls embarrassed to have a smile on their faces, a twinkle in their eyes, or a joyful lilt in their step. Such sourpuss party-poopers have forgotten that deep, double wisdom of Ecclesiastes: There is a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Jesus and Playfulness

Notice how Jesus makes reference to play in his teachings. He must have known children's games firsthand from his own childhood in Nazareth. He likens many adults of his day to children quarreling and pouting about what to play. They can't even get together on a single game. Those of this generation, says Jesus sadly,are like children sitting in the market place and calling to one another, "We piped to you, and you didn't dance." "We wailed, and you didn't weep." (Luke 7.32)

I suspect Jesus was referring to those delightful imitations which kids of every age play as they copy adult behavior. He’s talking about kids playing “weddings” and “funerals.”
Jesus seems to mean something like this: "Alas, dear friends, you're missing God's signals for the game of life—by fighting over who calls the tune, who names the game. For a wedding or wedding-game, pipers pipe the tune and that's the signal to dance. For a funeral or funeral-game, someone starts the mourning, and then we weep with him or her. But you, it seems, can neither rejoice nor weep. You may miss God's kingdom if you don't watch out!"

A Foretaste of Heaven

Now I dare to make an even bolder proposal: Play, more than work, is a foretaste of heaven. You may be closest to the kingdom of God, not when you're working your fingers to the bone and hating it, but when you're playing with abandon and delight and loving it.

For one it may be baseball, for another a game of checkers or chess. For you it may be folk-singing, for me playing the viola in a string quartet. For one it might be a bridge group or weekend painting, for another devouring a novel, still another an evening in a discotheque, or sitting around swapping jokes.

For our soul's sake, getting away from the grind on a little vacation is necessary for most of us at least once a year, with a few weekends away in other seasons. Whatever your play or art (play and art are kissing cousins), lose yourself from time to time in something delightful, something worth doing for its own sake

Do something, but not for the sake of a pay check or someone's opinion of you. Let yourself go in the joy of something absolutely impractical, and just for the fun of it. Don't try to justify it as edifying or "educational" -- as we say when we buy toys.

When you can do that, when you can play with conviviality, you're close indeed to the kingdom of God. You're actually practicing for the great Day when all is fulfilled, all battles won, all hurts healed, all noble dreams realized.

Then what will you do? The hope we're given is to live with all redeemable souls, giving and receiving freely with one another in the dance of a life fulfilled -- all in the light and with the music of the presence of God.

Fruit of a Lifetime

When retirement from paid employment comes -- in mid-sixties for most of us -- the saddest sight I know is those who have nothing to do that doesn't bore them to death. Their lives, and sometimes their marriages, fall apart. Once-happy husbands at the office now drive their wives up the wall by hanging around the house, useless, petulant and usually in a supervisory mood. They never learned to play, or if they did, they forgot how and left "all that" behind with childhood.

By contrast, the most beautiful sight I know is those who are never bored when their work is done. They keep a spirit of playfulness alive. They know how to enjoy almost any moment. They find music in common sounds; they dance a little as they move about; they find poetry in ordinary conversation with everyday people. They're never far from playfulness.

Does that sound childish? It may well be child-like. Said Jesus: "Unless you can become as a little child, you won't enter the kingdom." "I was born able to paint like an adult," the great painter Picasso once said, seeming to boast. Then he added: "It took me forty years to learn to learn to paint like a child." Just so, it may take us years to recover our ability to play, when we've been conned into thinking that adults should be practical and purposeful at all times.

So hang on for dear life to your spirit of playfulness! If you've lost it, then for your soul's sake work at recovering it. It may be your surest ticket to the kingdom of heaven when you can pray with the writer of the 30th Psalm:

Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing, thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness.

I began with a parable. I leave you with another one, a bit cryptic, this time by the late cartoonist Jim Crane. I won't even tell you what it means. Crane calls it "Lift-off."

Charlie, his mother said, you're 10 years old,
and it's time you stopped playing with blocks.
Charlie, his teacher said, you're 15 years old,
and it's time you stopped daydreaming.
Charlie, his father said, you're 20 now,
and it's time you stopped writing those plays.
Charlie, his advisor, said, it's time you concentrated on meeting graduation requirements.
Charlie, his wife said, you're 30 years old and have a family to support. It's time you stopped having visions.
Charlie, his boss said, there is no place in this concern for fantasy.

On May 15th Charlie sat at the controls of his flower and lifted off in a stream of soft magenta smoke.

He waved a tender good-bye to his
mother, father,
teacher, adviser,
wife, children,
and the boss.

Goodbye, he called back. What a pity! You could all have come with me— if you'd only known.

What St. Augustine said 1600 years ago about dancing may apply to all play — play that’s really light-hearted and not just a grim mirror of our competitive business life.

Augustine said: “Better learn learn to dance, or the angels in heaven won’t know what to do with you!”

How has play changed the course of my approach to life? It is one of my primary approaches to life. the means by which I navigate and travel my path in life. Unlike many, I hold fast to the belief that just because I grow older, doesn’t mean I have to stop thinking, viewing or interacting with the world around me as I did when I was younger.

So the question becomes not how has play changed the course of my life, but rather how do I change myself and the direction I take in life through play?

“Let us venture out in to this glorious new day. With open minds and ready hands we’ll free our hearts to play.”

