History of Play: Five ways play improves learning and instills creativity

History of Play: Five ways play improves learning and instills creativity

History of Play: Five ways play improves learning and instills creativity

Play is at the heart of many world-changing inventions. In fact, this idea of having fun with curiosity is what drives many experiments in solving difficult problems. Play allows problem solvers to focus on the questions and explore the possibilities.

In This day of technology, the old saying, “Play is the only thing that makes you learn” has become even more true. Scientists and engineers often study by doing, rather than actually learning. They do this by playing with a computer or a manual drafting table, programming with a smartphone app, experimenting on materials, or listening to science lessons on YouTube.

Many people find these routine activities useful tools in learning how to build things. Take another example, learning to swim. The idea of learning to swim involves simply swimming around the pool and tossing to classmates or relaying instruction from an instructor. This method is, by most measures, very beneficial to the participants’ learning. However, not everyone is interested in just swimming, and the specific activities that instructors use to teach a variety of techniques depend on the desires of participants.

Imagine that you can teach a child to swim in a way that motivates him or her to pursue an activity that interests them. In our program, we design play and design competitions that accomplish this.

Here are some examples:

NAPOLEON inspired by my daughter’s participation in our National Invention Convention. She had many questions about the procedures of play. NAPOLEON was inspired by her interest in NAPOLEON, a puzzle. During play, NAPOLEON intrigued NAPOLEON by talking about a character she created. NAPOLEON developed an obsession with the character, but she knew that much more information about the way play works, and how it can be used, was required to help her learn. When NAPOLEON was a little older, she described how fun NAPOLEON was. She would tell stories about how her grandfather had told the story and told her about how NAPOLEON had learned and played in his house. NAPOLEON was a lot of fun.


You will find a culture of play that inspires a family to keep playing, school to create play opportunities, community to form the connections that can lead to play, and government to provide funds for play activities.

We provide funding for play activities for 2,300 students a year! For those looking for ways to celebrate learning and nurture play, take a closer look at the Future of Learning Foundation for ideas and new ideas that can help make play an active component of the way we learn.

Until next time, keep the play alive!

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