using/seeing play as all the following (but not limited to):

experimenting; discovering; re/co-creating; remixing; fiddling; researching; wondering; wandering; working; practicing; watching; modeling; acting; performing; using; imagining; trying; prototyping; iterating; being curious; … perhaps anything under the sun.. no?

shea the sun shines

for more on play..

[most of the following from ch4 of Chris Mercogliano‘s In Defense of Childhood – real play]

Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.   – Friedrich Froebel, The Education of Man

The linchpin of the knowledge-construction process, Piaget believed, is real play, which he defined as actions that are an end in themselves and do not form part of any series of actions imposed by someone else or from outside.

Shlomo Ariel – make-believe play – is a special communication medium.

Johann Huizinga – all culture arises out of play, because play permeates human activity. woe to a culture that fails to value and sustain its sense of playfulness and creativity.

Edith Cobb – the place where real play & creativity intersect – wonder. childhood as an incubator for imagination.

piaget – play.. cobb – wonder.

Teresa Amabile found personality trait all (100’s of well-known creatives – including einstein) shared was independence, which she defined as an absence of conformity in thinking and an absence of dependence on the approval of others. Creative people look first to themselves for an assessment of the quality of their creations, and only secondarily to the opinions of others...    p. 66-67

Beth Hennessey & Amabile write of How to Kill Creativity in pamphlet commissioned by the National Education Association. (full version p. 68)

1. Have kids work for reward.

2. Set up competitive situations.

3. Have kids focus on expected evaluation.

4. Use plenty of surveillance.

5. Have kids choose from predetermined set of options.

Inner wildness cannot survive without real play, and yet the enemies of real play seem to be everywhere. Johann Huizinga calls some of what passes for play today – false play. Things that do little to enhance a child’s imagination or creativity.

Real play requires open time and space, and it simply cannot flourish on a survival diet of play dates and trips to the movies or commercialized play emporiums. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with parents playing with their children, it can slip all too easily into becoming another form of management by adults. Again, real play springs forth from inner sources of energy and inspiration.

and – again – why we’re thinking redefining public ed through two conversations (w/self, w/others) all based on curiosity, will unleash the inner wildness in all of us, no matter the age.

via Piaget: play has always been considered, in traditional education, as a kind fo mental waste matter, or at least as a pseudo-activity, without functional significance, and even harmful to children, keeping them from their homework. Teaching at its best requires creating situations where structure can be discovered; it does not mean transmitting structure… Children have real understanding only of that which they invent themselves.

beginnings/ongoings of the lab – imagination and play – as research

play is the - einstein

gray bio design law

children designed to educate

[incredible talk on play via Edith Ackerman – studied with Piaget]

[and much more from Peter Gray, in Free to Learn]


Mitra’s experiments illustrate how three core aspects of our human nature—curiosity, playfulness, and sociability—can combine beautifully to serve the purpose of education.
In Mitra’s demonstrations in India, curiosity led children to approach and manipulate the computer, playfulness led them to become skilled at using it, and sociability caused the new knowledge and skills to spread like wildfire from child to child.
If you want to see the raw emotions of curiosity and discovery writ large on the face of a scientist who doesn’t hide emotions, watch any normal nine-month-old baby exploring a new object.
Children in school are more or less continuously evaluated, and the concern for evaluation and pleasing the teacher (or, for some, rebellion against pleasing the teacher) often overrides and subverts the possibility of developing genuine interests.
Curiosity, playfulness, and meaningful conversation are all thwarted in school, because they require freedom.
When research subjects believe their performance is being observed and evaluated, those who are already skilled become better and those who are not so skilled become worse.
Evaluation has this pernicious effect because it produces a mind-set that is opposite from the playful state of mind, which is the ideal state for learning new skills, solving new problems, and engaging in all sorts of creative activities.

