“If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.”
Not sure if I completely agree with the last part of Einsteins equation but how important is his message that Success is a product of work & play. But what do we mean by ‘Play’.
I had heard the phrase ‘heuristic play’ many times without really understanding it. I think I just heard the word play and ignored the word heuristic as something that had been tagged on to make professionals feel more important about what they do. My background as a psychiatric nurse has perhaps made me a little cynical about fancy titles for simple concepts – as there are a hundred and one different therapies with exotic names, which in practise are little different from each other. The word came up again in a recent discussion about a play strategy for East Lothian. I had to admit my ignorance and asked Maureen Black (East Lothian’s play guru) what it meant and she gave me the following definition.
heu·ris·tic – from the Greek word eureka meaning discovery
Maybe discovery play would be simpler – but it does describe why play is so powerful for learning and why it is so much fun. It also helps me to understand why somebody like Einstein would include play as an essential part of his formula for success. Discovering the world around you using all of your senses to make sense of it, order it, understand how you can interact with it, and change it. Discovering how the universe worked might not have been child’s play, but without being able to play Einstein might not have made such a success of it.
Another play word I have learn recently is – schema.
At an early years conference I listened to some staff from a Midlothian Surestart centre talk about how they had taught other staff the princples of heuristic play. They focused on schemas – this is where children exhibit typical behaviours as they play such as transporting, enveloping, enclosing, assembling, circling, horizontal and vertical displacement. A schema is a pattern of observable behaviour which children display over and over again. This was one of those eureka moment for me as it made sense of my own experience with young children, especially babies and toddlers. What parent has not witnessed a child repeatedly taking an object in and out of another object or a child utterly absorbed in moving things from one place to another an back again. Of course what children are doing as they work through their schemas is discovering their world and making it understandable and coherent
I think I have always understoon play as something that is natural for children – and something they need to be able to do to discover how their world works and where they fit into it. Concepts like heuristic play and schemas help me to understand the very complex things that are going on when children play