Lennox 1 Melissa Lennox 22 September 2009 The Pennsylvania State University RPTM 476: Leisure Education Assignment #1: Play Lennox 2 A. George Bernard Shaw once wrote: “we don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” On a similar note, Dr. Stuart Brown and Christopher Vaughan share that studies have shown people who play are less likely to develop neurological disorders, such as dementia, as well as other health problems (Brown, S. & Vaughan, C. 2009. p. 71). It is evident that play is such a crucial element to our development and progression as humans. Not only does it impact our lives as older adults, but it also has a huge affect on childhood. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are when I was playing. I can distinctly remember playing dress-up with my sister and cousins, building forts with my brother, and playing “manhunt” with my neighbors. I don’t remember every detail about first grade, but I do remember learning to improve my counting by using miniature bears. These memories show that learning is such an important part of play. Brown and Vaughan state that “one major theory is that play is simply practice for skills needed in the future (p. 31).” Each memory demonstrates the skills I acquired at a young age but still have and use today. By playing dress-up, I used imaginative and social play to develop my own sense of self while working on my socialization skills. I imagined myself as different people in different places which has had an impact on my creativity in life. Building a fort with my brother and acting as though we were warriors is a form of rough-and-tumble play. I learned the acceptable amount of aggression and how much was too much. This helped develop my love for contact sports, such as soccer. Through competing in “manhunt” with my neighbors, I learned socialization and a sense of belonging. I learned how to play cooperatively which has stayed with me in my efforts of team sports and group work. I also learned how to play different roles within a group. I learned something about the world at large through small play activities as a child. Although these are only a few examples, I know that play has had a huge impact on my personal development. Play has always been a part of who I am and I hope that I never lose it. Brown dedicates a whole section to “losing it.” He talks about how people will judge you for believing in play but they are the one’s who believe nonsense. He mentions, “We can discover how to find as much joy as we do when involved in any project, as much joy as we did when were a kid making paper airplanes and flying them from the roof (p. 149).” This is why play is important in both leisure time and work. We can enjoy play in our personal lifestyles. In fact, we must. It is also wise, however, to incorporate a play attitude into one’s profession. Since I want to work with children after graduation, I am aware of how imperative it is to use methods of play in recreational therapy. Brown used the example of Ivan, the two year old boy in the hospital. He mentioned that his want to play was his first sign of improvement. I would like to work in a children’s hospital for a period of time in my life and I can see how beneficial it is for such children to play. Not only does it help one’s understanding of hospital occurrences, but it also allows that child feel like a kid again – not just a hospital patient. My number one population to work with is children, no matter their health or abilities. Whatever setting I am working in, I will use play to help the children to grow, to learn, and to understand. Brown and Vaughan make it clear how crucial it is to use play at such early ages in life and to carry it out over a lifespan. They had a lot of good research examples of the benefits (which I will discuss next). The authors solidified my beliefs in the value of play. B. Throughout the book, Dr. Stuart Brown and Christopher Vaughan discuss several benefits attributed to play. Play encourages development through socialization, imagination, and Lennox 3 creativity. As people play, they are more likely to learn social roles and norms. The individual will develop his/her social skills through interactions brought about during play. He/she will grasp the contexts of appropriate means of socialization as well as understand the rules associated with properly socializing. Brown and Vaughan state: “kids at play can learn the difference between friendly teasing and mean-spirited taunting as they explore the boundaries between those two, and learn how to make up when the boundary is crossed (p. 32).” The authors are showing that as kids play, they are developing skills for interaction with one another which will be useful in the future. Sure, it is easy for a child’s parents to preach to them about interacting with other kids, but it is more meaningful for the children to discover this for themselves. By using imaginative and creative play, a person is able to mentally put his or herself into a different situation. For example, a child could imagine not going to school for a day and staying home by himself. He would think of all the “awesome” things he could be doing while home alone. While imagining this event, the boy may realize that he would have no one to play with and that he’d be missing out on events at school. A person, such as the boy, is able to develop ideas about his/her possible interests from simply using his/her imagination. Brown and Vaughan say that “for humans, creating such simulations of life may be play’s most valuable benefit (p. 34).” The reason they say this is because people can invent themselves and come up with possibilities of the unknown. The authors elaborate by saying “we can learn lessons and skills without being directly at risk (p. 34).” They also say that “…imagining the inner life of others and comparing it to one’s own – is one of the keys to developing empathy, understanding and trust of others, as well as personal coping skills (p. 87).” Play is a great way to enhance interpersonal skills and a sense of self. On page 49, Brown and Vaughan state: “the great benefits of play… are the ability to become smarter, to learn more about the world than genes alone could ever teach, to adapt to a changing world.” Individuals are able to learn and discover for themselves through playful methods. By using play as a method of trial and error, a person is able to determine what works in his/her best interest. This could be for career options, leisure activities, or life decisions. C. Play is important for people of all demographics, abilities, ethnicities, and ages. It is, however, an essential element to Therapeutic Recreation (TR) and those populations that TR serves. One of the several populations that Brown and Vaughan discuss that would be served through TR is children who are ill. While Brown was medical student, he did a rotation at a children’s hospital where he interacted with children who were very ill. One person that stuck out to him is a two year old boy named Ivan. Dr. Brown noticed that his first sign of improvement was the fact that he was able to smile. He states “when anyone smiles at another person, they are reaching out, engaging in a play invitation… (p. 25).” Play greatly impacts such a population because play is what kids know and love. By using different means of play in a hospital, a child is able to better understand what is going to take place. An example is medical or therapeutic play. Using a doll that loses its hair or has an IV hooked up to it helps a child to comprehend what is going to occur with his/her own body. Play functions as a means of comfort and understanding. Another population