Play is looking at the world or something in it, and seeing in it the possibilities of what it could be, or is not, and in doing so better understanding all that it is. Play is following the instinct of curiosities whim; it’s turning abruptly left down a street to find another route that will bring me to the street that is to my right. Play’s personification promotes the perpetuation of memory and the lessons of my education. Play is stopping to give a tree a familiar friendly pat on the bark and ask, “Hello there brother Acer sacharum (red maple). Why are you growing in this swamp (I thought you preferred more well drained sites)? Is that why your leaves are so disheveled and your growth so stunted, or is it a disease or pest that infests you?”

Play makes the mundane, less likely to drive me insane. It’s the difference between the drudgery of having to walk to the store to get groceries, and taking on the challenge and opportunity of embarking on an epic hunter gatherer journey of survival with my stout walking stick in hand. Play is walking down the street and sparing with inanimate objects; it’s balancing on curbs that have suddenly become tightropes over bottomless chasms; it’s riding my bike and pretending I am flying, or that I am the engine of some powerful 4x4 that I will never be able to own or drive because of my visual impairment; it’s pretending I am flying every time I leap up to touch a leaf high above my head; it’s the involuntary yip of joyful accomplishment that explodes from my lips upon climbing to the top of a 50 or 60ft tree; it’s roaming through the woods with a stout stick, pretending I am the hunter-warrior as a lay about with my sword to hack through and vanquish the dead branches that are the obstacles and struggles baring my way along my path in life; it’s thinking like a wolf every time I see a dog and respond when they bark viciously at me from their fenced in yard by saying aloud, “Good dog, defending your territory. Fear not, I will respect thee.” Then bowing humbly and walking away. Its seeing in the reality that is, the possibility of realities that are not, and in doing so coming to a deeper and more thorough understanding of the environment in which we exist. It’s the act of imitating the qualities of others, be they human, animal or otherwise, that I admire most and wish to aspire to.

It is the process and act of learning to learn by opening one’s mind. It is the physical expression of mental exercise. It is the act of creatively energetic curiosity. It is the expression of a source and outlet of inspiration. It is the instinct of preparing for the challenges of life by creating and solving problems that one will likely never encounter.; it’s gaining vital experience that develop and shape one’s character and confidence, without ever having to face the true hazards and mortal perils of living them first hand.

It’s the behavior that is stifled and oppressed in adults by society as being “inappropriate, or foolish or childish.”, when in truth it is among the greatest gifts of wisdom that youth has to offer. The wisdom of age, is knowing the strength of youth.And the strength of youth, is recognizing the wisdom of age. It’s one of the primary reasons strangers on the street think me weird and/or dangerous.
It is an integral part of how I maintain the balance of my physical, mental and spiritual health and wellbeing. I need not and do not “exercise” or “workout)…..I play. And I find it a much more pragmatic and fulfilling means than going to some sweaty overcrowded gym, or playing on some sprots team where everybody is worried about what everybody else thinks of their image. We are all our own greatest enemy. Sometimes the most thorough way to defeat an enemy is to make them your allie. And by competing only with myself, I am always victorious.

Play is pretending that reality, is whatever I will it to be
And in so doing, living happy and free.

Over the years, play has changed in a few ways. First of all, when I was younger, my forms of play consisted mostly of imaginary or made up games. It was always more fun to play with friends because they could bring their own ideas of what to do. Nowadays, I can only play when I have time, which is very rare. Most of my play is alone or with my dog because it is hard to find friends with the same schedule that have time to play when I do. Unfortunately, play is not as much fun as it used to be due to the lack of time.
In my earlier years, I used to create clubs (mostly in the woods) that most likely shaped me into the creative person I am today. Also, I used to get out all my mother’s pots and pans and produce music, which lead me to play an instrument once I reached high school. Today, I love to build things and put things together. I believe this might have come from my passion when I was younger to build tents in my house and play with link-in-logs.
Without play, I think I would be very stressed out. Play gives me a chance to relax and ponder on things without all the stress of everyday life. It is wonderful to have time to myself to have fun and do the things that I love doing. It helps me accomplish tasks throughout the day when I know that I will have time to play at the end. Overall, play has given me the tools to believe in others, be fair and understanding, and work out any dilemmas I might have.

The course of play has changed greatly since I was a kid. When I was younger all the kids would either play candy land, hop scotch, four square, and even jump rope. When I see kids playing hop scotch now a day it seems like it’s an ancient game. Everyone knows the game of Candy land, but it’s just not as popular as it used to be. When I was in elementary school I was on a jump rope team, when I hit middle school they decided to get rid of the program because no one was interested in it anymore.

I have one younger brother and a younger sister, and their types of play usually consist of going swimming, being on a dance team, and sometimes just playing a game of cards. When I tell my sister to go and play hop scotch or four square she looks at me like I am crazy, and says “no body does that anymore.”

I do not have any certain memories that I can think of that has shaped who I am today, but I do believe by being involved in many different types of play when I was younger has made me more active today, and has even helped me in deciding what I want to be. I believe it helped me in joining different types of sports and trying new things, and since I have played sports, I absolutely love it, and I am now majoring in Physical Education.

1. The forms of play have changed over the course of my lifetime by many different means. I remember playing tee ball when I was very young. My coach seemed to have a serious competitive drive but of course I was in it for the play aspect. I was a small child not looking for serious competition. As I grew older I got into cross country and track, and my play aspect morphed to sport. I was no longer running for fun, I was actually looking for serious competition. I trained and trained and became a well balanced runner. After high school was over and now that I’m in college I am in my leisure form of play. I only run when I feel the urge to, or lift weights when I want, which is usually 3 times a week anyways. I still keep my competitive drive inside where my sport aspect is, but I don’t need to be like that anymore since I’m not in a sport anymore.

