While Light Pavilion was installed at the Herbert I loved watching the audience playing within it. Adults would try and get all the lights to be the same colour and children would clatter down the ramp (who knew a ramp could be so fun). I was captivated by them and decided in that moment I would focus my practise on play. I had applied for a Project Grant with the Arts Council to investigate the benefits of play in art in partnership with the BALTIC, Coventry City Council and MK Gallery. This has sadly fallen through due to Covid.19.

Coventry City of Culture had agreed to provide match funding towards the project to help me grow my practise. They have kindly honoured this commitment. I am using their contribution to spend my time researching play. Over the next month or two I’m going to read documents and books around play and watch documentaries and then write short blogs about them to make sure I’ve digested the information and to share my insight.

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Play by Stuart Brown, M.D., with Christopher Vaughan

I love this book. It is so insightful into play. What I’m really pleased about is it covers adults and not just children. I think it’s really important for adults to continue to play and I want to create installations that gives them the opportunity to play. Understanding the value behind it will be really helpful.

Part One: Why Play?

Chapter one; the promise of play, chapter two; what is play, and why do we do it? Chapter 3: We are built for play

Accidentally I read all of part one in one, obviously it’s a very good book and there is some much good stuff I could write about. I want to try and keep the blog concise which I think is best represented in the example that Stuart Brown gave to HP engineers in pages 17-18.

“Apparently purposeless (done for it’s own sake)
Inherent attraction
Freedom from time
Diminished conscious of self
Improvisational potential
Continuation desire”

Play doesn’t have an obvious value, we understand why we eat and sleep, plays purpose isn’t as obvious, we play for it’s own sake. It is voluntary, we aren’t required to do it but we do. It’s inherent attraction, it is that is fun, it makes you feel good. Play gives us freedom from our day to day lives, time doesn’t matter within a playful moment. We diminish our conscious of self, we don’t worry about how we look when we play, we just let go and play. It has improvisational potential, there isn’t a set way to play or act when playing. Play provides a continuation desire, we desire to keep playing and the pleasure of the experience keeps us wanting to do it.

Play is “anticipation, surprise, pleasure, understanding, strength and poise.” Page 19

In my opinion play is beautiful. It shapes our brains as we grow, we learn through play, we can test out scenarios, grow relationships and experience a vast amount of joy.

The book speaks about adults who have introduced play back into their lives and their lives flourish as a result of it. This makes me think about my play, do I do enough? Would I mind tidying and cleaning less if I played more? To answer this question I am going to embark on a playful experience everyday this week and then see if I can tolerate the house work with grace!

The closing page for this section, page 44 speaks about the amazing outcomes of play and really demonstrates why we should play at all ages “The first steam engine was a toy. So were the first airplanes. Darwin got curious about evolution initially through collection samples from the seaside and garden where played as a kid… Fireworks in China preceded the cannon.”

“When we are not against life or death, trial and error brings out new stuff. We want to do this stuff not because we think that paper airplanes will lead to 747s. We do it because it’s fun. And many years later, the 747 is born” Pretty profound stuff. I wonder what the result of people playing with Light Pavilion will result in in years to come!


It’s a mouth full of a title! The report was recommended at the V&A’s conference on Play back in November. It was a really interesting read. It’s written from the perspective of the need to prescribe play to families as the opportunity to play has reduced due to how we now live our lives.

The report highlights that play is great for joy, family relationships, stress for both the child and parent, learning and school readiness. Here are a lot of quotes that express this in many difference ways…

“The mutual joy and shared communication and attunement (harmonious serve and return interactions) that parents and children can experience during play regulate the body’s stress response.” page 1

“it is fun and often spontaneous. Children are often seen actively engaged in passionately engrossed play; this builds executive functioning skills and contributes to school readiness.” page 2

“Play is fundamentally important for learning 21st century skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity, which require the executive functioning skills that are critical for adults success.” page 2

“Play is not just about having fun but about taking risks, experimenting, and testing boundaries.” page 2

“Bruner et al stressed the fact that play is typically buffered from real-life consquences. Play is part of our evolutionary hertiage, occurs in a wide spectrum of species, is fundamental to health, and gives us opportunity to practice and hone skills needed to live in a complex world.” page 2

“Play and leaning are inextricably linked. A Russian psychologist recognised that learning occurs when children actively engage within a supportive social context. The accumulation of new knowledge is built on previous learning, but the acquisition of new skills is facilitated by social and often playful interaction.” page 2

“It has been demonstrated that children playing with toys act like scientists and learn by looking and listening to those around them.” page 3

“Successful programs are those that encourage playful learning in which children are actively engaged in meaningful discovery.” page 3

“In play, children are also solving problems and leaning to focus attention, all of which promote the growth of executive functioning skills.”page 5

“The benefits of play are extensive and well documented and include improvements in executive functioning, language, early math skills, social development, peer relations, physical development and health, and enhanced sense of agency.” page 6

“Children who were in active play for 1 hour per day were better able to think creatively and multitask.” page 6

“Playing with children adds value not only for the children but also for the adult caregivers, who can re-experience or reawaken the joy of their own childhood and rejuvenate themselves.” page 7

“Parents learn to see the world from their child’s perspective and are likely to communicate more effectively with their child” page 7

“Play enables children and adults to be passionately and totally immersed in an entity of their choice and to experience intense joy.”

