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.


“Those who played survived, adapted, and developed skills and capacities that their ancestors could never have imagine.”

“Play has always been a key to adaption and survival, and I believe it will remain so in the future.” Page 197

After reading Play I also believe this too. This morning I woke up in a bad mood, I did twenty minuets of yoga, took Chester out for his walk and played fetch and now it feels like life couldn’t better and I will now achieve what I want to with my day which feels really important to my survival at the moment. Stuart says:

“Why do I say this? Three reasons: social, economic, and personal. Play sets the stage for cooperative socialisation. It nourishes the roots of trust, empathy, caring and sharing.” Page 197

We learn so much through playing together, inventing the game, setting the rules, arguing about the rules and being the winner or looser. Through play we adapt with the skills we can take them into our lives and be better humans (or dog in Chester’s case) as a result of it.

“Play lowers the level of violence in a society and increases communication. For example, even when there are big social or economic gaps between people, they can often find common ground talking about the local sports team. If diverse, clothing ethnic or cultural groups can be coaxed to actually play together, the positive effects can be dramatic.” Page 198

I feel like we certainly need some of this at the moment. It sadly probably wont happen or can’t with covid. Do you remember being at festivals last summer and dancing with people you don’t know either side of you, in front and behind and having the time of your life without knowing anything about them. What a glorious feeling it was and a brilliant way to interact with others. I hope public art can create these opportunities for total strangers.

“In the adult world. Play continues to be woven unto the fabric of our culture. In large part, play is our culture, in the form of music, drama, novels, dances, celebrations and festivals. Play shows us our common humanity. It show us how we can be free within the societal structures that allow us to live with others. It us the genesis of innovation, and allows us to feel with an ever-changing world.” Page 199

When lock-down kicked in the adult world did quizzes together. My friends and I had a ball playing pictonary over video call. We all have watched films and dramas and talked about the ones were watching. We’ve watched concerts and plays online. Chris and I watched The Peas along with our friends every Saturday night, we danced in the lounge together, messaged in answers for the silly competitions. It was great fun, without those little high-lights life would have been incredibly hard.

“The world needs play because it enables each person to live a good life.” Page 201

I don’t think anyone can argue this statement after the six month we’ve just been through.

“I see that being playful has an important role in every sphere of our lives. As I’ve shown in the previous chapters, we are designed by nature to grow and develop in large part through play… play is what allows us to attain a higher level of existence, new levels of mastery, imagination, and culture.” Page 202

This makes me think of my Grandma and the sea squid. Grandma has been in her care home and garden for six months, she hasn’t left the grounds. She used to have a visitor everyday and church on a Sunday. The visitors have started again but not as many and now her brain is dying. She can’t comprehend what is happening in the present anymore or remember what happen yesterday. She has become a sea squib and it breaks my heart. I need to figure out how to get her playing again to give her that higher level of existence once again, as that is what made her her usual jokey self.

“Play gives us the irony to deal with paradox, ambiguity and fatalism.” Page 202

This is what she has lost, she is now cross and frustrated. It makes visiting really hard as she is so unhappy about the current situation that she can’t enjoy being in the moment with her visitor. It is so sad and breaks my heart. I hope my installations can break up someones day and gives them the moment of joy that they need to not be a sea squid.

Play isn’t always easy and you do need a bit of pain to really enjoy the highs. Stuart uses the example of climbing up a hill, it’s slow and hard and makes your legs hurt but when you get to the top the feeling of achievement is great and views are amazing. All that hard work is so worth while. Perhaps I need to add a layer of challenge to my playful installations to give them this edge.

“You have to make it through the discomfort to find the fun. True play is even one step beyond this.”

“Advanced play, the black belt of play, comes when we realise this and act on it. As long as we are acting in concordance with our central truth, then the outcome will be positive.” Page 205

This is true of every installation I have made. Making them is so hard physically and mentally. It is always the install which is the biggest challenge. It is so stressful and demanding in all ways. I always question why I am an artist when I’m going through this process. Seeing the audience playing with the installation is the icing on the cake and couldn’t be a better high. It makes it all worth while and gets my creative cogs turning for the next installation. Stuart reminds us this:

“When we fully internalise this ethos. Our work is our play and our play is our work, and Michener noted, we have a hard time telling the difference between them.” Page 205

If this isn’t the case with your work for you find other ways to play.