2. Yes, I do recollect certain memories from my cross country and track days. I recall my coach always pushing me to my ability to do my best. When I have a son, or if I become a coach, I will do the same to my athletes. I will never push them to the point of injury, but I will always push them to their ability and beyond.

3. Play has changed the course of my life to the point now that I can play a game or run a race and not have a serious competitive drive. I learned from my sport days that there is a time for pushing yourself, but I am past that point now. I run and lift weights for fun now as my leisure. I no longer have the sport aspect anymore and I’m perfectly fine with that.

I am the Executive Director of the Center for the Theology of Childhood and an international movement called Godly Play. The Center is newly located at the Church of Our Saviour in San Gabriel, California. Godly Play is spreading all over the world as people of many denominations and traditions recover the spiritual practice of play.

Our founder, The Rev. Jerome W. Berryman is an Episcopal Priest who has recently retired from over forty years of playing. Of course, he is still playing as he continues his work of creating, lecturing and writing. He has invited many thousands of people into the divine play of grace and taught me new ways to play.

Through sacred stories, parables, liturgical actions and wondering we engage children of all ages in play. You can learn more at

On a personal note, my own childhood was always filled with play and as an adult, I have brought that spirit of play into my work as a priest in the Episcopal Church. I get to prepare a feast every Sunday and tell stories and sing songs. It is a life filled with wonder.

Thank you for this amazing broadcast.


I believe play has become more certain and predictable as parents decide that their children must have a set schedule all day long, as compared to when I was a child. When I was younger, during the summer, I was outside all day playing different games with my friends or going to the swimming pool. My schedule was whatever game we wanted to play at the time. On the rare occasion I went to summer camp we had outdoor activities like playing in the creek or big games of hide and seek in the woods.
Now as a summer camp counselor, my boss has a set schedule for the campers that includes an hour in the library (playing games on the computer) and sit down games that the campers play before they get picked up by parents. I understand why there is an obesity epidemic in the United States now, children aren’t exercising. As a counselor I have to argue with campers just to go outside let alone play at the local park we go to. This is a total shock to me, children now have become so used to playstation, xbox, television and air conditioning that if they are deprived of any of those they can’t function correctly.
I know that playing pick up games of football with my friends at my local park as a kid help shape me into the person I am now. Without that I would have never got a football scholarship my freshman year of college where I met many of my friends and decided my career goal. I want to teach physical education and health as well as coach high school football and/or be a personal trainer.
Play has affected my life because it has always been something I like to do. I am an active person and play is a way I can cope with my extra energy. Play helped me choose my career goals because it is what I believe most strongly in and what interests me most.

I believe that play has become much more complicated over my lifetime. This is partly due to technology. I have a hard time remembering what types of play I did throughout my grade school years. I enjoyed putting on shows and creating make-believe situations. Me and my friends would put on plays and dance. We’d also open up make believe stores and play teacher. I think many kids still do these types of things, but so many of the toys geared to kids today are high tech. I worked at a toy store over Christmas break and I couldn’t believe how many of the toys were electronic. The only technological toy I can recall from my childhood was my super Nintendo. Video games are still big, and allow kids to make believe in a new way which is much less active. Play has become less active. I don’t think as many kids get off the couch and play sports. I may not have played actual sports as a kid, but I still danced and remained active. I couldn’t imagine what I would have done in my spare time if I hadn’t danced. That consumed a lot of my free time.
Since I always put on plays and danced as a kid, I think it’s shaped me to be a performer. I like to get up in front of a crowd and dance. I think this has determined my career path as well. I like sharing with others, whether it be teaching, or performing. Being part of a dance team in high school and having a great coach really impacted me. My coach opened my eyes to many things. Not just dance, but how to handle situations life throws at you. No matter what situation occurred, whether it was to our team, or to me personally she always had wisdom. To me dancing was the largest part of play in my life and has shaped me in a number of ways.
Such a lax thing like play can actually have a large impact on a kid. Play or athletics remains with you throughout a lifetime. Being part of any team provides you with unique skills. I feel that I obtained people skills and confidence. It has turned me into a more ambitious person. If I didn’t have something to strive for, I’d feel lazy. I’ve always had a busy schedule and try to balance lots of activities. But at the same time you need that play time that is free and creative. I got that feeling with dance. Everyone has their own type of play and gains something from it.

Chad Willhoff
August 24, 2007
Faith in sport

Play has changed throughout my life tremendously. When I was smaller I would play games with friends with no worries or restrictions at all. As I began to age a lot of games that I would consider as play changed into more of a competition because of my competitive nature. I started to turn from nonrestrictive games and turn them into wanting to win all the time. The one thing I really enjoy now that I consider play would have to be running and working out. As I have gotten older I have realized how important it is to stay in shape. Exercising has become a form of play that I really enjoy to do.

I can remember times in my life that have shaped me into the kind of person and coach that I am today. When I was younger, I always had a good time during my sports even though I was the most competitive person I know. This has made me a coach who can instill having fun and enjoying your high school experience during your athletics while working hard to win. I can also remember times during play that my father instilled in me discipline and dedication which has been great attributes to me as a person and a professional. My father would tell me to be good at something you must work at it and never give up. Through this instruction that I received it has helped me stay dedicated to anything I do in life to get the best result. I can now stress to my teams that I coach that it is important in play, sport and life to give it your all and dedicate yourself to the thing you are doing.

Play has made me understand the importance to the things in life. It has showed me that winning isn’t everything. There was a time in my life that I believed winning was everything and I would stop at no cost to win. My approach to life has changed from that to a more enjoyable time. I am still competitive but I know how to coach and teach others so they can always have a positive experience through the play in their life.