“Positive parenting activities, such as playing and shared reading, result in decreases in parental experiences of stress and enhancement in the parent-child relationship, and theses effects mediate relationship between actives and social-emotional development.”page 7

“Most importantly, play is an opportunity for parents to engage with their child by observing and understanding nonverbal behnavoir in young infants, participating in serve and return exchanges, or sharing the joy and witnessing the blissing of the passions in each of their children. “page 7

Play not only provides opportunities for fostering children’s curiosity, self regulation skills, language development, and imagination but also promotes the dyadic reciprocal interactions between children and parents, which is crucial element of healthy relationships.” page 7

“Adults who facilitate a child’s play without being intrusive can encourage the child’s independent exploration and learning.” page 7

“cultivating the joy of learning through play is likely to better encourage long-term academic success. Collaboration, negotiation, conflict resolution, self advocacy, creativity, leadership. and increased physical activity are just some of the skills and benefits children gain through play.” page 8

In short play creates joyful discovery for the child and parent. To me this demonstrates the need the play. Interactive installations that are playful is a way to create an opportunity for families to do just this.

Today families are busy and life has been focussed on work, for some families there isn’t time for a play or a safe environment for them to play in. Where I live there is a play park in walking distance but I wouldn’t want my children to play there as I’m concern of drug use taking place. Both of these issues are shown below…

“For many families, there are risks in the current focus only on achievement, after-school enrichment programs, increased homework, concerns about test performance, and college acceptance.‍” page 8

“As a result, there is little time left in the day for children’s free play, for parental reading to children, or for family meal times.‍” page 8

“Unsafe local neighbourhoods and playgrounds have led to nature deficit disorder for many children. A national survey of 8950 preschool children and parents found that only 51% of children went outside to walk or play once per day with either parent. In part, this may reflect the local environment: 94% of parents have expressed safety concerns about outdoor play, and access may be limited.‍ Only 20% of homes are located within a half-mile of a park.” page 8

“Cultural changes have also jeopardised the opportunities children have to play.‍ From 1981 to 1997, children’s playtime decreased by 25%.‍ Children 3 to 11 years of age have lost 12 hours per week of free time.‍” page 8

From reading this I feel installations that make people feel safe would create brilliant opportunities for play. This could be within a gallery or outside. I feel that outside could work as positive interventions as families could be walking past in their day-to-day lives and feel comfortable spending 5 minutes playing. The installation could have properties that make it feel safe like use of lighting and openness. Interventions like this have been tried…

“An innovative program begun in Philadelphia is using cities (on everyday walks and in everyday neighborhoods) as opportunities for creating learning landscapes that provide opportunities for parents and children to spark conversation and playful learning.‍For example, Ridge et al have placed conversational prompts throughout supermarkets and laundromats to promote language and lights at bus stops to project designs on the ground, enabling children to play a game of hopscotch that is specifically designed to foster impulse control.”page 8

This has been a very interesting read for me. I had know about the benefits but hadn’t considered the barriers to play. This makes me feel more passionate about creating installation that are playful, making sure that they feel safe to use and having them in outside settings so they can used as part of a busy day.

These are the key points from the documents, although they are directed at paediatricians I feel that word can definitely be switched to artist..

“Paediatricians have a critical role to play in protecting the integrity of childhood by advocating for all children to have the opportunity to express their innate curiosity in the world their great capacity for imagination.” page 9

“Advocate for the potation of children’s unstructured playtime because of it’s numerous benefits, including the development of foundational motors skills that may have lifelong benefits of the prevention of obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.” page 10

“Children take the lead and follow their own curiosity.” page 10

“In today’s world, many parents do not appreciate the important of free play or guided play with their children and have come to think of worksheets and other high structured actives as play. Although many parents feel they do not have time to play with their children, paediatricians can help parents understand that playful learning moments are everywhere.” page 10

“Active play stimulates children’s curiosity and helps them develop the physical and social skills needed for school and later life.” page 10

“Cultural shifts, including less parent engagement because of parents working full-time, fewer safe places to play, and more digital distractions, have limited the opportunities for children to play. These factors may negatively affect school readiness, children’s healthy adjustment, and the development of important executive functioning skills.” page 11

“Play is intrinsically motivated and leads to active engagement and joyful discovery.” page 11

“With our understanding of early brain development, we suggest that learning is better fuelled by facilitation the child’s intrinsic motivation through play rather than extrinsic motivations, such as test scores.” page 11

“Play helps to build the skills required for our changing world” page 11