“Every day, everywhere, there are opportunities to find play: throw a tennis ball of a dog; pull string in front of kittens; browse in a bookstore. Here’s an old piece of advice that trite but true: stop and smell the flowers.

The world is full of humour, irony, joy and objects available for aesthetic appreciation. The trick is allowing yourself to open up to those influences, to see humour in virtually all situations.”

“Simply taking a moment to deeply inhale the air after a rainstorm or kick a pile of leaves can be a private moment of play. More powerful yet activities that really pull us into play. More powerful yet are activities that really pull us into play, like getting down on the floor to play blocks with a child.” Page 210

I don’t know if anyone will ever read this blog but if you do take the above with you, really do stop and smell the flowers or play with a dog. Give into your little playful urges what ever they might be, today mine was spotting a squirrel hiding against a trunk from me.

“Probably the biggest roadblock to play for adults is the worry that they will look silly, undignified, or dumb if they allow themselves to truly play. Or they think that is is irresponsible, immature, and childish to give themselves regularly over to play.” Page 211

Since having grandchildren my mum is a changed person. She is so much more relaxed, she picks up the blocks with them and now is stepping into advanced play. This week she’s learning the Peppa Pig theme tune on her clarinet and she’s ordered a music book of Halloween tunes to play for them.

“Let your body respond to lessons learned form nature but long suppressed. You can’t be truly open to spontaneity if you don’t feel comfortable testing novel ways of expressing yourself, pushed along by the pleasure of the action. Play is exploration, which means that you will be going places where you haven’t been before.” Page 212

I have recently experienced this. The baby book told me to sing to my bump and I really didn’t want to but felt I was denying my unborn baby a joy it should have. The problem is I am not a good singer and I don’t like singing in front of people. Even in the car I rarely sign in front of Chris. I have pushed my self and have began to sing to the baby. Last week I found myself lying in the camper van singing my heart out in front of Chris, the bump and Chester without a care in the world. Since I’ve been singing along to the radio and yesterday I sang Good King Wenceslas with my Grandma in full sunshine. I’ve enjoyed it so much I want to sing now!

“One of the quickest ways to jump-start play is to do something physical. Just move. Take a walk, do jumping jacks, throw a ball for the dog (a double play boost).” Page 213-214

I really want the next installation I make to be movement base, I want to get the audience moving as it is such an effective way of play. And to have the installations in public settings that allows for people to play with them as and when they can.

“Play is nourishing, but you have to take time out for play, just as you would take time out for a meal. And that doesn’t mean doing the play equivalent of fast food. Television sitcoms doesn’t usually count, unless you haven’t laughed for a while. A lack of play should be treated like malnutrition – it’s a health risk to your body and mind.

Be aware of play killers. Part of nourishing your play is putting yourself in an environment that supports and promotes that play…

Find the play that feeds your soul, build an environment where people understand your need, and get out there and make it a priory to stay play-nourished” Page 215

This is really interesting as our lives get so busy and we also get tired that it is quite easy to just telly of an evening. We’ve been away for a week and have played card games most evenings since being home we’ve been watching tv instead. I will make an active effort to make sure we play together of an evening and don’t just watch the telly.

I promise to nourish other peoples lives by creating playing installations. Installations that are so playful that they just can’t not be played with.

“Play is how we are made, how we develop and adjust to change. It can foster innovation and lead to multibillion-dollar fortunes. But in the end the most significant aspect of play is that it allows us to express our joy and connect most deeply with the best in ourselves, and in others. If your life has become barren, play brings it to life again. Yes, as Freud said, life it about love and work. Yet play transcends these, infuses them with liveliness and stills time’s arrow. Play is the purest expression of love.

When enough people raise play to the status it deserves in our lives, we will dint he world a better place.” Page 218

Smell the flowers, wiggle your bum, throw a ball and sing a song and if you stumble across an installation play with it, it’s there for you.

THE END (Of Stuart Brown, Play)


It’s hard to say a definite yes or no, it depends on the circumstance. The first issue that is discussed in the chapter is bullying, which isn’t play at all. We all know the feeling of being teased when it’s taken too far. The level of teasing and when to stop is something we should have learnt through our play history.

