Play can be defined in many ways, take many forms, and serve many valuable purposes. Playful activities are often described as spontaneous, fun, joyful and even mischievous. Often associated with the activities of a child, some cultures view play as limiting in value or lacking rigor and purpose—child’s play. However, play acts as a valuable means for helping children develop emotionally, socially, physically, and emotionally and is important for the development of people of all ages.
While often highly organized and regulated, play is associated with games and sports, both of which have been represented by artists throughout the ages. Early Greek sculptures such as the Discobulus, a 5th century bronze of a disc thrower depicts what is considered the athletic ideal.
Art objects such as vases, furniture, or toys depict popular games played with by diverse cultures throughout time. Paintings by Edgar Degas’ and Eduard Manet depict images of horse racing in the 1800s. Winslow Homer’s nostalgic image, Snap the Whip depicts barefoot boys running across a field as a they play a game.
Play inspires creative activity, risk-taking, experimentation and creative representation and strengthens problem-solving skills and stimulates imagination. Highly valued by artists, they often use play to experiment with media, techniques or ideas whereby the means are more valued than undetermined ends leading to artworks that are visually and conceptually provocative.
Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings interest viewers in what looks like as the free and playful application of paint and Dadaist juxtapositions of everyday objects challenge thinking and inspire possibility. Surrealists enjoyed the disorienting possibilities which emerged while participating in the Exquisite Corpse drawing game played beginning in the early 20th century. Today, play is being redefined by 21st century digital technologies as digital gamers compete in multimodal virtual worlds created by digital animators.
Rationale for Teaching
Through inquiries into play, learners will understand the many ways that organisms engage in play, how play is defined and functions and the many ways in which play is influenced by personal, social, and cultural factors. Learners can also come to understand how play leads to discoveries in all disciplines and how it inspires creative thinking and novel solutions, and engenders respect for risk-taking and the making of lovely mistakes.
- Play can be influenced by both one’s personal and social experiences
- Play can act as practice or role play often influenced by cultures
- Play can be defined in numerous ways
- Play can serve as inspiration for creative ideas and discoveries
- What factors influence play?
- How is play socially constructed?
- How can art making function as a kind of play?