Danny Harris

1) Growing up play has changed many different ways and it’s changed the way I’ve looked at sports also. I remember when I was about 10 my friends and I would spend 8-10hrs a day in the pool during the summer time. We would always think its fun to have speed races and who could hold their breath the longest under water. We would always get a group of friends together and play homerun derby or get together and play basketball outside of someone’s house. As we started to get older that friendly play wasn’t there anymore. What I mean by this is that, becoming older and playing that same things was fun still but it had more of a spot on winning the game or winning the race. We really didn’t just go out to “play” it was always “ try your best and win”. Now in adulthood its not the same activities as it used to be but, my friends an I like to go out an play a little golf or do things at our leisure that isn’t very big competition. You cant get me wrong, there’s still competition out there but as your growing up you hit different stages in your life and the source of play starts off easy goes to hard but, when you become older you want to “play” again!

2) I don’t really remember many things that you could say shaped me as the person I am today but I felt that playing youth wrestling shaped me into a better child. Growing up I had two older brothers that wrestled and my dad was one of the coaches well, I thought it’d be cool to wrestle so I did. When I first started wrestling I was 6 years old and about 50lbs. I was the smallest kid on the team, but I loved to do it and get out on the mat and wrestle people. As much as wrestling is a sport I loved doing it and loved being on the team. Even though I was never allowed by league rules to actually have a match against another team I loved practicing with the team and going on road trips. When I became older I started to wrestle for team and indv. Pride and that’s when it became a sport. After 14 years of wresting I finally was burnt out and couldn’t do it anymore. I think wrestling that early helped be gain values and I was able to look up to the older boys on the team. It defiantly has shaped me into who I am today.

3) I think play has changed my approach to life because when I “play” I am able to just let loose and do the things I want and really not care about things. I feel that when im competing im more stressed out. Play has made me realize that everything should be taken with a grain of salt. It has made my life approach easier.

I have worked with children for the better part of 20 years. Through the lessons my students have taught me I developed a program called "Pocketful of Magic". Pocketful of Magic is a gateway to playfulness. It supports the spirited,faithful nature of children's play . Over many years I've seen that the joyful state of play is bonding, emotionally educational, essential to deeper learning, critical thinking, the development of trust and faith in self and others. It forms the primary social structure among peers. It makes us grow. I've seen children in their thousands and none of them, not one, will refuse to play in their own way and time. Where else in the human community will you find a behavior that everyone agrees to?

Good Morning Everyone,

I enjoyed the broadcast immensely. It gave me pause for thought as I was still lying in bed with our family pet at my side. What was missing for me was the coverage of the role of our fur-friends (cats, dogs, etc.) when our peers aren't available to play (in childhood or adulthood).

For the most part, play has been a part of my life as a reward AFTER the work is complete. It was not an entitlement as a child. And, no, I didn't grow up on a farm. (Jacksonville, Florida suburbs. Working parents. Much older child to one very sweet kid brother).

All too quickly approaching 60 now, I include daily play with our family pet, Annie Beagle Girl, and have made inroads to building relationships with my very young and more senior neighborhood friends. I tend to be attracted to friendships where pets are considered a member of the family.

Thank you again. It was a wonderful way to start my day.

Gotta' run ... mow the lawn and pick up our daughter from playing volleyball. Then, I get to take that long walk with Annie around the neighborhood.

I am truly inspired to include more play in all aspects of my life. Thank you, again, for the insight.



PS - Annie and her two black lab friends, Jas(mine) and Maggie(Magnolia) are a fairly common site in our aviation business offices and private terminal.

Hi, My story is about a parent group I facilitated years ago that morphed from a more traditional parenting program into an Adult Play Group. Based on the needs of parents who told me that they had never played as children (and were therefore having difficulty playing with their kids), the group was based on the idea that children's needs are met by parents whose needs are met. All this based around the concept of play led to the glorious experience of adults coming together every week to play (just for the sake of play). Inside the adult play room there was a swing, a sandbox, an easel, a cozy booknook with both adult and children's literature, a sciencing table, a block corner, and an art table. Inside what became our sacred play space we played to our hearts' content. We read stories together, ate cookies and milk, took turns on the swing and engaged in deeply satisfying play. The group was a huge success and led to the parents being able to understand the importance of play, as well as to their being able to play more with their children. I wrote my Masters thesis on the experience if anyone would like to see it. What the parents had to say about the experience of adult play was absolutely wonderful. It changed their lives (and mine too) in very important and transformative ways.

A playful person is suspicious, especially as they age beyond youth. Yet it is constantly apparent that play not only balances a person in difficult times, but brings a lasting element to survival.

When I went to my first chemo session, I was terrified and yet playful. I had brought some "glasses" which were made of the same material as the "glowing" necklaces kids bring to rock concerts - you bend the tube and the neon element in the item begins to glow.

The friend who accompanied me and I set to freeing the neon just after the oncology nurse had "hooked me up", and the toxic chemotherapy fluid was racing through my veins.

"Marybeth, could you ask the doctor to come to my room?"

In walked the doc, and he wondered what was up. He thought I had a question about the therapy, and had a huge belly laugh when I said,

"Doc, I think it's working!"

In all of the remaining sessions I underwent I brought a sense of play to the nurses, the doctors, and the cancer Center. Playfulness spreads, and one finds that some others are willing to participate.

The real sadness is when one discovers that some people never learned how to play, or never released their playful spirit. Some were denied playfulness by parents or nannies, or dutiful teachers.

It is 5 years since I went through chemotherapy, and then I did radiation, and gradually weaned myself from the intense fear of recurrence. It may come; it may not. What I do know is that I will keep my playful spirit, because it can be called on in crisis to 'leaven the loaf" and guide the spirit.