“One of the prime characteristics of play is a desire to keep the activity going. If one of the parties involved in the play is stronger than another they will automatically self-handicap in order to level the playing field and keep the game going. Self-handicaping us easy to see in animal play, like when the polar “bit” at the neck of Hudson the husky. If you wan to see other examples, simply do a YouTube search for “dog and cat playing”. The dogs are much bigger and scarier, but the crouch low to the ground to make themselves smaller. If they use their paw to swipe at the cat, they do so gently.” Page 178-179

If we are playing properly we won’t hit each other so hard that it hurts. Chester play bites with me but never hurts me or breaks the skin, he knows when how to do it in a playful way and he learnt this as a puppy. My sisters two boys are just working this out, they do a lot of play fighting it’s all part of them learning.

“In play, we learn how to deal with life’s wins and losses with grace. In the end, we learn to shake hands and let the emotions go, something that is useful in “real” life as well as in games. A poor sport can’t do in either arena.” Page 182

It is a really key part of our development, knowing when to stop and when to take it easy, taking turns, winning and loosing. We all love to be the winner but we also need to know how to be the looser. During Covid we have all experienced loss, all of my physical work came to an end and it hurt. Without learning how to deal with loss I wouldn’t of been able to deal with this situation. I’m lucky that I have this skill. The problem comes when you just can’t stop playing, but is that still play? As the gambling advert says ‘stop when the fun stops’. Stuart discusses this with video games and TV:

“I’ve seen kids who are happily playing with blocks on the floor, interacting wit each other, negotiating, inventing new story lines, being energetic and talkative. And then the television comes on and play stops. Interaction is no more. The story line is set by the box, and the kids are merely long for the ride, motionless and mute. Single-player video games are similarly attention hogs and socially isolating.”

“The other concern I have with concern I have with excessive use of screen-based entertainment is that they neglect a deep human need to interact with the material world: to feel the tug of gravity, to physically move through the dimensions of space and time, to feel the physical resistance of solid objects.”

“In Wilson’s view, the hand and brain coevolved and dependent on each other.” Page 184

“a hand is always in search of a brain and a brain is in search of a hand,” Page 185

I found this all so interesting. For parents screens are definitely beneficial, it gives them some quite time to cook dinner or enjoy a bit of a meal out. I’ve used my phone this way in the past. It can encourage some great imaginative play, being Spiderman and saving the world is of course inspired by watching Spiderman. It’s making sure it’s not too much and the child can stop, learning to stop at 5 years old is a lot better than in later life.

“There is scientific evidence that our brains react differently to three-dimensional objects than the do to the two-dimensional representations on video or computer screens.”

“The use of the hands to manipulate three-dimensional objects is an essential part of brain development.” Page 185

Light Pavilion was my first step into digital art. It was still very 3D and didn’t involve screens. I am passionate about the audience touching my work, I think it makes a deeper connection. For a little while I need to design work that doesn’t encourage touch to prevent Covid.19. It seems critical to keep my work playful that it doesn’t head down the screen only route.

“When a real hand holding a ball was presented in the window, large areas of the brain’s visual and associational circuits were activated. When a picture of a hand holding a ball was shown, the visual cortex demonstrated similar arousal but the associational areas were virtually silent as if we are programmed to “see” more comprehensively in natural settings.” Page 185-186

This shows we do really need physical connection within our play. This really pleases me as I do really want my audience to touch my work, to change and manipulate it. This shows how important it to us in our play. As adults our lives are very screen based, most people work with a computer, have a phone and a tablet and watch TV. When my phone started telling me every Sunday how much I use it each day I was shocked, it is still shocking. Having playful installations within public settings that invite adults to use their hands and physically engage with the work seems vital.

“Three-dimensional physical and social play is a ‘better’ form of play, just as a balanced diet is better than one full of sugar hits.” Page 188

Screens definitely have there place. I do think the inspiration they create for imaginative play is great. It’s all about not having too much of one thing and knowing when to stop. This brings the chapter back to the beginning, we need to know when to stop teasing, how to not hit too hard and when the fun has stopped. These are all skills we learn through play as a child, it’s all about finding the right balance.

