By Annemarie Steen February 11, 2014

What’s the difference or relation between Play, Playfulness & Playful Learning?

I’ll try to explain how I see it (at this moment).

violinPlay is an act, something that we (can) do. We can play with objects, play a game, play tennis or the violin, play a role, etc. Scholars say that Play has these following traits; “PLAY must be intrinsically motivated, you must be free to play (it has no utilitarian function), you don’t know the outcome, it is outside your ordinary life and it must be fun.” (Gwen Gordon)

play, playfulness bookPlayfulness on the other hand is not an act, but rather something that we are. It’s (as Bernie deKoven mentiones) inherited. It’s in our nature to be playful. And nature in itself is playful (Alan Watts). Bateson describes Playfulness as a positive moodstate, from where the act of playful play starts. It’s this moodstate that we see in young children much more often than in adults, who are told to act serious instead of playful. Only when we are really happy, in love or a bit typsy on alcohol, we cannot hide our playfulness anymore. It breaks through the surface of ‘behaving’ and reveiles itself as a force of our nature. No doubts: We ARE playful.

Some Play-practicioners, like Bernie de Koven, choose the path of purposeless play in the sense that pure play shouldn’t have a purpose or goal. It’s the act of play itself that’s fun and rewarding.

In Playful Learning things are a bit different. Learning games and experiences are designed to meet certain learning objectives. So it’s not play in itself that’s the goal, but the learningobjective is. In this case, Playful Learning is a mean towards reaching a desired outcome. This in itself seems to contradict with the ‘you don’t know the outcome’ of play.

I am passionate about Play AND Learning. So I develop playful experiences connected to objectives that are important to my clients. For example, a client asked me to deliver training to improve their performance at a businessfair. I designed games and exercises to raise awareness about groupenergy, connecting to strangers using status, collaboration, daring to ask for an order, etc. The client was surprised and delighted at how effective the team worked together (just after 2 sessions of 0,5 day) and delivered a peakperformance.

For me the learning that comes out of the playful exercises is more natural and much more powerful and longerlasting than traditional training. The participants are invited to make sense of their personal experiences, thus creating individual learning with possibly very different outcomes for different people. It’s teachless teaching in the sense that I don’t teach knowledge. I create playful experiences and invite my participants to make some sense out of them. And they find out: There’s sense in non-sense!

I also create Play Missions that don’t have any other purpose than to just enjoy doing them. And by doing them uplifting the energy of the player (and it’s surroundings).

So I haven’t yet made up my mind to what category of Play-practicioners I belong to. The ones that see pure Play as a goal in itself, or the ones that see Play as a mean towards reaching a goal. I play both 🙂

With playful greetings,
Annemarie Steen
Playfulness & Playful Learning

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