Not Just Child’s Play
Hello Intentional Creatives!
Today, as a special treat, we have GUEST BLOGGER Denise Mozilo Frasca. Please enjoy her wonderful blog post and be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts.
“…play is a catalyst…just a little true play can spread through our lives, actually making us more productive and happier in everything we do.” – Dr. Stuart Brown, author of Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
The inspiration for this writing came from a week of babysitting for my 3 (“and ¾” I can hear him say) year old grandson. He is an especially imaginative child and insists that all grown-ups participate. At the end of the first day, I realized that my mindset had gone from serious to silly and my mood from somber to joyous. By the end of the week we had baked banana bread, pretended to be human race cars, created a train community, dressed up as robots using my pots and pans, and made pretend maps which we followed to find secret treasure (usually some mommy-restricted food in my pantry!) We also read many, many picture books.
Seeing the world through his imaginative play brought to light how important play is to an adult’s creativity as well as child’s. When you play, there are no set rules, there is no self- criticism and all your efforts are rewarded, because you are the creator of that world. Play naturally leads us to think of things as they might be, rather than as they really are. When playing it is easy for anyone to imagine a world in they can fly, or be transported to the age of the dinosaurs. Imaginative play gives you permission to explore areas you may otherwise feel inept at. My grandson is one of the few humans who has ever heard me play the guitar when we pretended to be a rock band!
As an adult, play provides an opportunity to expand your creativity beyond the constraints of societal expectations. If you are “just playing”- there is no need to explain or excuse your behavior. The state of mind you are in during play is about the here and now. This has been referred to as Flow, in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book by the same name. He contends that when you are fully immersed in an activity where you have energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity, then you have the optimal capacity for creativity and happiness. This state of flow is exactly the state you are in when you are playing. A playful attitude empowers the mind to remain open to explore and imagine a broader range of possibilities when looking for answers to new experiences. When you transfer that playful outlook to work and home life, you increase your ability to creative problem solve!
The benefits of play enhancing creativity are neurologically based as well. Best-selling author Steven Kotler writes about consciousness through flow states, in his book, The Rise of Superman. He speaks of how the prefrontal cortex calculates time. When playing, we lose the ability to assess past, present, and future. Kotler explains, “we’re plunged into what researchers call the deep now.” According to Kenneth Heilman, a neurologist at the University of Florida and the author of Creativity and the Brain, creativity not only involves coming up with something new, but also with shutting down the brain’s habitual response, or letting go of conventional solutions. Rex Jung, a well-respected neuroscientist sees creativity as a slower meandering in the brain using the frontal lobe in a more transient way (transient hypofrontality). When you play, you are using several areas of your brain in a way they are not normally used.
Businesses have long recognized the benefits of play, which is why they have retreats and team-building exercises. Encouraging employees to play with each other builds trust and boosts cooperation. According to Dr. Stuart Brown, author and founder of the National Institute of Play, “There is good evidence that if you allow employees to engage in something they want to do, (which) is playful, there are better outcomes in terms of productivity and motivation.”
What is play for one person, can be work for another – so it is important for you to find joy in your play. For me, doing a crossword puzzle with a friend is play, for my husband it is chopping wood and building a holz hausen with the neighbor. For some it is pretend teatime with their child, and others it’s taking an oil painting class. The important thing is that your play should be interactive, non-stressful and stimulate your creative side. So the next time you have writer’s block, or are unable to solve a pressing problem, or are attempting to learn a complicated subject, grab a friend, or a grandchild, and go play…you’ll be surprised how the creative juices will begin to flow.
Denise Mozilo Frasca is a writer, educator, wife, mother, and grandmother (not necessarily in that order). She has received the James Nicholson Political Poetry Award for her poem “Memorial Day,” and was a selected poet for Poets and Writers on War and Peace. Her poems have been published in Mother/ Daughter Duets, a collection of essays and poems about adult daughter/mother relationships, The Westchester Review, and The Manhattanville Review. She has been a guest blogger for Hillside Productions (http://hillsidehouseproductions.com/not-just-a-lullaby-denise-frasca-guest-blogger/) as well as an editor for countless colleagues. She is most happy when playing. Follow Denise on Twitter at @DeniseMFrasca.