“Bending the rules and pushing through the limits should happen in the realm of play. They aren’t the side of play – they are the essence of play.” Page 193


“Those who play together stay together” page 158

Quick, play with your friends and partner to make sure you stay together. That’s what this phrase says to me. Chris and I are going to go swimming tonight to stay together! I’ll make sure we have some races rather than just doing lengths. He does have an advantage as he’s not carrying a child. In terms of art it’s wonderful to think that my work can really help people bond. To understand this bond we need to look into the relationship between a mother and her child:

“In order to feel intimacy throughout life, the growing child needs to access this earliest of play states. As we get older, the play state is sculpted by our culture.”

“The play they engage in with friends, siblings, and (in more complicated way) with parents sets the stage for their adult interactions.” Page 159

This is really interesting, the play we do as children directly influences our adult lives. I can’t really remember playing with my mum lots as a young child but I must of done as she was with me all the time. Things that really stick in my mind is playing with the kids on my street, Jaydee and Emma teaching me to ride without stabilisers, I did that all day long, I was so determined I was going to do it (I am still determined now), making plays with Richard on the swings in his garden and charging our parents 20p to watch (the business women in me) and riding down the hill pretending to perform (I have no fear of public speaking). Lots of memories are playing on the street, it’s what we did when we got home from school. These early interactions make it so we understand play signals as we grow up. It’s just like when a dog bows showing they want to play, we do these things and I learnt to them playing on the street. This isn’t something that kids can do now, there are just too many cars and too much traffic. I live in a little cul de sac and all the houses have drives but I think it’s still too busy with delivers and cars to let your child play outside unattended. This is why we need play spaces that are safe for our children and our selves to access.

“If we lived in a world with play.. It would be a pretty grim world to live in. Wha play signals do is invite a safe, emotional connections, if even for an instant. Even in casual interactions, the sincere compliment, the remark about the hot/rainy/freezing/damp weather, joke or sympathetic observation opens people up. emotionally. It transforms a grim, feerful, and lonely world into a lively one.” Page 161

If you see someone walking say hello, smile, have a chat. It could transform your day and theirs. I love the idea of getting complete strangers to play together with my installations. Two passer-byers who come together for a moment of play and change their days from a normal one into a happy one and create a memory to hold on to. A long time ago on the plane to my sisters I sat next to a man, we got chatting and then watched half of Meet the Fockers on his laptop, he was on the same flight back so we watched the second half together too. I can’t tell you the year or his name but I will never forgot that this happened. Stuart Brown has experienced this too, in a pharmacy queue he’d been waiting a long time and he was already having a bad day and had a head ache. He made a joke and his fellow queuers joined in. By the end his headache was gone, he felt better about his day and he had a good feeling from interacting with and helping the others too.

“Without various forms of social play we would find it very hard to live together. Society would either lock up like an over heated engine, or we would have to evolve a rigid, highly organised social structure like that of ants of bees. Play is lubrication the allows human society to work and individual sot be close to each other.”

“Which is why play is the most important element in love.” Page 164

“Play refreshes and fuels a long-term adult relationship.” Page 166

Quick go and find your partner again and do some more playing. Early love is designed around play activities, think about dating you might go bowling or to the fair, you’re going to do something fun. Chris and I met climbing. I remember our first proper date, going to Thai restaurant for dinner. Although dinner isn’t know to be the most playful setting the idea of a dinner was, I’d never been on one! I had fun trying on my dresses and creating my love persona! I wonder if any had a date or part of their date in Light Pavilion? I know a friend Joel and his partner had fun trying to turn all of the lights green together.

“Play keeps everything in balance, providing resilience and flexibility in a relationship, and allowing couples to rebound from misunderstandings or unrealistic exceptions.” Page 170

“As everyone knows, the most passionate romantic feelings eventually fade. If play has been part of the relationship from the beginning, less intense sexual attraction and romantic love will remain, joined by the attachment that is the product of long-term emotional closeness.” Page 171

It really is important – those who can play together, stay together. The skills we need to do this are learnt early on it our lives. It’s not just our love lives that are effected, it is every aspect of our lives:

“People whose play lives have been vibrant, like my physician friend with post-heart attack brain damage, have buffers against travail and suffer less when major change is thrust upon them. Play produces poise and strength. Consummate players can better meet these changes with grace.”