1. From what I remember, when I was a kid, I would always want to go outside and run around, get dirty, and have fun. We used to play tag, man hunt, football in the street, and street hockey. We would do what ever we could to be out of the house. The worst days were rainy days. During the summer I would be outside by 9 am and ride my bike to the park and meet up with all the neighborhood kids. We had the most fun playing silly games that we made up. Today, it seems the kids do not like being outside. They would rather sit indoors and play video games or watch TV. Of course the video games now days are a lot better than they were 15 years ago. I have a 12 year old brother, and he would rather play video games than be outside. Now he does play three organized sports, but him and his friends do not go outside and just “play.” Even though I see video games as a form of play, it is different from how I used to play as a kid.

2. I think when I would play as a kid, developed me into a tougher and more competitive person. By being outside all day, it was inevitable that I would get hurt. Little bumps and bruises did not make me want to go inside. I think that has carried over to my adult life. When there is something trying to slow me down in my everyday life, I have the strength and will power to fight through it. By being more competitive helps me strive for perfection in my adult life, which will lead to success. I hated losing no matter what we would play. I hated being tagged or found in man hunt. I would always continue to get better and I think that reflects in my everyday activities. Also, since I was real active as a kid, I think that help me in my adult life, stay active. Playing as a kid was the stepping stones for me to living a healthy lifestyle as an adult. Now days I hate sitting around playing video games or watching TV. I like being outside. I like playing wiffle ball with my brother among other things. This all started when I was a child.

3. Play has taught me not to take life so serious. You have to know how to play if you want to survive in this world. Even though I was/am really competitive, I never lost focus of the fact that I was having fun. After a long day of school and work, I come home and play wiffle ball with my brother or toss football. I need to unwind and be that little kid I used to be, even if it is only a few hours a day. Play has taught me that no matter how hard life gets, that you must have fun and not forget how to just “play.”

For as long as I can remember, play has been a part of my life. At young ages (6 or 7), I can remember playing outside until my mom would make me come inside. Whether it was tag, hide and seek, kick ball on the corner, or football down in the field, I was always outside playing. I think my favorite game as a young child had to be kickball. The games my friends and I played when we were young were very unorganized, however. Everyone knew the basic rules, but they weren’t paid attention to very well. We were just happy to be outside running around. As we got older, though, games became more serious and competitive. Rules were strictly enforced, losing wasn’t an option and fights even broke out sometimes. I think this was a good thing as well as a bad thing. It was a good thing in the sense that it gave me a competitive edge and a hunger to be the best I could be. On the other hand, some of the fun was taken out of the games because they were so serious.
One thing I can distinctly remember about my play was that I was a very bad loser. I hated it! I could not stand it when I’d lose, even if it was in a pointless game of hide and seek. I think that desire to win has followed me throughout my life. Once I was old enough to realize and learn about things such as weight training, supplements, and eating right I did everything I could to be my best at whatever I was playing. From high school football to pick-up games of basketball, I wanted to be the best I could be. Hard work and dedication is definitely a positive trait that I know I have and that I feel I’ve gained through play. I’ve never been the biggest or fastest or strongest guy, but I’ve always been a hard worker at everything I do. Not just in sports or play, but also in things such as school or work. I always strive to do my best and will work hard to reach my maximum potential.
I couldn’t imagine not having play as a part of my life. It has been with me for so long that I couldn’t even begin to think about how I would be without it. I feel it has definitely been a big part of me being where I am today. A Physical Education major in my second year of college and always willing to work hard. Without play being a huge roll in my life, who knows where I’d be or what I’d be majoring in these days. All in all I know that play has helped shape the course of my life in many aspects.

In the course of my lifetime play has changed a great deal. When I was in grade school video games were just starting to become the big thing. Kids stopped playing outside as much and worried more about getting to the next level in there favorite video game. Even after I received my first Nintendo System I still wanted to play outside more than the video game. I enjoyed playing in the woods, playing all the sports you could, and doing things like riding bikes. Today it seems like kids play Nintendo Wii and think is exercise. When I was younger it seemed as if I was always outside, and it we had to use our imagination when we played. We used ghost runners when we played baseball and also played Pickle. Most kids now don't even know what a ghost runner or pickle is. I think kids today need to be more creative when they play.

I remember when I used to play sports for fun or in a league I always wanted to be the best so I could impress the girls. I think that carried over to my everyday life. Now I don't need to impress any girls but I still feel the need to be the best in everything I do. I have realized that when you try your best and do your told to do it can take you a long way in life. Play also taught me that I like to be the leader. I'm not a person who likes to follow, I would much rather be leading and directing people. It helped me to be able to think and react in pressure situations. It helped me to take control of situations when I feel the need too.

Play has changed my life by helping me find out who I am in many different ways. It helps me find my strengths and my weaknesses. It has helped me to meet me in many different situations. It has also helped me physically by helping me stay in shape and to stay healthy. I still love getting together with friends to play basketball, baseball, and football. I also feel the need to go to the gym to stay in shape so I can continue to play the sports I enjoy. It has also changed my approach in life by making me a more competitive person and always wanting to win and be the best.

