- Expected 24 Jun 2021
Play is the fun factor in life, but it also has survival value. Through play children learn, adults innovate and friendships are maintained. Play gives life meaning, arguably it is what we live and work for and yet, in a competitive world it is sometimes hard to justify making time for it.
In this book, Alex Bonham explores just how important play is, both in the here and now, and as a way of helping us to prepare for an uncertain future.
Defining play is notoriously difficult because it can take so many forms and it is constantly developing, but intrinsic to play is a sense of fun, engagement and the thrill of new or heightened experiences, also the desire to win and the joy of dressing up and taking on different roles. In play, something new is something fun. Curiosity and a sense of play can be the catalyst for the work that makes people and societies change, develop, make new connections and become more able. Play is at the core of progress, and decadence. As over-consumption is threatening the planet, rethinking play and pleasure reveals lots of old and new ideas about how to enjoy life to the full without buying more stuff than we need.
Play has always been part of the appeal of settling close to other people, whether it be in a village, the medieval court, market towns, or, in modern times, cities. Much of the play and pleasure that stimulated cultural and technological innovations have evolved in busy social places. Pubs and pageants, festivals, and festival halls all bring crowds of people together to enjoy themselves and get that thrill of being part of something big. And yet a key part of play is that it is voluntary. Anywhere that demands that all people play in a certain way may create impressive spectacles but is likely to be despotic. The playful city allows options, both in how to play, and whether to play at all. As people play in different ways we need a variety of play spaces, and spaces that can be used in a variety of ways.
This book is about valuing play and making the space and time for it. The first part of the book focuses on physical spaces and how they may be conducive to play, from early childhood through adulthood and into old age, starting in the home, the first play space, and working outwards into neighbourhoods, cities and regions that support rich and pleasurable ways of life. Then it tackles the temporal aspects of play: making time for play every day, every week and through the seasons. In the third section the focus is on cultures that are conducive to play, from the citizen who drives the culture of the community, and on to the employers and councils which provide resources for play and adopt a supportive, enabling try-it-and-see approach to management. Finally it reveals the value of play in a crisis to endure hardship and find solutions.
The book is structured around eight play personalities - artists/creators/inventors; movers; storytellers; directors; jokers; collectors; competitors/gamblers; and explorers - linking these to positive wellbeing outcomes. In practice we are all a mix of these different types, as is our play personality.