“If we continue to play to play together we will always be able to find emotional closeness, always be able to find novelty and make discoveries not only about those we love, but also about ourselves.” Page 174


This chapter focusses on work and our life responsibilities. We feel that work is serious, if we’re playing we will be seen to not be taking work seriously, not working hard enough or focusing on the task in hand. Not playing can make us depressed and unhappy.

“Our inherent need for variety and challenge can be buried by an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Over the long haul, when these spice-of-life elements are missing, what is left is a dulled soul.” Page 126

If we can get the right balance of play and work they can support each other and equally make for a happier life.

“We need newness of play, its sense of flow, and being in the moment. We need the sense of discovery and liveliness that it provides. We also need the purpose of work, the economic stability it offers, the sense that we doing service for others, that we are needed and integrated into our world. And most of us need also to feel competent.” Page 126

This is certainly true in the UK. I had a period of working at Wagamama’s between jobs and it was great fun but I hated telling people that’s what I did. When you meet new people or even old friends you’ll always asked ‘what do you do?’. I just didn’t feel competent with the role as I’ve always felt I should be an artist. To get here I’ve had to have a lot of different jobs to make it possible. Now my job is creative and when I create I’m playing and creating playful experiences for others giving me that sense of doing a service for others.

“When people come back to work from true play vacations, they are eager and energised for work. Page 127

Play is nature’s greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties. The abilities to make new patterns, find unusual among common, and spark curiosity and alert aberrations are all fostered by being in a state of play” Page 127-128

I can’t change everyones work for them but I can create play vacations with my art installations. It could be at a festival over a weekend where they visit with their friends and family and all play together or it could an installation in the city centre which they stop and play with during their lunch time.

“Sometimes when a situation is really heading south, a moment of imaginative play is the only thing that provides enough distance to see the way out of a predicament” Page 131

Having an playful installation in a city centre or at a business park could be just what someone needs to allow them self to step back from the situation and then to go into work and approach the situation with a fresh new mind.

“Work matters, but we often allow day-to-day events at work to give us more anxiety than they are worth. Getting oneself into a play safe, however, masks the urgent purposefulness and associated anxiety of work, increasing efficiency and productivity.” Page 133-134

Having a moment of play will help creativity and innovation flow giving new ideas and different ways to approach problems.

“Allow yourself to be abundant in your creativity, at first not making judgements about what you think, feel, or do. Simply play with your ideas, with how you things.” Page 141

This mixture of playing with work will help you to become a master.

“People reach the highest levels of a discipline because they are driven by love, by fun, by play.” Page 143

The more I read the more I feel compelled to make playful installations near to peoples work places to give them a moment to play and in turn to become their best self.

It seems easy for us the loose play in our work. With all of our responsibilities it seems like play gets lost and pushed to one side. Today this is leading to mid-life crises as teens, in our twenties, thirties and forties. I particularly remember having one when I was about twenty. My husband was working for couple who are a bit older than us, we went to a birthday at their house. It was the first time I’d visited their home and it was so lovely and I felt this huge burden of how I am ever going to achieve this? It seemed impossible. Interestingly now I don’t have as lovely home as they did but I am happy, content. This must be because I get to play everyday, not only in my work, with my lovely dog, amazing husband and in my social life with my friends and family. Others aren’t as lucky as me, they’re lives and mind set just don’t allow for play.

“Most of the time, we have internalised society’s messages about play being a waste of time that we shame ourselves into giving up play.” Page 145

“Perhaps this fact lies behind the culturally supported idea that people who play are superficial, are not living in the really worlds, are dilettantes or amoral slackers.” Page 147

Thanks to Covid-19 I think this has changed a bit. Many of us have been given the gift of time and we’ve been encouraged to play outside and we’ve had to spend time with our families. I’m hopefully that this will continue to be encouraged to do this but I have a feeling that life will go back to what it was, full of busy-ness and the need to achieve.

“If we had a simple test for play like we do for diabetes or high blood pressure, we could look at a number and realise that we are in danger. But we don’t have such a test. Instead we have a smouldering, play-deficient sense that something is missing in life, that we are not getting the feeling of joy and energy that we once did. The question is how do we get the feeling back?” Page 150

Could playful art be part of the answer?

