The power of play is extremely important; from shaping imagination to social learning, it is a building block from which to grow. Being a single mom, I am always on the go and it can be hard to remember the importance of playing. After researching, I came across the IKEA Play Report and found out just how important the power of play can be for both children and adults.
I have to admit, when I finally get home from a long day, I just want to kick up my feet and relax. But, usually there is little time – I’m making dinner, managing bathtime, feeding the dogs, taking out the garbage, reading bedtime stories, etc. So it’s not unusual for me to tell my daughter, “not now, mommy is too tired/busy” when it comes to playing. Especially as my daughter got older, the type of play she needed changed. It became more intensive, both physically and mentally, as her own physical and mental power grew. It’s fun to see that development, but it also meant more effort on my part.
I sought out to understand the different types of play and how I could create instances of play in our busy lives. I found an interesting resource on the subject from Ikea, the large home retailer founded in Sweden. Each year they release a report on the power of play, the Ikea Play Report (you can access the report HERE).
According to IKEA, they take play pretty seriously. “So serious, in fact, that we have conducted some of the world’s largest research studies on the Role of Play. The IKEA Play Report 2017, is our third Play report. We’ve spent 8 months connecting, on a regular basis, with more than 300 people in Germany, the US and China to explore how, and why, we play.”
The report covers numerous topics surrounding play, including the Object Relations Theory. The theory attempts to explain how people interact with the world through a mixture of unconscious needs and lived experiences. It states that people’s interactions with the world around them are driven by a combination of four innate desires.
- PLAY; the desire for discovery, leisure, and recreation
- COMFORT; the desire for retreat and recovery
- POWER; the desire for status
- PROCREATION; the desire for legacy of ideas and creativity
As babies, we seek comfort and as soon as we’re able, we start to play. For children, the desires for play and comfort help to make sense of the world as they grow and develop. It’s also known as social learning and is documented as a key driver of cognitive, personality, and intelligence development. Later maturity increases, the acquisition of power and creativity becomes more important. In our quest to achieve these things, we do model and associate ourselves with people, places and things that confer the power or creativity that we seek. Roleplaying, essentially – think of a little girl playing house, she is usually the mother, handing out discipline or comforting a agitated babydoll.
All of this supports the idea that play isn’t just fun, it’s necessary. And it’s not just children who benefit from play, adults do, too. The report goes on to say that, in fact, some of the most beneficial play is when children and adults play together, whereby they connect and strengthen intergenerational relationships and learn from each other. This type of learning is done through six types of play.
The 6 types of play, according to the IKEA Play Report:
1. Freestyle PlayExamples: Fantasy role play
Primarily motivated by ‘play to explore’: the child simply follows their own play urges. Adults immerse themselves in the world the child has created, providing no direction or rules so as to not inhibit creativity. Most of all, they enjoy being silly together. This type of play nurtures a child's confidence and decision-making. It also allows adults to regress by experiencing the world through a child’s eyes, freeing up new ideas and shaking up normative thinking.
1. Build-it PlayExamples: Build a sandcastle, creating a fort in the living room, building with Lego or Jenga
Primarily motivated by ‘play to express’: Children and adults play together by using objects and toys to create something new, thinking creatively
about how best to build it. Together they experiment, explore and celebrate their accomplishment. This type of play teaches adults and children how to think more creatively about problem-solving together.
1. Freestyle PlayExamples: Playfully helping with chores, baking or cooking together
Primarily motivated by ‘play to connect’: Children mirror adult behaviour in a playful way by helping them out with adult tasks and turning
these into a game. Children often come up with imaginative ways of completing the task that adults hadn’t thought of. This type of play helps children develop social skills and helps adults to de-stress, turning a frustrating chore into a lighthearted, satisfying activity.
1. Muddy Boots PlayExamples: Throw and Catch, Hide and Seek
Primarily motivated by ‘play to explore’: Children and adults play together in physical or sporting activities, typically outside, and spend quality time together. They let-go, run around and free themselves of physical and social constraints. This type of play allows both children and adults to use up energy, release endorphins and feel happier.
1. Out-of-the-box PlayExamples: Coloring, dancing
Primarily motivated by ‘play to express’: Out-of-the-box play is artistic play, but not necessarily with a creative output. Through arts and crafts, children and adults release their inner creativity and express a more creative, open side of their personality. In turn, they gain pride and joy from the creative process. This type of play promotes a more creative mode of thinking, allowing adults and children alike to tap into their imagination and a world beyond rules and obligation.
1. Formal PlayExamples: Chess, board games
Primarily motivated by ‘play to repair or comfort’: Formal play is typically less spontaneous and more structured than the other types of adult/
child interplay outlined. Children and adults either play with or against each other to solve a specific challenge. This type of play brings families together and is a fun way to help adults and children to focus, relax and solve problems creatively.
Making time for play is very important and it doesn’t always need to be hour-long sessions. I squeeze in play during car rides with games like eye-spy. My daughter has even made up her own games for us to play while we travel (Ugee Kugee coming to a store near you!). When she was younger, I would make up ‘challenges’ to entertain her while we shopped, for instance. Mostly the challenges were detecting patterns or colors of items, visual or verbal play. Sometimes it was make-believe to exercise imagination.
Trust me, parents, I know it is sometimes exhausting to try to fit in an hour wrestling session or squeeze in a board game. But, taking time out everyday to play with your child in some aspect has boundless rewards. You can fit it in and have fun yourself, as the same time!
Play on, parents!
For the full IKEA Play Report, go HERE
Lauren is Co-founder and CMO of momsplained.com. A single mom, marketing pro, and avid DIYer, she spends her days playing as much as she works and working as much as she dreams. “Omnia Feminae Aequissimae (women are equal to everything).” – Lady Hale