Number 40 in our countdown of '70 Ways Art Improves Our Health' highlights that play is not just for kids…

Play England describes play as what people do ‘when they follow their own ideas and interests, in their own way, and for their own reasons.’

Play is more than important to art and creativity, it is crucial.

We know that play is an essential part of a child’s life. It is the key to social, emotional, intellectual and physical development. And play work and play therapy is used increasingly in health and social care to support children’s wellbeing. But many of us ‘grow up’ and overlook the fact that play continues to be crucial in our adulthood.

Children at Great Ormond Street Hospital take part in a Paintings in Hospitals drawing activity

Last year Cambridge University employed the world’s first professor of play (funded by Lego) to lead their new Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning. Lego’s global head of research, Bo Stjerne Thomsen, said:

…the skills you need now as an adult are collaboration, problem solving and coming up with ideas. In that sense, play is critical. You use your imagination to plan things, to predict outcomes, to understand how to solve a problem by looking at it from different perspectives.

Many studies have shown that the power of play impacts on the way we think and work creatively. A 2010 report demonstrated that allowing students to play for 10 minutes with a ball of playdough before attempting a creative task led to better results and more original ideas.

Without a playful approach, creativity and imagination can elude us. The reason play helps us isn’t known for sure but research suggests that play-like activities help us achieve a psychological state where it’s okay to be ‘wrong’ or to fail. And with freedom to explore the unexplored, creativity and innovation are much easier to find.

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