“There is no simple recipe for bringing back a sense of play in your life and work… There are ways to jump-start play… I find that physical activity – movement of any sort – has a way of getting past our mental defences.” Page 150

Maybe if it included movement. I try and encourage movement through my work, I feel that people get a lot more from it if they are physically involved. Until now it’s just been a hunch, it’s great to know that there additional benefits to playful movement.

“I conducted a study showing regular physical activity could help seriously depressed women rise out of their depressions.” Page 150

“The first three months were titanic struggles, but then the positive effects of conditioning, exercise, and group solidarity allowed the majority (some had dropped out) to note lessening their depressing and improved overall well-being.” Page 151

This is incredibly helpful to know. Health and well-being is a popular benefit that people want from art commissions. To have this as a fact will be really helpful for future applications. It encourages me to continue to include movement from the participants within my work and to continue to make interactive elements that encourage team.

“Body play is the first thing that shows up in evolution. Species capable of play show this in their exaggerated jumps, twists and turns, quirky off-balance to gain balance movements, done apparently because they are fun to experience.” Page 152

I’m up for continuing to make it happen. Being able to have installations that allow people to break from their day-to-day lives to help them bring play into their lives is the dream. I just need to make it happen!

The closing statement of chapter five is from James Michener’s autobiography:

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving other to decide whether he is working or playing, To him, he’s always done both.” Page 152


Chapter 4: Parenthood is child’s play

“We grow out of childhood and leave behind “childish things”. We feel that we shouldn’t act this way anymore, and get a sort of wilful amnesia for pure play experiences.” Page 78

I don’t feel like I’m this kind of person, I am playful and I feel like it’s inbuilt. I certainly remember being told and still being told “stop being silly Julia” by my mother who comes across as very serious but since being gifted with two fantastic grandchildren (thanks to my sister and brother-in-law) her play personality has come out, she is endlessly patient with them and plays with them all day long. Interestingly Stuart writes on the following page..

“I get the sense that adults feel that they themselves didn’t get it right, that they had something special and let it go. They don’t know where it went or how to get it back, but they would like to give their children (or grandchildren in my mum’s case) more options then they had.” Page 79

I don’t remember playing with my mum much as a child, we lived on a brilliant street where there was lots of kids all the same age, we all played outside together. Back then she would have been busy cooking our dinner and do all the things we don’t notice that our mums do. Now she has more time and can give Henri and Harri maybe something she feels we and her self missed.

Interestingly my dad was and is incredibly playful, he gets a lot of “stop being silly’s” and he’d play What’s the Time Mr Wolf when he got home from work with us before dinner and did a lot of imaginary play with me of an evening. Now as Grandad he likes reading his paper and drinking coffee after having a short play with the boys.

What I want to do as an artist is to make opportunities to play, if parents do feel like they want to encourage play there is an playful setting for the whole family to do it and have fun doing together and with other passers-by. I want to make work that is fun at all points in life.

Play at the beginning of life

When a baby is is three or four months old and is well fed and safe, and mother is open and calm, when the baby and parent make eye contact they have a harmonic meeting of minds. They are synchronising the neural activity in the right cortex of their brains: Attunement.

“If we assume the neurophysiological models of animal play apply to us, then attunement (the base state of play) buffers the growing infant and child against excessive sores if emotion. It also helps orchestrate the symphony of genetic signals the govern optimal brain development during childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.” Page 83

Pretty amazing stuff!

Body and Movement Play

“Movement is primal and accompanies all the elements of play we are examining, even words or image movement in imaginative play. If you don’t understand and appreciate human movement, you won’t really understand yourself or play. Learning about self-movement creates a structure for an individuals knowledge of the world – it is a way of knowing. Through movement we play, we think in motion.” Page 84

If you think about expressions we use to describe emotion interestingly there are a lot of movement words; closed, distant, open. And we: grasp, wrestle and stumble across ideas. I think about the sea squirt – couch potato they are still in motion which losses them their brain. Don’t be a sea squirt, move and your brain will develop.

