6 TED Talks That Reinforce the Importance of Play

Children at play

Guest Blogger, Jennifer Cantis

Studies have shown how vital playfulness is to creativity, relaxation, and peace of mind.

Play is critical for a stable, more productive life experience.

Don’t believe me? Take some time to watch the following six TED Talks. Each will inspire you in different ways to get in touch with your inner-child spirit in order to tackle your adult problems. Whether its playful thinking or playful activities, the next time you’re stuck on a problem, try working through it by use of play!

Tim Brown: Tales of Creativity and Play

In Tim’s speech, he opens with an exercise where he has the audience draw a person in a seat next to them. The catch is that you only have thirty seconds to complete the drawings. As you can imagine, the exercise gets quite a few laughs from the audience. However, something else happens, too: Many people can be heard apologizing to the subject of their thirty-second artwork. “Sorry,” they say, often with a giggle. This is when Tim makes his first point.

“We fear the judgment of our peers,” Tim explains. “This fear is what causes us to be conservative in our thinking. So, we might have a wild idea, but we are afraid to share it with anybody else.” However, Tim points out that this fear does not hamper the creativity of children. Kids will proudly show off their scribbles to anyone willing to look. Unfortunately, as we go from childhood to adolescence and beyond, we become significantly more sensitive to the opinions of others.

Also, studies show that children who feel most secure tend to feel most free about their ability to be creative. Thus, isn’t it logical that employers strive to create this same sense of security in the workplace? Shouldn’t we work to promote environments that boost creativity to inspire our employees to produce innovative ideas?

As Tim points out, many of the most successful companies have appreciated and implemented this idea. These companies want their employees to think outside of the box. They want to empower them to take risks. For example, Google’s offices often look like a mix between the ultimate recess playground and an awesomely interesting museum! They want to encourage creativity in employees through play and environmental stimulation.

Another point Tim makes is the way adults try to categorize every item they come across. Adults tend to ask what an item is, “but kids are more engaged with open possibilities.” As Tim explains, “They will certainly ask ‘What is it?’, but they will also ask ‘What can I do with it?’” It is this question—What can I do with it?—that unlocks the creative possibilities. It is this question that we, as adults, do not ask enough!

Jay Silver: Change the World

Jay’s take on play also leans heavily toward creativity and innovation. In his speech, he largely focuses on the ability to turn everyday items into mind-blowing products and pieces of technology.

He explains that, as a kid, he realized a fact that would forever change his life. “I thought, okay, the way the world works can be changed. And it can be changed by me in these small ways!” He began taking man-made items that were designed for a specific purpose and began creating innovative ways the items could be used.

Later in life, Jay was inspired to start a maker movement. He gathered together a group of teens and encouraged them to go into the woods to see what they could create from the natural world around them. Very quickly, the kids began crafting cool pieces of art!


Erin McKean: Go Ahead, Make Up New Words!

Erin is a lexicographer, which means it is her job to add words to the dictionary. Erin explains, “My job is not to decide what a word is; that is your job. Everybody who speaks English decides, together, what’s a word and what’s not a word. Every language is just a group of people who decide to understand each other.”

During the talk, Erin explains that some people can get very uppity when society wants to create a new word. These people moan and groan, protesting about grammar issues and how a particular word makes no sense. However, this argument is false. As Erin points out, all words were made up by someone at some point in history. In her opinion, a world with more words is a greater place to live.

“Every word is a chance to express your idea and get your meaning across, and new words grab people’s attention. They get people to focus on what you’re saying and that gives you a better chance to get your meaning across.”

Feeling imaginative? Erin walks you through the six different types of words so you can create your own!

Arvind Gupta: Turning Trash into Toys for Learning

In his talk, Arvind promotes an eco-friendly form of play. He explains that earlier in his life he was living in a small village where they had a weekly bazaar. One week when he went, he bought several small items—mostly trinkets—that many would consider junk. One item he purchased was a cycle valve tube, which is essentially a thin rubber tube.