Note: spaces of permission with nothing to prove..

the freedom to quit is such a crucial aspect of the definition of play. Without that freedom, rules of play would be intolerable.
Geniuses often seem to be those who somehow retain, into adulthood, the imaginative capacities of small children.
The mind at play is alert, but not stressed.
The Power of Play Lies in Its Triviality
Perhaps play would be more respected if we called it something like “self-motivated practice of life skills,” but that would remove the lightheartedness from it and thereby reduce its effectiveness. So, we are stuck with the paradox. We must accept play’s triviality in order to realize its profundity.
In the informal game, keeping your playmates happy is far more important than winning, and that’s true in life as well.
To be a good player of informal sports you can’t blindly follow rules.
Adult direction leads to the assumption that rules are determined by an outside authority and thus not to be questioned. When children play just among themselves, however, they come to realize that rules are merely conventions, established to make the game more fun and more fair, and can be changed to meet changing conditions. For life in a democracy, few lessons are more valuable.
As they move up the ladder from children’s leagues to high school to college to professional, an ever smaller number make the teams. The rest become spectators for the rest of their lives, growing fat in the stands and on the couch—unless they learn to play informally.
Real life is an informal game. The rules are endlessly modifiable and you must do your part to create them. In the end, there are no winners or losers; we all wind up in the same place.
the decline of children’s free play since about 1955 has been accompanied by a continuous rise in anxiety, depression, and feelings of helplessness in young people. Related to these findings, there has also been an increase in narcissism and decline in empathy.
Play is nature’s way of teaching children how to solve their own problems, control their impulses, modulate their emotions, see from others’ perspectives, negotiate differences, and get along with others as equals. There is no substitute for play as a means of learning these skills. They can’t be taught in school. For life in the real world, these lessons of personal responsibility, self-control, and sociability are far more important than any lessons that can be taught in school.
Freedom is so strong a drive that it can never be fully beaten out of a person, regardless of age.
parents worry about their children’s abilities to make a living more than they did in times past, and this contributes to their increased tendency to view childhood as a time of résumé building rather than a time of play. Somehow, parents believe, if they can get their children into the right adult-directed extracurricular or volunteer activities, get them to achieve high scores on tests, and get them into the most prestigious schools, they can protect their children’s futures. They are wrong, of course, but the perception persists.
My daughter started school so excited and within two or three days was crying and asking to go back to preschool. That eventually passed, but the child that has emerged when she gets home is so different.
We have allowed the schooling system to blind us to the natural ways of children.

In the logic of play, people are invited to break rules, experiment, innovate and be original. Can you remember how you played as a child? If you were like most children, you delighted in opportunities to be off balance, to relinquish control, to be surprised. You pushed the edge just to see how far you could go – and it was no big deal when you toppled over. In fact, the more errors you made, the more you learned how to solve problems – like maintaining balance. You tried things out for no other reason than because they were new. When you got your hands on an object, your first question was “What can I do with that?” not “What is it for?” As adults we like to categorize things: a paperclip is a paperclip; a box is aa box. For a child, a paperclip is a lock picker, a cherry-pit remover, a booger-hunting device, a lightning rod for elves. Play returns us to a state where we can see what’s possible – not what’s so.          – Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, Walk Out Walk On, 2011

via swapathgami magazine, issue 10 (first graphic), last page


serious play


who gets to play longer


from what’s the deal:

what? be you.

how? play.

why? equity.

what's the deal - play

play. whimsy. help prepare us (all) for (as we live/swim in) uncertainty.
iterate play
from James:

are you playing


great insight (as usual) from keri (links to pdf – how i discovered my secret powers):

home - play


in jesus name we play


the lego foundation – dedication to play

Pat Kane – the play ethic

Peter‘s review of the lego foundation conference in 2014:
peter on play at lego
Play, by my definition, is, first and foremost, activity that is self-chosenand self-directed. It is activity that you are always free to quit. Activities that are chosen by teachers and directed or evaluated by teachers are not play.
Given appropriate environmental conditions, children can and will educate themselves very well through their own, self-directed play (real play) and exploration.  We don’t need top-down, coercive schools. This has been proven, repeatedly, through the experiences of democratic schools, where children are truly in charge of their own activities and learning, and of homeschooling families who have adopted the approach commonly called “unschooling,” where there is no imposed curriculum and children learn through their self-chosen, self-directed activities. What children need, to become well educated, is not coercion or imposed curricula or imposed exercises that mascarade as play, but opportunity. Such opportunity includes exposure to the skills and ideas that are important to their society and lots of opportunity to play with those skills and ideas, in their own ways, on their own time course. As I have described in previous posts (and more fully in my recent book), we can provide those opportunities to all, at less trouble and cost than we currently spend on coercive schools.