Play has been something that I have been doing my entire life. It has helped shape me into the person that I am today mentally and physically. Although it has always been around it hasn’t always been the same. Early in my life it was less complicated, and came easy to me. It was almost natural to just pick up on anything and turn it into a game. I guess it is easy when we are younger because we have a lot more time on our hands; we almost don’t even look at it as playing but as everyday activities. Yet as I got older play started to become more serious. Competition came into playing and at sometimes the fun was taken out of it. There were almost two different forms of play in my life. One was when I with my team, and the other was just having leisure time in between all of my activities.
Play has made me the person that I am today I guess because I have a passion for it. I have always played sports throughout my life, so that’s mainly where all my memories come from. I think that being an active person has made me who I am today. One memory that formed my personality would have to be being the captain of my football team in high school. It made me more responsible and let me know that people are depending on me everyday. Just the fact that I was part of a team makes me feel now that I am easy to get along with. Play brought me together with all kinds of different people and helped me learn new things. All together play changed the coarse of my life because it made me want to go into the field of study that deals with play everyday. Its something that I enjoy to do, and it will never go away. That’s why I am currently a physical education major. Play is something that has formed us into the people we are today whether we know it or not.

Like most children play was a central part of my life. From physical games, to card games, to imaginary games I loved to play. When I was very young I was shy, the imaginary word is where I found my refugee. As I grew in age and maturity I challenged myself to participate in more social play. Tag, pickle, kickball, and dodge ball were favorites among my friends and I. We played because we loved to be together not because we were competing for a title or prize. But as we grew older the spirit of competition would manifest itself. The competitive nature that our play was adopting intimidated my shy disposition. Slowly I participated less and less in play with my friends.
When I was in seventh grade I was introduced to the sport of Ultimate Frisbee. I had participated in sports such as soccer, and basketball but they had never awakened my competitive spirit or a love for the game. Ultimate became an inseparable part of my life. I thrived in its athletic component and was productively challenged by the skills it required. As I became more confident on the field and more comfortable with my teammates and opponents I began to brake from my introverted nature. Participating in a sport on a competitive level has given me the confidence to explore avenues of life which I never would have ventured down otherwise. I now enjoy participating in many sports, and am seeking a Degree in fitness and recreation. Play and it evolution throughout my life as had an invaluable effect on who I am today and who I am striving to be tomorrow.

To me, the forms of play have not really changed over the course of my lifetime. Back in my adolescent years, I would call my friend or my friend would call me and ask the simple question, “Do you want to come over and play?” Play what, we did not know. Play could have been shooting baskets outside, playing video games, going to the creek or riding bikes. We had so many different forms of play to experience. More friends meant more fun. Bike races, baseball games, and capture the flag were very popular. When I drive through neighborhoods, there are always kids running wildly in the yards. It just brings a smile to my face. The more kids play, the better off they will be. Kids experience so much when they are young. How one acts a child will most likely be how they will act when they are grown up. This is how it turned out for me. I usually took charge and decided the game or activity that was approved by my peers and we all had great times together.
Certain memories of my childhood years will always be with me. A game of capture the flag at night will never abscond my memory. It was getting late so we had to cancel the rules and each team would go look for the opponents flag. We started walking and I thought to myself, if I was on this team where would I hide my flag? I found the flag in a couple of minutes in the back under a fallen tree. That is how I am today. When faced with a difficult task, I pretend that I already know the answer. My Biology teacher in high school would ask someone a question and if the person said they did not know the answer, he would then ask, “Well if you did know, what would it be?” That got the student to think even harder. It sounds very easy and simple but it actually does work.
Play has changed the course my approach to life by making me who I am today. When it comes to play, one has to take charge and decide what to do for that afternoon or evening. The one in charge has to be intelligent and also he needs to be a good listener. A good leader needs to listen more to his friends (or subordinates) if they want to be successful. When it comes to group projects, I usually am the one who takes charge. For our softball teams, I ended up coaching and taking charge of the team making lineups and getting enough players for each game. I enjoy being in charge and it all started when I was young. Not everyone should take charge, however. Yes, it is always good to be a leader but there is only a leader when there are followers. Some people enjoy being followers and there is nothing wrong with that. More often than not, the followers are the most important part of a group or a clique. They are the ones performing the task given by the leader and need to be just as intelligent as their superior.

1.) The different forms of play have been evolving for many years in multiple ways especially in my lifetime. When I was younger with little to no responsibilities my play time was much different than it is now in college. For instance I never worried about how much time I had to play or where I was going to play. I simply knew dinner and dark were the only times that I had to return to home. As I grew older and entered middle school my play mainly consisted of sports, other friend’s houses, and other social activities. By this age my time to play was not nearly as limited as it is now, and was about equal to when I was younger. Once I entered high school a lot of my free time to play was taken away by homework, sports, work, etc.

Age has changed my play in many different ways especially since playing has always been a big part of my life. Mostly responsibilities have changed and limited my play. Currently my play consists of multiple different sports such as basketball, and occasionally softball as well as relaxing, partying, girls, and friends. I find myself searching for time to play as much as possible where as when I was younger I had all the time in the world to play. Many people consider playing a weakness but I feel as if playing develops strong character in everyone.

2.) I most certainly recollect many of my memories of playing that shape or explain the person I am currently. The ones I can’t remember are most possibly remembered by others or visually seen with a picture. Being that play is definitely one of my favorite aspect of life it shows exactly who I am. Memories with sports explain my competitive attributes such as intense tournaments or even a 3 on 3 game of basketball in the backyard. When I was younger my time of play was almost always spent outside, and today I feel as if I admire being outdoors just as much as if I were a young boy again. My play memories not only attain to my desired career but they are what I would enjoy in a profession. Hopefully my memories and childhood history create a professional career that I will enjoy as well as make a respectable living off of. Personally I feel that my childhood memories reflect my current self multiple ways; I’ve always been a playful person. The playful side of me will never change no matter my age.

