Playwork Primer

At improvscience, we help scientists learn to be playful. It is part of learning to be creative and collaborative. So given I often think about what "play" means, I was excited to discover the work of Penny Wilson. She has advocated for play in children's lives. In her Playwork Primer (among other works), Wilson argues that play is essential for child development. We have discovered that adults, particularly science professionals, can learn a lot from play as well. The primer provides several thought-provoking points I connect with our improvisation-based instruction.

The format of the text is largely a set of definitions relevant to play. One I found interesting was the term liminal spaces. These physical spaces can be whatever the player (in her case, children) want. The concept behind this is also the basis for any improv scene: part of the joy for players is the discovery of a new environment. Another term I liked was neophilia, meaning "the love of the new", which can include a reinvention of the familiar. In an improvscience workshop, participants often experience scenarios in new ways. These new ways may take a variety of forms. Bob Hughes, a play theorist, has proposed a taxonomy of play types, including "creative play" and "exploratory play" that are all aspects of play we include in our workshops.
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