Peter at tedxnavesink 2014:

The Decline of Play and Rise of Mental Disorders


gray play deprived law



Matt Damon at davos14

so what will you do with all this time..

i’m going to play


Peter succinct again on the importance/naturalness of play.

Play, by definition, is always voluntary, and that means that players are always free to quit.  If you can’t quit, it’s not play.  All normal children have a strong biological drive to play with other children.  That’s part of human child nature—an extraordinarily important part of it.  In such play, every child knows that the others can quit at any time and will quit if they are not happy.  Therefore, to keep the fun going, each child is motivated to keep the other children happy.  To do that, children must listen to one another, read into what they are saying, and, in general, get into one another’s mind so as to know what the other wants and doesn’t want.  If a child fails at that and consistently bullies others or doesn’t take their views into account, the others will quit, leaving the offending child alone.  This is powerful punishment that leads the offender to try harder next time to see from others’ points of view.  Thus, in their social play, children continuously practice and build upon their abilities to empathize, negotiate, and cooperate.


graeber fear of play law:

What ultimately lies behind the appeal of bureaucracy is fear of play. David Graeber, the utopia of rules

[distinguishing play from games in this respect; play generates rules, but isn’t bound by them]

on subversive\ness

gray play law

– –

more from David on play: what’s the point if we can’t have fun

I’m simply saying that ethologists have boxed themselves into a world where to be scientific means to offer an explanation of behavior in rational terms—which in turn means describing an animal as if it were a calculating economic actor trying to maximize some sort of self-interest—whatever their theory of animal psychology, or motivation, might be.

That’s why the existence of animal play is considered something of an intellectual scandal. It’s understudied, and those who do study it are seen as mildly eccentric.

We don’t have to explain why creatures desire to be alive. Life is an end in itself.

Friedrich Schiller had already argued in 1795 that it was precisely in play that we find the origins of self-consciousness, and hence freedom, and hence morality

What would happen if we proceeded from the reverse perspective and agreed to treat play not as some peculiar anomaly, but as our starting point, a principle already present not just in lobsters and indeed all living creatures, but also on every level where we find what physicists, chemists, and biologists refer to as “self-organizing systems”?

If an electron is acting freely—if it, as Richard Feynman is supposed to have said, “does anything it likes”—it can only be acting freely as an end in itself. Which would mean that at the very foundations of physical reality, we encounter freedom for its own sake—which also means we encounter the most rudimentary form of play.

We can each understand what the other is feeling because, arguing about the fish, we are doing exactly what the fish are doing: having fun, doing something we do well for the sheer pleasure of doing it. Engaging in a form of play.


posted on fb by peter – 2015
THE BIOLOGICAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN PLAY AND CONTEST. In nonhuman animals, play and contests are sharply distinct. Play is cooperative, egalitarian, and fun; and contests are antagonistic, serious, and aimed at establishing dominance. Hunter-gatherer humans accentuated play and avoided contests in order to maintain the high degree of cooperation and sharing that was essential to their way of life. In our society, with our competitive games, we often confound play and contest. What might be the consequeces of this for children’s development?
Isabel Behncke

Pat Kane (@theplayethic) tweeted at 5:49 AM – 24 Feb 2018 :

I had entirely missed the death of Jaak Panksepp, the great neuroscientist of play. A short but powerful obituary from Journal of Play


graeber on bs jobs

WhiteHawkSpeaks (@WhiteHawkSpeaks) tweeted at 2:57 PM on Wed, Feb 13, 2019:
“David Graeber on capitalism’s best kept secret” by @PhilonomistEN

I suggest a Spinozian theory of caring labor. Caring work is aimed at maintaining or augmenting another person’s freedom. And the paradigmatic form of freedom is self-directed activity: play. Marx says at some point that you only achieve true freedom when you leave the domain of necessity and work becomes its own end. That’s also the common definition of play. Mothers take care of children so that they can play. Maybe we should have that as a paradigm for social value: we take care of each other so that we can be more free, enjoy life, experience freedom and playful activities. And we will have a much more psychologically healthy and ecologically sustainable society.

free\dom and play

gray play law

gray play deprived law


from david graeber‘s utopia of rules:

261 (in footnotes)

157\ and if one is playing a game, the ‘play’ element is the unpredictable element, the degree to which one is not simply enacting rules, but applying skill or rolling the dice, or otherwise embracing uncertainty


huge to play being about the freedom of uncertainty/entropy


david on fun