Using Play in Our Adult Learning Spaces

In yesterday’s blog, The Benefits of Play, we shared a link to Stuart Brown’s book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. In case you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, we wanted to share a bit more today. As Elena Aguilar shares in Chapter 10 of Onward: Play and Create, his core message is that just a little bit of “nonproductive play” will make us more productive, invigorated, and resilient.

According to Brown, play has the following attributes:

  • Apparent purposelessness: it’s done for its own sake and not for any practical reason.
  • Voluntary: It’s not obligatory or required by duty.
  • Inherent attraction: it’s fun and makes you feel good.
  • Freedom from time: you lose a sense of the passage of time.
  • Diminished consciousness of self: You stop worrying about whether you look good or stupid. In imaginative play, you might even be a different self. You are fully in the zone.
  • Improvisational potential: You are open to doing things in a variety of ways. You get new ideas.
  • Continuation desire: You want to keep going.

For those of us that design learning spaces for adults, how are we incorporating play into our professional development? If you have attended any of our Bright Morning workshops like Art of Coaching, Art of Coaching Teams, or Coaching Emotional Resilience, you have probably noticed the energizer section of our agendas. During this time, we introduce the concept of play into the learning environment. We share the purpose and intention behind our energizers, to experience play and the effects it has in a professional develop setting, and participants get to experience the various activities as play.

One such activity we use is Zip Zop Zap. It is always fascinating to me to hear participants reactions to the activity after it is finished. Most share how their first reactions were how they weren’t looking forward to it and just wanted to get right back into content. However, they shared that having the space to play, laugh and connect in ways they usually don’t, they now felt much more energized and connected and ready to take on the learning in the afternoon.

Think about this as you design your next adult learning experience. Where can you incorporate play? Share your ideas in the comments so we can learn together as a community.