• Blog
  • by: Jennifer McMinn
  • January 19, 2023

Why time for play is a critical element of creativity

There is a myth that work and play are entirely separate from one another. We work, and then we play. Work hard, play hard. Get one done efficiently so you have time for the other. But what about the creativity needed to be most efficient at school? At work? How does one address creativity, even begin the process of discovering ideas, if they are locked into a rote schedule with no allowance for expressionism?

The effects of play on creativity

As the noted psychologist Jean Piaget said, “Play is the answer to how anything new comes about.” Piaget believed that one's childhood plays a vital and active role to the growth of intelligence, and that the child learns through doing and actively exploring. It’s true, to play is to engage. When we play, we pick up objects, ideas, or themes and examine them, imagine them, wring them out, and experiment with them, often arriving at something wholly new, inspiring, and fantastic, ye that is not why we begin to play, it is simply the outcome.

A playful mind thrives on questioning, complexity, and “devising as you go” which are exactly the qualities required to innovate and keep up with the ever-changing economics, environment, and requirements of today’s business world. If this is the future, are children of today prepared for it? Are adults adapting to it? When a growing majority of companies are searching for the creative thinker, how can schools positively affect the domestic workforce and their ability to thrive?

Play is our greatest natural resource; in fact it is a vital part of our overall development. Play allows people to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Dr Stuart Brown notes the importance of tinkering in creative development when he notes that JPL NASA discovered that, in their youth, their older, problem-solving research employees had taken apart clocks to see how they worked, or made soapbox derby racers, or built hi-fi stereos, or had fixed appliances. The young engineering school graduates who had also done these things, who had played with their hands, were adept at the kinds of problem solving that management sought. Those who hadn’t, generally were not. From that point on, JPL-NASA made questions about applicants’ youthful projects and hand-play a standard part of job interviews.

How then can we ensure that play is embraced as the critical element that it is, to encourage personal growth, exploration, and discovery. How do we encourage the inclusion of free play, tinkering, and creative thinking, as opposed to structured play times for youth, and structured office environments for adults?

Make time for play at school, and as part of overall learning. For more information, check out the Resource Library. The Curricula and Programs section is a great place to start!

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