“Movement play lights up the brain and fosters learning, innovation, flexibility, adaptability, and resilience. These central aspects of human nature require movement to be fully realised.” Page 84

We should definitely keep moving! Which I am doing now. I’m sat on a ball and every time I go to read the book I start bouncing and bounce along to the songs on the radio. It just makes me giggle as I write about playful movement – here I am writing about it and doing it at the same time!

“The play-driven pleasures associated with exploratory body movements, rhythmic early speech (moving vocal cords), locomotor and rotational activity are done for their own sake; they are pleasurable and intrinsically playful. Yet they also help sculpt the brain.”Page 85

I need to make sure my installations encourage movement to encourage body and movement play.

Object Play

Object play is about manipulating objects. It starts with spoons and teething rings, to toys, then to puzzles and footballs. In my case it could be manipulating my installations, touching them and pressing their buttons. Playing with objects in our hands helps us develop brains that are suited for understanding and problem solving. My husband is the worlds best problem solver, he must have done and continues to do lots of object play.

Imaginative Play

“Imagination is perhaps the most powerful human ability. It allows us to create simulated realities that can we explore without giving up access to the real world.” Page 86

Imaginative play nourishes our spirit and it is something we do throughout our whole life. Making up stories in our head, in my case imagination art works. I picture them in head long before they exist, many of them will never exist but I love imagining them and then drawing them out.

Imagination is key to emotional resilience and creativity, imagining helps us to develop empathy, understanding, trust and helps us with our coping skills.

This makes me think about Light Pavilion and the different things the audience imagined about it. I remember a friend telling Chris it must be about octopuses and he was so sure. His imagination did a brilliant job of convincing him. I’d love to know what the rest of the audience had imagined.

Social Play

Social play can be peekaboo to dancing in pub to your favourite band with your best mates.

“Humans are social animals, and play is the gas that drives the engine of social competence.” Page 87

It includes friendship and belonging, rough and tumble play, celebratory and ritual play (birthday parties), storytelling, narrative play, transformative-integrative and creative play.

I find Transformative-Integrative and Creative Play really interesting. I feel it really demonstrates the benefits of play…

Sometimes, though, in kids who are really stuck, play can provide a dramatic and obvious example of transformation. In the process of completing the PBS film series The Promise of Play, our crew was allowed to follow the progress of a nine year old girl who had been identified as depressed, friendless, and playless. At her school, time was set aside for her to work with a group called Positive Intervention Through Play, which was orchestrated by a teacher trained as a play therapist. We observed and filmed the girl over a four-month period. As she began to tap into basic play models, dance, play with toys in a dollhouse setting and so on, her isolative and inappropriate behaviour began to chance, and her mood lightened. At the last filming, the crew was in tears as she exuberantly and freely played on the playground with friends (who had previously shunned her due to her bizarre non playful behaviour) and was affectionate with her teacher. Her actual engagement in play, not coaching of her teachers had transformed her. Through play, her internal narratives had changed from sterile and sad to rich and imaginative.”Page 92-93

This is incredibly amazing and really shows how play can help our mental health. I am passionate about having work in the public realm to create chance encounters. I hope from doing this I can create playful opportunities for people who really need it, like this little girl and be able to help them to begin to transform their lives.

With families who provide healthy households play will come about naturally and bubbly up from inside their children. With love, a safe atmosphere and playfulness the play drive will naturally occur.

Sadly play and more playful subjects are being cut in schools, the book is American however I know the story is the same for the UK especially at second school. The system is being designed to provide a “skills-and-drills” approach with subjects like art and music being stopped. In some schools recess and physical education are being reduced and cancelled.

“The neuroscience of play has shown that this is the wrong approach, especially considering that students today will face work that requires much more initiative and creativity than the rote work this educational approach was designed to prepare them for.” Page 99

It’s thought that without play, optimal learning, social functioning, self control and other executive functions night not mature properly.

This makes me feel like artists roles are even more important to show that creativity can lead to great things along with creating creative and playful opportunities.

Learning and memory

Learning is an area I don’t have much experience about apart from my own learning. I am interested in bringing it into my artist practise, often commissioners like the audience to learn something about the site’s history. It does feel like a great benefit to bring in for the audience.

“Learning itself is enhanced by play.” Page 100. If I create an playful installation with a learning theme there is a higher chance that the audience will learn about it as they played while discovering it. This is further demonstrating on page 101:

“Play isn’t the enemy of learning, it’s learning’s partner. Play is like fertiliser for brain growth.”

