Just like any play session, our month-long look at different aspects of play has come to an end. Now, it’s time to clean up, to put away whatever toys we’ve pulled out, and to return to the space outside of play. This clean-up time is actually just as important a part of the play process as play itself; it transitions us out of that make-believe space back into the real world.
Before you go, though, let’s recap what we’ve learned about play. Play is normal, and it is a natural means through which we learn. It teaches us to take calculated risks, and to cope with the consequences. It is meaningful, giving us a space to work out something on our mind; and it is fundamental, giving us a safe space to practice and assimilate new skills and ideas.
Play can be competitive, pushing us to master a given skill set and developing our skill to recognize and encourage excellence in others. But it can be cooperative, helping us learn how to find our place within a group and how to support the pursuit of a common goal. It is imaginative, giving us a space to develop creative and problem solving skills. It can allow us to try on new personalities, new roles, and new points of view without locking us in to anything that doesn’t actually fit us.
Play should not be restrictive. It is not for children only. Certain toys and games are not just for boys or just for girls. Whatever restrictions we put on play become learned behaviors and values, and they follow us out of play into the real world.
Next month, we return to our closer look at the personal learning environment, this time focusing on the Processing phase. But in the mean time, look for ways to add more play to your own life. Don’t necessarily walk in with the deliberate intent of learning; just let yourself become absorbed into the play and see what happens. Observe others playing, and then observe them again after the play session has ended. Find for yourself the transformative power of play.