3.) Play has changed a lot of aspects of my life, especially what routes and decisions I would and did make in the past. Without play life would be a whole lot different for me, and most certainly not for the better. Play makes life worth living for, many people can’t stand their daily lives; the way they live, their careers, where they live, etc. But play itself can make life much easier to endure especially if you can find a lot of free time to be able to play within your daily schedule. Although I do know the difference in times where play is appropriate and when it is not I still always think about playing while I’m working. Playing itself is what I find most enjoyable in my life its changed a lot of decisions with careers, places I’ve been, and even those I speed my free time with.

I´m from Spain, and as everybody knows in my country the main sport is soccer, so when I was a child I had to play soccer if I wanted to do something with my friends. But when I was 14 years old I changed my mind and I told my parents that I want to play basketball. For that, I had to take a bus every day during 18 miles to go to the near city and 18 to back to my village.

So, I think one of the most important things the sports inculcated me is the sacrifice spirit, for example, I knew that every day I had to do my homework early to catch the bus, I couln´t go out and spend all my time with my friends if wanted to play basket.

Another significant thing in my sport experience is the companionship. I think this is a very important feeling that you only can acquire if you are involve in some activity with other people.

That´s my thoughts and experience with the sport.

In my opinion, life is play. Growing up I always loved playing games and instituting as much fun out of life as possible. Play ensures me of the ability to enjoy life to the max as long as I have fun while I play. The main change that has taken place with play has been the levels of competition and seriousness I have taken to play. With all the chaos in daily routine activities, play is one thing I make sure to fit in. Somehow I always feel better after I fit in just the perfect amount of time to challenge myself, better myself, and learn about myself.

While I was in my junior year of high school I was challenged by my high school gym teacher and a couple of my classmates to run a 10K race. I was no where close to being an athlete. My two friends who challenged me were all into sports. Both of them played two sports. I wasn’t a sports figure in any form while I was in high school, I did enjoy the rush I got from sprinting down the court to shoot a layup, I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment I felt when I endured a mile run in my goal time, and I enjoyed going to physical education class to continue keeping my body in good physical condition. These memories of my competitive connection to play then made me feel like I had accomplished something for myself that no one could accomplish for me. The way I felt after I finished the 10K at the same pace of my highly athletic friends couldn’t be replaced.

Play should always be fun. Looking back on play and remembering when it was the most fun, I see how important it is to make sure play is fun for everyone. Not only is it a good idea to have fun while you are playing sports, its good to have fun while you’re working, while you’re studying, and while you’re living. When you connect fun and play to life, life is fun like it should be. Running the 10K race was fun. Just one race wasn’t enough. I’m going for more races and longer races. I enjoy the form of play that involves self accomplishment. Running is a definate self accomplishment. Now, I hope to be a challenging physical educator just like mine was for me. Her influence made running a lifestyle for me.

Early in my life time most of things my family and the general did for sport was make believe. Because I was born in 1986 and as I got older sport started to explode in the youth ranks. The age and grade to start playing an organized sport was getting younger. During this time also all sport was less and less more fun instead of for winning and money. Sport has shaped me to be very determined to do very well at what ever I put mine mind to. The reason I was born into a very competitive family. My father was a basketball coach at the high school level when I was born. I have Cerebral Palsy so no being able to play the sport myself has made me want to be a very competitive person has made me determined to learn and be able to teach the game of basketball as a coach. I figure I can be competitive as a coach instead of not being good enough to play the game myself. Play and sport has changed my life by making me want to succeed at what ever the task at hand is. I feel that play and sport has made me realize that I can do anything anybody else can do I just do it differently

1. To me play has simply become more competitive, anything from kids playing kick ball to adults playing a game of corn hole, everything is for bragging rights no matter what the situation. I think we look at play as a way to show our peers what we are good at and use it as a way to show off a skills. Now other then bragging i do think that we use play as a reason to get friends together and enjoy each others company.

2. By nature (or so it seems) i am a competitive person and because of play i was able to grow up constantly comparing my skills to the people around me. To this day i am not a good loser and still try my hardest to be the best at whatever i do. I like knowing that someone wants to do things like i do

3. Life is to serious. Play helps take some of lifes pressures away. I look at play as something i do on the weekends or when i get off work. Its a reward for doing something i have to do. Play is my way of saying good job, now its time to relax and do something that i want to do.

When I was young play was something I did to pass the time or to relax after school. Play consisted of games of tag and doge ball anything to exert energy. We would occasionally have a friendly game of kick ball and baseball. I still like to stay active exerting energy makes people stay positive. My forms of play now are more sport oriented such as swimming softball and running. I would have to say my forms of play now are much more structured. Not many people take time for play, there for making in more of a solo activity. There are some groups you can join to play almost any sport just for fun. Time is needed to join these groups witch is why lots of people now a days miss out on play.
When playing when I was little I was almost all the time the youngest, I always had to stride to be on the same level as the other kids I played with. That has taught me to work hard, with my history of play and sports I have learned it is worth putting extra time in something in the end it will be better for me.
Play has helped me get involved in many sports, play when you get older is harder to come buy. Some people join sports teams because they have exceptional skill in the sport, and for some people it is simply just a form of play. Play has taught me to turn my relaxation and leisure time into something that makes me fell positive. Sometimes when playing a sport becoming overly competitive taking away what play is for people. Play has taught me to approach life with whatever outcome or block I may get in the future there is a way around it.