Quickly, he realized how simple it would be to cut small pieces of the tube off and attach matchsticks to the inside of the tube. The rubber’s flexibility would allow the tube to bend around the matchstick. With three matchsticks inside the tube, you could create a triangle, four a square, and so on.

Gupta takes his form of recycle play even further by using discarded items like CDs, magnets, batteries, and paperclips to make engines and turbines. He even does some amazing things with paper!

As Gupta explains, what you can build and do with everyday discarded items “is just limited by your own imagination.”


Steve Keil: A Manifesto for Play, for Bulgaria and Beyond

Concerned about the future well-being of Bulgaria, Steve pushes play as the way to create a greater future for his home country.

In his opinion, Bulgaria is too serious for its own good. Steve believes this is stifling creativity and innovation in his country. He uses multiple studies to show how play can improve the world, including Bulgaria.

Steve encourages a playful atmosphere in the workplace where you treat workers with trust and respect. “Play improves our work,” he explains. “It stimulates creativity. It increases openness to change. It improves our ability to learn. It provides a sense of purpose and mastery.” By introducing play to the workplace, productivity improves.

Charlie Todd: The Shared Experience of Absurdity

Charlie loves to shake things up. He started Improv Everywhere when he moved to New York City. He and his friends pull creative stunts in public places, all for the joy of bringing strangers together for a shared experience.

“One of the points of Improv Everywhere is to cause a scene in a public place that is a positive experience for other people. It’s a prank, but it’s a prank that gives people a great story to tell.”

Final Thoughts

These podcasters recognize play is just as important for adults as it is for kids. “We don’t lose the need for novelty and pleasure as we grow up,” according to Scott G. Eberle, Ph.D., vice president for play studies at The Strong and editor of the American Journal of Play. Play is critical for creativity, problem-solving, and relationships.

What Your Baby Really Needs: Activities to Foster a Child’s Development

What your baby really needs

Guest Blogger: Julie Salvano from Rhythm Babies  

As an advocate for unstructured creative play, and a provider of structured music classes for children, I sometimes find myself at odds with how to explain what activities are best in early childhood. At one end of the spectrum, I’ve researched structured activities that develop a child’s “ear,” teach them how to keep the beat in music and show how body movement seems to connect these goals into reality. On the other hand, I’ve read articles, attended conferences, bought books, and watched just about every documentary on early childhood development and they all explain that young children in over-structured, regimented academic learning environments actually do worse later in life. As a result, they may be less creative, develop anxiety disorders, learning disorders, and a disdain for learning.

I remember loving art projects as a child. In fact, I remember one day in preschool I got to happily bring my dad to school for one. My father told me we should color and paste our house in our own way instead of copying the picture displayed in front of the room. At the end of our project, I peered around at the other pictures and realized I left class with a picture that looked nothing like the rest of them. I was super proud of that house. I thought my dad was special and kept a secret that no one else knew. Being original is so much better than copying something that already exists.

A report released in 2015 called “Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose highlighted that the pressure put on students to read in prekindergarten and kindergartener is actually harming children, not advancing them in life. Learning skills sooner in life does not equal better. There is no supported neurological evidence that states children will be smarter or better off doing so.

How do you know the difference between a good extra-curricular activity that enriches a toddler or child, and one that is too structured? How do you know as a parent that you’re giving your child a great head start in life, full of knowledge and skills, while also making sure you’re not leaving them in an environment that will put them behind other children intellectually and emotionally?

Like most things in life, it starts with proper balance. Picking one to two extracurricular activities in a week is more than enough. Are the activities results-based? Chuck them. Your three year old shouldn’t be racking their brain to name all the states on a map. It just isn’t necessary or beneficial at this age. Memorizing facts is not learning. Learning is training the mind on how to think and proper learning in early childhood also doubles as a way to develop emotional intelligence.

