Play brings out the best(ie) in us.

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

by Felice Arena

One of the great things about being invited to talk to thousands of kids each year at school visits and festivals, is that you get a front-row view of how children interact with each other. You get to know their likes and dislikes and the way they think, talk, and connect in a fast-paced, ever-changing world.

I’ve been lucky to have been able to share my stories and books with children of all ages for close to twenty years now, and there’s one thing I’ve noticed that hasn’t changed among kids: Play. That’s right, play.

From where I’m standing, I’m happy to report that play and imagination are still driving forces for our kids, especially for the little ones aged 4 to 7. The need and desire to move, dance, wiggle, make silly noises, laugh, pretend, sing to themselves – it’s all still there. What a relief, right?

I say relief, because we all know that at the core of what makes us human, of what makes us connect, love, laugh, and learn, is this very precious gift we call play. But as we age into doom-and-gloom-and-bills-to-pay-bah-humbug adults, we end up burying and suppressing that gift. I’ve actually been told by some close teacher friends that many schools nowadays actually hasten this transition. School curriculums are so driven by outcome-based results and teachers are drowning in so much paperwork and red tape that play is often ‘straight-jacketed’ or at least limited – yes, even for the junior classes.

But why then is it that Finnish schools rank so highly in the world? The Finns revere play, embrace play, and consciously use play as an element in their education system. Delving into the reasons for this might perhaps best be left for another post or article, but it does make you wonder.

So… when I was thinking of writing my new