The Power of Play

Cheryl Lovstrom, Community Learning Network

2 2 11 February 2020

Have you ever watched your child (or your pet) at play? Watching them in that space where imagination and sheer joy collide is fascinating. So much is happening in those moments; learning is at its peak when the participant is having fun. Children (and pets) learn social cues, practice communication, and learn about the world around them; it’s a very important part of growing up. But did you know play isn’t just for children? It is essential for adults as well.

More and more research shows that learning happens best in a fun environment. Productivity increases when employees are engaged in fun activities on a regular basis. Our ability to problem solve rises when we let our imaginations loose. Perhaps most significantly, research also shows that employees who feel safe at work are more likely to step “out of the box” and try new, innovative ideas. What a wonderful affirmation of our work in CALP!

When learners enter your safe, welcoming space, it helps them feel more relaxed. Even the most reluctant of learners becomes a willing participant when they feel the genuine caring of the staff and facilitators around them. Add to that the laughter that is often heard in CALPs around the province and you have a great recipe for success. Not only are learners feeling safe and relaxed, but they are having FUN. So what does fun look like? If not everyone has the same idea of fun, how do you keep everyone happy and engaged?

Here are some ideas to mix it up a bit:

  • Create useful and relevant learning experiences. Sound familiar? Adult learning principles tell us when learning is relevant to our immediate needs we are more likely to remember and put it into use.Dice
  • Provide options. More adult learning principles! When adults have choices, they become self-directed. And when we choose the learning we are most interested in we tend to remember more of it.
  • Connect what you’re learning to the learners’ interests. Transferability! When we can use what we’ve learned in our daily lives, we are more likely to practice persistence in building that skill.
  • Gamifiy your lesson plan. Make the learning fun by turning it into a game. Be sure to explain the benefits of playing a game so learners understand you’re not “just wasting time”.
  • Laugh! Laughter helps us relax. When we are relaxed we become more receptive to learning and remember more of what we’ve learned.
  • Walk and talk. Adding movement breaks to a learning session helps the brain relax and get ready for more learning. Being outside (when possible) breaks up the monotony of the classroom environment and physical activity helps learners to come back to the learning refreshed and ready to go.
  • Spice it up. Variety is the spice of life. It can be very helpful to add a little spice to learning. Engage learners with a variety of activities that use different senses. Include pictures and a bit of reading to engage the visual learners, mix in some writing or drawing activities for the hands-on kinesthetic learner, and add a sprinkle of conversation or video clips for the auditory learner. The more styles you introduce, the more the learning will stick.

Check out some of these online articles for more information:

No learner will enjoy every moment of the learning experience but, if a little bit of fun is sprinkled throughout each session, they will remember more and are more likely to persist in their learning.

In closing, I leave you with the wisdom of playwright, George Bernard Shaw, “We do not cease to play because we grow old; we grow old because we cease to play.” Play lots, learn lots, stay young!

Cheryl Lovstrom
CLN Central Regional Support Staff


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