Experts on play promote relaxation and creativity


by Irina Malyugina and Anjay Saklecha

In a nation –– and a school –– where hard work is emphasized, some turn to play for a break and relaxation.

Molly Sonsteng creates projects as the head producer of Madcap Factory, a Brooklyn-based production house dedicated to bringing play to adults. She’s also worked with Daybreaker, a company that seeks to motivate people by holding morning dance parties everywhere from big cities to college campuses to the White House.

“We are a culture that focuses so much on what we can do after work. I think play is a way to live your life with more meaning, creativity and attention.”

In an interview with the Winged Post last year, Sonsteng declared her interest in promoting play among high school students.

“It’s fun for me, but I think it will be more practical if I can encourage a judgement-free way of communicating with people your age,” she said.

Sonsteng changed her life through choosing to have fun and spend her time consciously.

“For me, play is like a way of communicating. It’s a way of taking the individual experience or something that you share with another person,” Sonsteng said. “What I came to realize is that play is a way of being. It can be any number of things.”

Dr. Bowen White, a physician, founding member of the National Institute for Play and part-time hospital clown, values unstructured, free time for relaxation.

“We see work as something separate from play,” Dr. White said, “Ironically, people who are the best at what they do don’t tend to see their job as work, as much as play.”

White recognizes that play and its definition is unique to each person.

“My definition would involve something where you forget about time, or you forget about where you’ve been or were you have yet to be and doing something that’s enjoyable. I guess that’s how I define it in this moment,” he said. “What that means is, what is play to me may not be play to you.”

Another benefit is academic motivation: students are incentivized to learn about a subject when they spend time playing and interacting with it first, ac- cording to a study at the Children’s School at Tufts University near Boston, and the American Journal of Play.

Game bars and cafés such as Illusive Comics & Games, located in Santa Clara, are gaining increasing popularity all over the country. For a small fee, these businesses provide staff that help to select and teach games, eliminating the dreaded chore of reading the rule book.

“Learning anything new is great for the brain, but regard- ing games — learning new game rules, styles of play and playing with people of differing levels of expertise keeps our brains rewiring and flexible,” Anna Warren Cebrian, founder and CEO of Illusive Comics & Games said. “[Board games] also promote conversation and interpersonal skills, problem solving, math and language skills and sometimes fine motor skills.”

Students have developed their own mechanisms of dealing with stress through play.

“I think [play] is a really good way to de-stress. My biggest way to de-stress would probably be playing volleyball, but also like small things at lunch, and in free time when I don’t have homework or a test,” Isabella Spradlin (12) said.

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on March 30, 2018.