Over my lifetime, I fortunately have never lost the ability to play. I play more purposefully now at age 63 than ever before. I run two businesses so play is very important to stay sane.
I recollect as a child, my mother played games and we sang and walked a lot. Great bonding experiences. I continue these even without her physically here.
I can't imagine life without play. I try to schedule time to laugh and have timeless play time with friends several times a week. We play monopoly, dogopoly, catpoloy, etc. and just have lots of fun... never serious! Who wins or looses has nothing to do with the is pure pleasure!

I used to teach music and my approach was to make it fun from the very beginning. I used to ask my students "why do you think they call it playing?". And even now, in my late 50s, playing music is fun! One of my favorite activities is playing in an orchestra.

My "work" in the world is teaching a technique/philosophy called InterPlay. Using movement, storytelling, stillness and voice, InterPlay is a form that teaches adults how to create in the moment, how to bring spontinaity to their creativity, and how to bring playfulness into their everyday lives. InterPlay is a fun way for adults to learn how to play, because it is taught encremintaly with affirmation and enthusiasm. I was so excited listening to your broadcast on play, realizing that there is an Institution of Play, and hearing that viable connections are being made between spirituality and play. InterPlay is a spiritual practice that has given me and thousands of others a renewal of spirituality imbedded in our everyday lives, in our communities, in our familys.

If you are interested in more information you can go to, our web site. We are teaching InterPlay all over the US and in other countries. I am a local teacher who started teaching InterPlay here 15 years ago. There is now a large InterPlay community in the Twin Cities.

I am a UCC minister, graduate of UTS, and was a parrish pastor for 15 years. I now teach InterPlay full time. Besides teaching the basics of InterPlay, and offering classes for couples, I work with therapists, clergy/ chaplins, and other professionals facilitating personal, professional and spiritual growth with them and their clients/parrishioners using InterPlay.

Thank you for airing this program. I beleive the play is not a luxury, but a very important component for a healthy, full, and creative life.

The forms of play have changed my life in many ways. Such ways include manners, responsibility, dependability, healthier, and a good way of showing me how to work with others as a team. Manners come a long way when entering college and life after college, because many professors expect their students to have respect for them and their classmates. Responsibility is also a great aspect to have when completing your degree as a college student, because the college student needs to be in class each day that it meets to make sure they have all the information needed to pass the class. Also, the student needs to responsible in turning in their work and studying for the appropriate materials in order to pass the class.
Recollecting certain memories of play that has shaped me to the person I am today, is a daily ritual for me. I remember the long practices and meets that we had to stay on the ball for the whole swim meet. We had to be there for our team, win or loose. We also had to be there cheering for the other swimmers, even when it wasn’t our event to swim, because we were a team and a team sticks together for everybody, thick or thin.
Play has changed the approach to my life in many ways. I see that now I act more of a adult than my peers due to playing sports. I am a much responsible person with values and morals that go a long way past my peers.

Your interview with Stuart Brown was a terrific exploration of play. To my mind, it revealed the implications of bringing play into Education. As a National Institute of Play associate, Stuart may have mentioned to you the Puppetools web site which was recently featured in Edutopia magazine. Puppetools is 'play language.'

My journey into Education through play may be a classic example of what can happen when you play with an idea. I believe that Play represents the next new paradigm for Education. It is also the key to opening the learning culture and making it more receptive in order for the paradigm to take hold. The community of teachers that has become part of Puppetools represents the beginnings of the coming shift. Play is normally perceived as appropriate only for young children. My work has effectively dismantled that myth. A visit to the web site will confirm that.

Thank you for bringing play to the attention of your listening audience. Twenty years of research is currently being left out of the national conversation on Education. More discussion on this important human resource will help to change that.


Jeffrey L. Peyton
Founder, Puppetools

make believe play asa little girl was important- even though it was hard for me to play "family" as I was raised by my aunt and grandmother and had no siblings. It probably influenced my desire to have a lot of children which turned out to be not so much fun but lots of work.

My husband's alcoholism later reared its ugly head and interfered with enjoyment of children and family. Anger, resentment, punishment (of children's behavior) took over and fun was not a meaningful part of my life for many years, even after my husband found sobriety through membership in AA.

Fear of the loss of my husband, even though it wasn't a loving relatioship, finally brought me to the Al-Anon fellowship, for families and friends of alcoholics.

It has taken years for me to recover from the effects of alcoholism, but I can say honestly that after 35 years in Al-Anon I know the meaning of fun and continue, at the age of 78, to search out new and meaningful ways to enjoy myself.

Several years ago, for instance, while living on Long Island, I began to study Chinese brush painting. Disappointed in not finding opportunities to continue study when I moved to Florida, I pursued it when I went to visit family in California. It has brought me great joy and the promise of showing my work at exhibitions when I make a move west -- continuing my search for fun and personal growth.

Forms of play have changed a lot over my life, only being eighteen years old I have noticed that sport for me has changed completely. When I was younger, sport was all for fun, it did not matter what you were playing how you were playing, or even if you won. Getting older I only played one sport seriously, not because that’s the only one I was good at, but that’s all I had time for. It started in middle school; I was on the middle school basketball team but at the same time I was on two different soccer teams. Sport for me had changed from play for fun to play for the state championship. So that’s when I dropped to playing only one sport. Soccer had taken over from a one season a year sport to an all year sport. I still had the play time with friends were we would play whatever we wanted but the sport that I loved and most of my friends loved too was soccer. Soccer has changed me form being a person that just wants to go play to a person that is not satisfied if they do not win. I like to win I think everyone does, but it has developed in to every part of my life. I now have to win in everything that I do.


Voices on the Radio

is founder and president of the National Institute for Play near Monterey, California. He is co-author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.

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Host/Executive Producer: Krista Tippett

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Senior Producer: Lily Percy

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Production Intern: Julie Rawe