“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts” (Shakespeare)
Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. (Mr. Rogers)
On Sunday, May 16th, I had the pleasure of chatting with my grandson, Adrian Greensmith, and three of his classmates. They are all studying acting and devised theater at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. We talked about play, what it means in their acting classes and what it was like growing up in four different countries – Russia, (Ksenia Elinson) Peru (Sebastian Alonso), Turkey (Omer Cem Coltu) and the U.S. ( Adrian Greensmith)
Their thoughts were fascinating – play as preparation for life, training the muscles of the imagination, thinking out of the box, never losing the child inside, being in the moment all the time….the thoughts poured out of them and I had the feeling that we could have continued this conversation much longer. One thought that Ksenia shared was that at the core of playing is doing things together. It made me think about all that children lost this year when they did not have the opportunity to take part in play with their friends and classmates.
Our conversation spoke to some interesting quotes that I shared during our zoom talk:
“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Ralph Waldo Emmerson
“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” Carl Jung
“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.” Friedrich Nietzsche
“If you want to be creative, stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society.” Jean Piaget
My pretend play was instrumental in the creation of who I have become. I am a playwright. I am in theater. I can easily look back and track how all of my imaginative games and play led me to the conclusion (at age 7) that I should be a playwright. I can see how my own play shaped my thinking and development. I was always “putting on shows” for my parents or employing my friends, brother, whomever to put on shows with me. I had a dress-up box. I had lots of tools for imaginative play. As I have gotten older and society has broken down for me some of the more damaging things about my imaginative play, it’s disheartening. Boys weren’t encouraged. There weren’t dolls of color. Barbies were disproportionate. What did it all communicate to me?
As a parent, I now consider these reflections of my past as I consider my own children’s relationship with play. My children interact with play so differently from each other but are very different creatures. My daughter is very active in her pretend play; my son loved to play when he was younger but it had to be structured. The two of them have literally argued about how to play “correctly”. My son doesn’t lean into imaginary play quite as easily. Their generation is experiencing play differently than I did. And I am working to ensure that they have it and that they are receiving positive messages from it.
Hello Elana. I want to share a memory with you. When you were in my kindergarten class I read “All of a Kind Family” during our class meeting time. One day during Choice Time, I watched you as you walked around the classroom pushing a carriage and shouting, “A nickel a pickle” just like the pickle vendor in the story. You took some white fabric, cut a hole in it, pulled it over your head and tied a sash so it was like an old-fashioned pinafore. You were on your way to theater at the age of 5!
Great story and this IS how it happens, how it develops!