discussed that would benefit from play and Therapeutic Recreation is abused youth. On page 26, Brown mentions that kids who are abused are more likely to engage in antisocial behavior and violence. This is a large population served through TR that would greatly benefit from play. It is important to use play to develop better social skills and to express one’s emotions. Someone who is abused that has emotional, mental, and physical problems to Lennox 4 work through can use play as a way to cope. Brown states that with abused kids “…violence was diminished through play (p. 26).” A third population that might be served through TR is people with attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Research with rats (applied to children with ADHD) shows a connection between ADHD and a lack of rough-and-tumble play (p. 100). Individuals with ADHD have a tendency to engage in “inappropriate hyperplayfulness”. This can be reduced through opportunities with rough-and-tumble play and social play. Directing one’s hyperactivity to completing a task or engaging in an activity will help that individual gain control over his/her actions. Playing will help reduce some of the “steam” that is built up inside the child with ADHD. A final population is people who suffer from depression. Throughout the book, the authors provide several examples of adults who feel a void or emptiness in his/her life therefore creating signs of depression. On page 150, Dr. Brown discusses that he conducted a study which shows how regular physical activity helped decrease the feelings of depression in seriously depressed women (p. 150). He states that “since movement is the first thing that shows up in our development, it can also be the first step we take back into play (p. 152).” By increasing our activity and moving, we stimulate our brain and improve our mood. For this population, it is necessary to sit down and think about play throughout one’s lifetime. Increasing play and leisure helps to minimize feelings of depression. D. Brown and Vaughan state, “…the opposite of play is not work-the opposite of play is depression (p. 126).” Depression is commonly thought of as an opposite to wellness. Prevention and therapeutic recreation aim at increasing personal well-being, health, and happiness while reducing risk factors. By incorporating methods of play into prevention and TR interventions, specialists are therefore decreasing depression. People who do not play demonstrate higher occurrences of “at-risk” behavior because they have not developed leisure interests to engage in. Not participating in recreational/leisure activities may hinder development. Play and prevention encourage development whereas depression and risky behaviors do not. The authors state, “In both [work and play] we are building our world, creating new relationships, neural connections, objects (p. 127).” By not creating relationships and connections, we inhibit the expansion of an individual’s development and personal well-being. E. Play affects and shapes different parts of the brain. Various research has shown that there is a link between brain size and playfulness (p. 33). Mammals that play a lot have larger brains than mammals that play less (p. 33). Another researcher shows that play stimulates nerve growth in the amygdala, thereby impacting emotions and decision processing (p. 33). Dr. Brown references John Byers who found that “…during play, the brain is making sense of itself through simulation and testing” (p. 34). Byers also found that play is related to the frontal cortex of the brain and the cerebellum, both of which impacts cognition (p. 34). These two brain areas are affected by play and influence attention, judgment, language, organizations, emotions, processing, planning and more. By playing, each of these brain functions is increased and more precise in the development of the individual. Stimulating different regions of the brain prolongs the advancement and functioning of that particular area. Using play to influence the brain is a great resource for rehabilitation. Brown says, “…the self that emerges through play is the core, authentic self (p. 107).” The whole point of Lennox 5 rehabilitation is to restore or reestablish ability and health. In instances where a person loses cognitive functioning, play is essential. Since play stimulates the cognitive area of the brain and because play is an innate activity, leisure, recreation, and play will contribute to rehabilitation of functioning. On page 71, Brown and Vaughan argue that “…people who continue to play games, who continue to explore and learn throughout life, are not only much less prone to dementia and other neurological problems, but are also less likely to get heart disease and other afflictions…” Using play activities can stimulate these areas of the brain and slow down progression of diseases like dementia. This is another contribution to rehabilitation, but with a different population. F. The material from Brown and Vaughan’s book will be very useful when incorporated into leisure education. I can use the research presented throughout the book to help my clients better understand the cognitive, physical, social, behavioral, and emotional benefits of play. The research findings in the book are simply explained so that the details can easily be adapted to fit different populations. Like leisure, play is typically a self-determined activity that provides enjoyment. Through play, a person gets to know oneself, determine what he/she likes/dislikes, as well as develop social skills. Each of these is a key component to leisure education. In order to fully grasp leisure and leisure education, a person must be aware that play and leisure are states of mind, not just activities. Participating in play and leisure activities require absorption and flow in order to gain the fullest experience. By teaching my clients how to understand play and to properly engage in playful activities, I can help them better understand his/her leisure interests. G. After reading this book, I have reconsidered the importance and value of play in my own life. Dr. Brown has given me several ways to examine my own life and many ways to apply his findings to my life. When examining my life, I should do a play history to consider what activities and instances in my life were the most enjoyable. I need to look at how I felt during these times and recall the associated feelings and emotions. If I find myself struggling to be happy or feeling a void in my life, I need to consider how much I let myself play. Sometimes I can get so caught up with the hustle and bustle of daily life that I forget to set some time aside for myself. I should evaluate whether I incorporate play into my work routine. Not only is play important in my work life but it is also important to my personal and social life. It is a key element to successful relationships. Brown talks about how imperative play is when it comes to love – love of your family and your mate. I have felt inspired to teach others to use play as a form of learning. I see great value in teaching through play. It is such a primal activity that people of all cultures and ages can understand. After reading this book, I have considered being a teacher that focuses on using play. I have also thought about the benefits of play for children of all ages, especially those with disabilities and illnesses. Play can let any individual feel a relation or a connection to another person and that inspires me. Lennox 6 Works Cited Brown, S. with Vaughan, C. (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. NY: Avery and Long, T. (2009).
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