What do the American Association of Pediatrics, Robin Henig of the New York Times, and Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, have in common? They all believe in the power of play. Add to that list Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, who promotes play at children’s museums to ignite curiosity; and zoologist John Byers whose research sparked many other studies showing the impact of play on the growth of the cerebellum.
A recent report of the Alliance for Childhood states: “The power of play as the engine of learning in early childhood and as a vital force for young children’s physical, social, and emotional development is beyond question.” But playing is just as important for adults, as evidenced by a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers followed 469 people older than 75 for five years; and found that those who played board, tile, and card games had a reduced risk of dementia.
The power of play is prominent in the findings of academicians, e.g., Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff’s Einstein Never Used Flashcards, business and sports professionals (Kevin Carroll’s Red Rubber Ball at Work: elevate your game through the hidden power of play), and prominent physicians like Hendrik Mamorare at the Sisulu Cardiac Centre in Africa who found that surgery demands similar skills—resourcefulness and imagination—to those he learned in childhood play.
Tina Bruce, professor at the London Metropolitan University, once said, “Play is like a reservoir full of water. The deeper the reservoir, the more water can be stored in it, and used during times of drought.”
Particularly during these times of economic drought, playing more—to enhance learning, memory, curiosity, and well-being—seems like a good, if not audacious, idea for Baltimore.