I believe in arts-related activities for young children. I also believe heavily in nature, reading (when not forced), singing, drawing, blocks, and a host of other things. The difference in these activities is that there is no room for right or wrong answers. The child is creating their environment, learning at their own pace, and exploring different ways of doing things. This is how learning develops naturally. This is why I recommend anything from art classes, nature walks, to music classes that focus on an open-ended readiness program. I do not teach any kind of technique to children, nor do I teach them the nuts and bolts of reading music notes. I simply show them tactile, aural, and visual ways to experience music and learn things on their own. I let them play, dance, or do whatever their heart desires while maintaining order and still progressing to the end of class.

While growth is at its peak at five and under, brains are developing and they are figuring out connections in the world around them. Playing is better than memorizing. Being original is better than copying. Imagining and leaving room to explore is better than telling a child this is right, and this is wrong. The only way to learn is to question, and the only way to question is to explore. Let your children explore; it’s what they are meant to do.

Rhythm Babies Collage

About the Author:

Julie’s love of children started with her internship at Walt Disney World, where she worked in the Magic Kingdom while enrolled in business entertainment courses at Disney University. After her internship, she moved to the Philadelphia area and went on the job hunt. In 2010, Julie started teaching child development/music classes. After two years of teaching classes for another company, she realized she had a natural ability for implementing creative new lesson plans to capture the children’s attention and enhance their learning experience. In 2012 Julie started her own traveling music company called Rhythm Babies. Since then Rhythm Babies has been growing quickly with daycares, preschools, and caregiver/baby music classes across the Philadelphia metropolitan area. In 2015 it was named “Best Music Program” in Philadelphia Family Magazine.

Be sure to follow Rhythm Babies on Twitter.

Importance of Outdoor Play for Young Children

Importance of Outdoor Play For Young Children

Guest post by, Albert Krav

In a culture where computers and television sets are quickly becoming the new babysitters and playgrounds, it’s so important that today’s parents make it a point to encourage outdoor play for their young children. After a long day at work, it can be so easy to just sit the kids in front of a screen so you can get some much-needed relaxation. The problem is that kids really do need to play outside for the sake of their physical and mental development. Here are just a few reasons why outdoor play is a must.

Outdoor Play Promotes Physical Health

Children need physical activity. Studies have shown that approximately half of the children in the U.S. are not getting enough exercise. As you can imagine, a lack of physical activity dramatically reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, and countless other serious health issues. Kids develop long-term habits at a very young age, so it is important to encourage regular exercise now. A surprising amount of children these days also have vitamin D deficiencies, which can often be easily remedied through regular outdoor play.

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Children Need to Explore

There are life lessons that simply can’t be learned indoors. In order to learn about the physical world, kids need to experience it for themselves. Basic knowledge that we take for granted is not automatically instilled in children at birth – they must learn about the world around them first-hand. It’s imperative that children push their mental and physical boundaries so that they can develop in a natural way.

Kids Need to Release Energy

It’s no secret that kids can be a handful at times. If your children are cooped up in front of the TV all day, you can be sure that you’re going to get a taste of their pent up energy at some point. Encouraging your kids to play outside benefits you as well, as you’re much more likely to get a good night’s sleep that night after a big day of outdoor play! Children need to have a positive way to blow off steam, get rid of stress, and just let loose. Unless you prefer for that to happen indoors, it’s a good idea to help your kids to appreciate the great outdoors.

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Playing Outside Promotes Social Skills

Outdoor play with other children is so beneficial to social development. For example, every child can’t use the slide at the same time, so they must learn about patience. They must form a line and take turns. These little social cues that we take for granted are not inherent – they are learned. Playing with other children outside is also one of the best ways for new friendships to blossom, which is so important for short and long-term social development.

Improve Your Relationship with Your Children

Let’s not forget the most important person in your child’s life – you! Playing outside with your children is one of the best ways to bond with your kids. If you give your children their own outdoor haven to play on, they are going to adore you for it. For example, the Super Spinner is a very popular and safe outdoor swing that children absolutely go head over heels for. Why not give your kids a gift that encourages outdoor play? After all, the multitude of benefits is undeniable.


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