To develop Light Pavilion I spent time attending Mini Engineers at the Transport Museum and Mini Makers at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum. These are both incredibly playful sessions for under 5’s with loads of fantastic learning built in. They are both great examples of play being learning’s partner. To find more out about them follow @mummy_lous_crew and @aplaylife on Instagram.

“Learning and memory seem to be fixed strongly and last longer when learned through play.” Page 101

This means learning that is inbuilt to my commissions should be remembered by the viewer. This makes me even keener to build in learning to my installations.

“The state if play is one in which attention is focused exclusively on the pleasurable play activity, and memory fixation has been shown to closely related to heighten attention and emotional rewards.” Page 102

Gifts of Play

“The excited boy or girl tears into the wrapping to uncover the box, then opens the box to find the perfect gift that the parent has worked so hard to find… Imagine the family chagrin, then, when three little darling is more interested in playing with the box than the toy.” Page 103

“Parents should be happy about such a turn of events. It shows that their child has developed a healthy play drive, one that comes from their own fantasies and desires.” Page 104

This is exactly what happen with toddlers and Light Pavilion. I brought a ramp to make it accessible and kids loved sliding down it and banging it. They’d do this for agers, never mind the amazing light installation that they could play with they just liked the ramp! This is inspired me to research play, it just makes me laugh!

“Later, kids get toys that come straight out of the movies or TV shows, toys that come with a present collection of ideas about who the characters are and how should play with the toys. This kind of performed script can rob the child of the ability to create his own story… A chance for imaginative flights of fancy is lost.” Page 104

At the moment this is happening with my eldest nephew. He loves Spider Man. Personally I don’t think it is totally a bad thing, he is creating his scripts and stories within the characteristics. I suppose it’s keeping that balance being proscribed play and imaginative play.

“Authentic play comes from deep down inside us. It’s not formed or motivated solely by others. Real play interacts with and involves the outside world, but it fundamentally expresses the needs and desires of the player. It emerges from the imaginative force within. That’s part of the adaptive power of play: with a bunch of pleasure it integrates our deep physiological, emotional, and cognitive capacities. And quite without knowing it we grow” Page 104

If my nephew plays Spider Man spontaneously and involves his brother and the sofa (sometime the curtains) he is expressing his desire to play. He writes the script with his imaginative forces within; there he grows without knowing it. If a child slides down my ramp and makes it rattle and tat they express they’re need to play, using their imagination and world around them. They have grown without knowing it.

Coming into adulthood: sophomoric rites of adolescence

This area doesn’t come into my practise so much. I do want to make my work accessible to all ages, it’s good for me to have an understanding of teenagers and their play. I do really enjoy working with 13/14 year olds. I had my first experience with the V&A and Transport Museum for Design Lab Nation and my second with Ludic Rooms and Warwick Art Centre for MiLab. I really did love my groups, they were great kids and didn’t express any Kevin and Perry traits while I worked with them! After reading this section I really do feel for teenagers.

“… a whole new set of brain genes that have been silent since brith turn on, creating a flowering of new neural growth and pruning of the cortical neuronal trees at a level unmatched since our early development in the womb. As the neural tangle works itself out, kids can see the world in unique and surprising ways.”
Page 109

With all of this they have to grow up and prepare for the adult world, actually staying playful would be a big help.

“True mastery over a lifetime comes from one’s internal play compass. When parents and teacher push too hard to get kids to perform, children do not experience feels of competence and do to create from within their own sense of mastery.” Page 111

Maybe the reason the teenagers I worked with didn’t act up was because we were playing, they were playing with textiles and tech and being helped to master new skills in a playful way.

From child to adult

“If we are not completely full of ourselves or too serious, we can see that we can do a better job of helping our children be more joyful if we help ourselves remember how to play. If we are open to some self-evaluation, and do so with a lightness about our life opportunities, we will actually find a way to play” Page 122

If I create free, accessible ways to play that aren’t overly prescribed I hope adults can let go and let joy come and remember the pleasures of play. With inbuilt learning families can experience play together and will remember the experience. From the playful moment I hope they experience lightness opening them up to find ways to play throughout life.

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